…Every Story has a Monster…

It’s been a tough three months.  The sort of time in your life that you wish you didn’t have to face but as we have thumbs, can use rudimentary tools and basically run the planet from the top of the food chain, you have to.   You have to stand up and be counted and put all the other petty stuff behind you to deal with a real issue….and I did.

On the 16th April 2016 at 0738 hours my Mum died.

Now, I could easily not write this but I feel I must.  I have to write it for myself and so that what it was like for me is recorded somewhere. You, dear reader, unfortunately will be the witnesses to my misery.

Some of you will think I’m wrong to write this tale and you might be right but I’ve been wrong on many occasions in my life so this isn’t really going to make much difference given the decisions made following my Mum’s death.  This is my catharsis so if you don’t want to be part of it stop now.

Of course most of this tale is filled with sadness, tears and bitterness but other parts are so ludicrous they have bizarrely become the most tragic and funny stuff I’ve ever been involved with. Some parts of this are so pathetic and horrific that if you put it in a film you’d scarcely believe it.  I should point out that I don’t feel I’m different or have been wronged more than any of you may have been.  It’s just my version of the madness of family at a time of crisis.

My closest mates have been subjected to these stories during their many hours of consoling me in pubs throughout the North London area and for that I am eternally grateful.

Ok…. Let’s go….

My Mum died after a four-year battle with cancer.  The specifics of it aren’t relevant but it was the type that will get you eventually and it duly did.  I always knew we would get to this point and so I had prepared myself for it way in advance….as you know I’m a bit of a prick like this or as I like to call myself ‘a realist’.

I began to see the end coming at Christmas time.

Christmas is a time of perpetual trauma in my family.  Actually let me clarify, not MY family but the family created by my parents.  In my house we have laughter and fun from the 1st December and throughout Christmas but in the family home where my younger brother and parents reside it’s a different matter.

In recent years it has been filled spite, paranoia, hate and nastiness because no one, and I mean no one, accepts anyone else’s opinion. Yeah, Yeah, I know I have this attributes but not to these professional levels.

Whenever I would visit there was a simmering tension in the air.  You didn’t actually need people in the room for this it was just seemed to seep through the fabric of the place.  In reality this has been going on for decades and in the previous house also where my life was filled with shouting, aggression and low level violence all of which was created by my Father who is a man capable of such extreme nastiness and both verbal and mental abuse that he could make it into a horror movie.

As a child of the 70’s I understood it.  You couldn’t do this shit now as someone would complain but then it was par for the course so I don’t think I’m different or alone but my old man is a different kind of monster.  He’s a man with no remorse, no conscience and no sorrow and all these attributes came to the fore in the final months of my Mum’s long struggle and I was there to witness them in mind boggling 3D technicolour.

In roughly 1992 I left the family home and moved into a flat with and a girl.  It was the right time as I was in a serious relationship.  At some point you need to be able to be an adult without worrying that someone would knock on the door to see if you want a cup of tea.  I was happy and excited and saw it as my jump into adulthood.  I never went to University where life and growing up (a bit) is thrust upon you.

When you leave home you leave the ‘bubble’ created by your parents.  Generally, you soak up the ideas and attitude your parents inflicted on you so it’s good to leave while you are young enough to forge a personality of your own.  I left at 22.

My younger brother has never left.  He has remained in the ‘bubble’ for 42 years old and so is a lone Epsilon soldier within the safety of it.  He doesn’t like me much (he’s not alone in this) as he has soaked up a lot of the opinion my parents have of me.  They see me as some sort of left wing liberal because I won’t instantly agree with all of their 1970’s views.

The ‘bubble’ has always protected my brother.  There has never been a need for him to sort anything for himself, most of his meals were handed to him and the basics of living on your own like washing, cleaning and the like were done while he was at work.

Part of adulthood is coming home at night to look in the fridge only to find one solitary mini gem lettuce and a can of Fosters as you forgot to buy any food, or realising 30 minutes before you need to leave for work that you have no shirt washed or ironed and so you wear a dirty one.  He had experienced none of the day to day shit we all do and so has become a sort of mini version of my Dad, all opinion and puffed up chest with a tendency to tell you you’ll have your face smashed in at any point. Fear not dear reader, advanced warning generally means no violence imminent in my experience so I’m not losing any sleep.  The only person who sees him as scary is him….

Since I left home I have had a lot of grief from the ‘bubble’.  Endless poor advice, opinions thrust upon me about house purchasing or parenthood which are two things my father knows everything yet nothing about.  Over the years I have been only sporadically in and out of the ‘bubble’ as it’s not a comfortable experience.  Bitterness and jealousy rules and even my partial goodwill was rarely reciprocated.  I’ve been charged for childcare, I’ve been threatened with suing over an injury at my house and with police complaints with the phrase ‘I’ll have your job’.  As you can see it’s not a barrel of laughs.  Luckily I ignored it all and carved out my own life.

And then the ‘bubble’ had to deal with a real problem and not one fixed with ignorance and arrogance.

When my Mum reached the final two months of her life I wasn’t talking to her.  We had fallen out over something trivial.  This wasn’t odd.  It happened a lot during my life after leaving home as I wasn’t keen to continue to believe the opinions that were put on me.  On this occasion the fall out was due to my lack of thanks to my younger brother for being at home looking after my mother.  This was a recurring theme but I’d had enough of it as I had my own family and had left home 25 years previously so was of the opinion that if you remained in the ‘bubble’, paying next to fuck all for a hotel service the least you could do was keep an eye on the ill parent.

My lack of gratitude resulted in a swift barrage of expletives being shouted at me down the phone and a period of silence.  To be fair I knew it was coming as I have always been able to tell that grief was imminent from the tone of my mum’s opening line on a telephone call.  The problem really stems from my parents’ insistence that my brother although 42 years old was really somewhere between 15 and 19 years old and so should be protected and praised on a daily basis.  To be fair to him he was unaware of these conversations but I knew what he thought of me as I’d been privy for a 20-minute conversation once where they had failed to put the phone down correctly.  Nasty stuff, ruining me and stating that I was a waste of time and no good for my own kids… I was used to the face-to-face fakery so accepted the first of many apologies with a similar fakery but you never really forget that kind of stuff as it’s not meant for your ears so tends to be the real thoughts rather than the cobblers.

After a few days of silence, I received news that my Mum had been admitted to a hospice with a curt one-line text message from my brother.

The word ‘hospice’ only really means one thing in my mind so after several failed attempts to get information from the twat himself I contacted the Hospice directly.  Within four days I was sitting in front of a Doctor, a very nice nurse and a social worker where I pushed for a timeframe on how long my Mum would have left.  The answer was eight weeks if a last ditch form of delaying chemotherapy failed.  I must admit that this took me aback slightly even though I knew, deep down what was coming in the conversation.

I now had to process this info for myself. So I told the Doctor that I would inform the family but not my Mum.  She had already told me that she did not want to know.

I went home and got my head around it as much as was possible and decided that my brothers would need to know the score so I firstly contacted my older brother who, as expected, reacted with total maturity and intelligence and said he would do anything he could to heal old wounds. Basically he would do the right thing and he made good on that promise.

The younger brother would be trickier.  He is a tense, highly strung individual prone to mental explosions when his emotional level hits critical mass. I rang him up and he was full of irrelevant questions about long since departed Consultants and Doctors who no longer picked up their phones.  I then told him what I had been told and told him to start preparing himself for what would be the inevitable outcome.

He wasn’t having it…

He then described the hospice Doctor who had given me the time frame with the ultimate family word.  It’s an expletive that I rarely use as I was brought up with it and heard it a million times as it was used to described most people outside of The ‘bubble’.

“Bullshitter”

‘You’re a Bullshitter’ could be the family motto. Paranoia, inadequacy and jealousy are the reasons for this word’s frequent use. . Within the ‘bubble’ anyone doing better than those within it was a liar, anyone spouting an opinion that the ‘bubble’ didn’t agree with had got it wrong, if you could be brought back down to earth they would be the ones to do it and they would do it with joy.  It was a family trait that I hope I have pulled myself away from.

‘Bullshitter’.  A Doctor in a hospice.  A professional.  How anyone could think that this man would take a guess or lie to someone in such a fatal position is beyond comprehension.

I couldn’t really help my brother from this point on and so decided to just do what I had to do.  His opinion would become irrelevant as he clearly wasn’t emotionally up to the job.

Over the next few days I decided that until I knew that this was it, until I knew for certain that there was no more chance for my Mum I would keep the 8-week diagnosis between my brothers and myself.  The final chance was they last ditch Chemotherapy but it wasn’t too long before it became evident that that wasn’t going to work as she started to deteriorate quite rapidly.

Now I’m not going to go into the tragic details of that 8-week period and what happened to my Mum as that would be even more inappropriate than this story is already but suffice to say it was heart-breaking and hard to watch.

To see someone fall apart mentally, emotionally and physically without having any control over it is extremely difficult for everyone involved.  The problem with death is the lack of control that anyone has over it. You are helpless.  Helpless to the diagnosis, helpless to the treatment and almost helpless to the time scale.  It is a limbo state, a ticking clock…a long, lonely walk to the inevitable.  All you can do is be there for the person facing it, if you are lucky enough to have that time, and bond with those that are left.  You need to support each other, close ranks and see it out in the most painless way possible.

Of course, none of this happened.

What happened was a pile up of ‘Blues Brothers’ car chase proportions from what is a car crash of a family.  A family created by nasty, with nasty would be nasty till the end as that was all it knew.

Every Story has a Monster and this is where our one comes in…

My father is a man of outstanding belligerence.  He should really be applauded for his refusal to do anything he should do, or needs to do.  He’ll probably live till he is about 200.  He’ll see us all out even in his twisted state.  He’ll drink Whisky till it fills his veins and he’ll smoke till his lungs are black and charred.  He is driven by nastiness and brutal, brutal honesty. Actually that’s not correct.  None of it is honest, it is just his opinion, his belief that you are a fucking idiot who knows nothing and he knows everything even the stuff he has no experience of.  He demands respect yet gives none in return.  It’s all about ‘Me, Me, Me’ even when his wife lay dying in agony.

For years this approach worked for him.  He ruled with a rod of iron and in some ways it was easier to just go with the flow but we all have a breaking point and I reached it long ago. As a small child I consciously decided that making him laugh was the easy route and so I had an alright time.  My brother Dan was a moodier kid than me and so he got most of the rage.  He wouldn’t conform or pander to the whims of a bully and he suffered for it.

To be fair up till the age of about 12 you were fairly safe enough.  Well, safe as in you weren’t totally destroyed by his self-proclaimed superior intelligence and wit. You merely had that 70’s childhood of parents arguing and physically fighting, the odd dry slap and simmering tension throughout the family home interspersed with ‘Jim’ll Fix it’, Len Fairclough being arrested and The Dick Emery Show. Standard stuff.  Oh, Christmas was good as a kid though, a bit like WW1 and the football match…. Except for one occasion when my Mum bought my Dad the ‘wrong kind of Christmas card’ and there was a massive explosion of violence 2 days before Father Christmas arrived.  Lovely.

When you reached your teenage years though you started to take his eye.  As you became aware of yourself he became aware of you and so you would be crushed on many occasions for pretty much for fuck all.  His job seemed to be making sure he was in charge and you knew he was in charge whether it be insisting you gave half your Arsenal programmes from the 1971 double winning season (a gift from The Eternal Champion) to your Australian Cousin, grabbing you by the throat 5 minutes before your Girlfriend picked you up or simply insisting you cleaned your shoes every morning at 0600 hours otherwise you were ‘a filthy pig’.  Luckily football programmes (even classic ones) are usually painful reading, the girlfriend at the time knew the issues and fixed me and I don’t clean shoes for no cunt anymore unless I’m standing before someone I respect like a Judge or a potential new employer.  The old man was all about the domination and he loved it.  He confused fear and hate with respect and love.  We were the beaten dogs who needed food so kept the peace rather than tore the throat out.

But then you grow up and the fear leaves you.  You become an adult with real issues and they become more important than the past.  My Dad just became a thing, a memory that could be side-tracked as I didn’t need his help.  I’d left home, I was fully employed, I’d never needed his money, I’d never needed bailing out so he became an irrelevance even in his aged, twisted state with ailing health he is hard to love.  He now needed me but I was reluctant to dive back in…… unfortunately I had no choice.

When the inevitable time came to tell my Dad that Mum had no more chances and could not be saved and was in the last days of her life I visited him.  I had to tell him to his face because that was the right thing to do.  I went to the care home he was in and told him.

In a stunning turn of events he appeared to show emotion, not for himself but for my Mum.  I felt for him and so promised that I would do everything I could to do everything properly for him as he wasn’t able to do it.  I felt strangely happy…..but I was wrong to feel that way as it turned out it was merely another trick from the arch manipulator.

The last two weeks for my Mum were the worst.  She knew it was coming and there was nothing I could do or say that would calm her.  It was like a slow drive and drop off a cliff handcuffed to the steering wheel of a car.  A Hopeless scenario.  This was the time for the bonding. Let me rephrase that this should have been the time for the bonding but it was the complete opposite.

Instead of pulling together my younger brother started to go fully breakdown. He started to cause problems in the hospice.  He was aggressive and abusive to the staff who were literally angels. They complained to me or it was brought to my attention by the Doctor.  He then ramped it up by threatening to come to my house to batter me as I didn’t agree with him on things like whether my Mum’s relatives should visit her in the hospice.  He felt that was all fake on their as they should have been visiting her all the time anyway.  This is of course complete bollocks and indicative of his world in ‘the bubble’ where that is all that matters.

He was also of the belief that me arranging for people to visit Mum was ‘giving the game away’ to her as she would know that she was dying.  I pointed out to the thick fuck that she was in a hospice and she had bravely discussed funeral arrangements with me on a number of occasions.  He said he was going to complain that they weren’t doing enough in the hospice to save Mum. In the end I asked him to show me the blood pressure monitor in Mum’s room.  He looked about and said ‘Ha…exactly’ as if he had found the smoking gun of hospital incompetence.  I explained that one didn’t exist as it was no longer required.  This was a waiting room with a one-way door.   Nothing registered.  In the end I was told by him that he would only visit Mum alone as he ‘knew her best’. To this day I’m still at a loss as to what this actually means.  He added tension to the tension to create Super Mega Tension… you could almost see it glowing around him.

When the day of days came it was no better.  Mum had gone and I was in the room with her trying to get my head together about how I was going to tell everyone, how I was going to break the news.  It wouldn’t be a shock but I really didn’t want to do it…..who would?  Who wants to spread misery and sadness?  But if I didn’t who would?

For the last 24 hours of my Mum’s days on this planet I was in a room with her and my younger brother. Dan had gone to work aboard and was on the plane when I was told of the breathing change triggering the end.  He could do nothing 30,000 feet up but my younger brother said ‘Got out of it again has he?’ like it was some kind of game he didn’t want to play.  I sat there while my brother spoke about Mum being dead in her company before she had gone.  I had to constantly remind him that she was sedated and could probably hear him. His lack of life experience is fucking desperate and in reality I should pity him.

When I’d said my last goodbyes to my Mum I went home to recharge.  My Dad needed to be told but in a rare moment of adulthood the younger brother insisted that he be the one to do it.   I knew this would go wrong and so put myself on standby.  As expected I was called to the care home within the hour.

I arrived at the place and prepared to comfort my Dad.  Unsurprisingly he was inappropriately chipper.  I walked into his room and was confronted with a question as my younger brother left in a hurry:

‘How did you get here?’  he says.  I told him I had walked.

‘Have you considered going that way? (pointing the wrong way)

‘….er….You know why I’m here right?….’  Says I…

‘…Yeah…your brother told me…your Mum’s died.  Down there (pointing the wrong way) is a pub.  It’s a good pub and behind it is a….’

‘..Have you lost your fuckin’ mind?..’ I interrupt.  ‘Mum has died….4 hours ago..’

‘…I know…. What do you want me to do about it?  You’re the big man with all the power who thinks he runs this family… ‘

….it was at that point that I clenched a fist, placed it calmly on his chin and issued a very violent warning.  He may be a monster but he had created me which means I can be a monster…. Monster 2.0 if you will.  It would have been easy to dispatch him there and then but I realised that I just wanted to go home to Jen and the kids.

I went home.  I rang our man in Hong Kong, who was perfectly in the country, and he took me out with the Spaniard to get drunk.  I got drunk, cried in the pub, went home and cried again.  Me Mum had gone and I was left with the idiots.

Throughout the funeral arrangements I was met with problems from my father and younger brother.  ‘Too much control’, ‘Think you’re the Big man’, ‘I’ll smash your teeth out’ the whole lot.  It’s not unusual for people to react this way following the death of a loved one but the issues and nastiness tend to be lower level I suppose.  Not liking the flowers, different opinions on songs and stuff like that.  I’m pretty sure it’s not normal during the funeral arrangements to be told by your father that you are ‘quite enjoying the attention’ that arranging it brought.

I stoically kept to the path to do the right thing for my Mum, the right things she wanted and not what I was told.  For example, my Father told me that she wanted ‘Ding! Dong! The witch is dead’ from the Wizard of Oz as a funeral song, my younger brother’s felt that he should be the only one in attendance as everyone else were ‘Wankers’ who left her on her own.  Friendship is a two-way street and my Mum could be very offish, aloof and snobbish so it was no shock that people weren’t beating a path to her door during her illness. I’ve seen her failings and I accepted them but it doesn’t distract from my love of her.

Of course the other reason is that people might not be able to deal with it mentally.  No one really wants to see an individual they love or even just know literally disappear before their very eyes in a slow, long decay.  But the main reason people aren’t involved in this stuff when they are not directly affected is because they have their own lives and their own problems.  They also assume, quite rightly, that the immediate family rally in these scenario’s and deal with it in their own way and how they want it.  That is the normal way. But this isn’t a normal family. It’s a mess.  A mess created by a monster set on creating havoc and horror wherever and whenever it could.

The funeral went smoothly and how my Mum would have wanted it to.  No major religiousness, limited black from those in attendance and laughter afterwards.  I accepted the fake thanks and platitudes from my younger brother and father and carried on.  I knew at some point this bollocks would collapse and so it was merely a waiting game.

During the last weeks of my Mum’s time I promised her that I wouldn’t abandon my father and younger brother so I would visit him and ensure that they were ok.  Unfortunately, this didn’t last very long as you give these people an inch they take a mile.   They are the masters of badgering you into submission.

I decided I would visit my Dad every Saturday morning to see if he was ok or needed anything.  He’s in a home but he has complete freedom and it’s not like the classic old peoples’ home where everyone is placed in the sun room in a circle for hours just waiting for death.  This place is nice.  Lovely staff, decent food and it’s clean.  He can even participate in his favourite activity of attempting to keep the whisky distilleries of Ireland in business. They are happy to pick him up when he falls over and will take his regular abuse and threats with little complaint.

I was visiting as agreed but as expected the phone calls start.  Midnight. The phone goes and it’s him asking to talk to my son who’s 12.  I explain that it’s a school night and a 12 year old is in bed but am received with a ‘so what?’.  I point out the time and perhaps it’s a bit late for a call but am told that time means nothing to him and if I didn’t want to pick the phone up I should have left it.  This is the logic.

Over the next few weeks of visits he ups the nasty.  Personal attacks on me about various things including how thick I was a kid (the classic quote being ‘We didn’t bother with you as it was clear early on that you weren’t up to much’), how I show him no respect (correct for once) and how I have stolen ‘his’ money.  Well I didn’t steal any money.  He had no money.  All I did was distribute it in accordance with my Mum’s wishes.  This meant that Dan and I got nothing but our kids did which was fine with us both.  The younger brother got the majority of the pennies available….so be it.

The other outstanding revelation from the old man was that I have been jealous of all my mates for years and in particular our man in Hong Kong.  I’m not sure where this came from.  He must have met Bun about four times in 30 odd years and probably not at all in the last 20 years. Apparently though I’ve always been in his shadow as he was successful and I wasn’t.  Interesting.  I’ve never seen myself as more or less successful than anyone I know.

The only envy I have in life is that of wanting a bigger house and even then it would need extensive acreage and a ‘Grand Designs’ type build so It’s a dream really like winning the lottery.  I’m happy and pleased for all my mates as we all seem to be doing alright.  He took little interest in my life as a child, a teenager and a man.  He is a ‘taker’ not a giver.  I reminded him that in my adult life I’d played over 650 amateur football matches he had seen the sum total of none over a 33-year period.  I was blamed for that.  I was told that when I was nine I asked him not to come to a primary school match.  Because of that he never came again.

The fact is the Old man doesn’t know my mates but uses it as a lever to bring you down to his low level, gutter attitude as he’s not good with ‘nice’. He thrives off hate and agitation.  He likes to rile you, it’s his thing.  He wants the ‘kick off’ and the control.  I’ve seen him insult his wife, his siblings, his in-laws, nephews and nieces, his kids, his friends, his carers and complete strangers.  He’s the fucking master of it even in his current state.  Even though you know this it doesn’t make it any less nasty and hurtful…. In fact, it probably makes it worse as you know it’s coming, it’s not random, it’s not an illness, it’s a calculated approach to dominate and insult.

The old man is all about triggers and true to form he hit my trigger one morning when I visited him.

I turned up and he was more obnoxious than normal.  He was also pissed at 11 in the morning which of course made him more right than me when it came to any conversation we were about to have.  During the usual crap about me being a prick and repeated questions about ‘his’ money I noticed that he no longer mentioned my Mum in any way, shape or form.  He just ignored the fact that she had died as if it didn’t matter to him.  The fact was, it didn’t. He couldn’t care less.  He was only interested in whether he could continue to control us all.  It was my moment of clarity.  I just had to go and not come back.  The selfish old fucker had, through lack of action, made it clear.

Before I left I asked him why he didn’t mention me Mum anymore and he said:

‘…She’s dead.  What’s the point?  She ain’t looking down on us…there’s no heaven…She’s gone..’

He was right.  She had gone and so I had to go also.  I didn’t need this shite any more, I had a family that I loved and didn’t argue with or try to ruin.  Why was I wasting my time with a bloke who cared for fuck all except himself?  So I left to a load of abuse hurled at me over my shoulder. No looking back.  Fuck the pair of them.

Two days later I received a phone call from the looney asking me when I was next visiting.  I said that I needed a break from both him and my brother as I’d had enough or the pair of them so I wasn’t coming.  In classic up-the-ante fashion he told me that they had both had enough of me.

‘Good’ says I, ‘Then we are all happy’ and that was that.  No more effort required.

My parents didn’t really like each other, particularly in the last 20 years. They were like that couple in Father Ted who put on a front when the public can see them but really hate each other in private.  During my Mum’s last weeks, I asked her everyday whether she wanted to see my father.  Every time she said ‘no’ or shook her head when she could no longer speak.  That says it all.  My mum had a stressful life with my Dad.  I believe that ultimately that stress is what caused her illness.  Endless grief for decades with someone utterly selfish, bullying and demanding.  None of us were saints but only one was a monster.

As I said some of you will think this blog is a bit out of order and shouldn’t have been written.  Some of you will think it disloyal to air this stuff publically.  I can see that but I can also see that being treated like a cunt behind closed doors and taking buttoning it up isn’t required. To sort yourself out sometimes you need to chuck it out there and this is what it is for me.

The ultimate challenge in life is coming to terms with the loss of someone you love.  Death makes you helpless.  There are minimal opportunities where you can do anything about it.  What is worse? Hitting the deck from an exploding vein or heart, being crushed by a skip lorry, hitting a parked car in the fast lane on your motorcycle or being eaten away by a disease you cannot stop?  They’re all the same but with varying degrees of shock for those left picking up the pieces.

People say they want to be at the bedside when someone goes but in reality it is horrible.  The utter helplessness is horrible.  I was with my Mum for all the ‘moments’.  Only I was there when they told me she had 8 weeks (8 weeks and 1 day was the actual time it took), only I was there when she was told there was no more hope or treatment and only I was there when she breathed her last.  Those moments wake me up at night as if they had just happened.  They haunt me and will forever.

My Mum was the glue in this car crash of a family unit and now she is gone.  What’s left is a mess and it’s not really a mess I care to mop up anymore.

As my half-brother, The Eternal Champion, once said with regard to our Dad…’You reap what you sow’ and they truly have…enjoy the harvest freaks…

For my Father and younger brother I’ll use the words of Tom Hardy as Reggie Kray in ‘Legend’:

“…. You’re wasting my fuckin’ time…. Wankers!!…. the lot of ya…. Now get out me way…”

Now, I’ve wasted enough of your time and my time on this shower…

Next time some fun.  My adventures in Amsterdam with football teams.  If you were there, fear not… I’m full of discretion.

It’s called ‘…is it the one with the big flappy hands and Adams apple…?’

Onwards ….

..The Pencil Thief…

I don’t have many useful skills in my personal armoury.   I can play football a bit, I can dispatch Guinness, Rioja, Malbec and Jack with contempt, I’m good at addressing a problem head on, I can start an argument in an empty room yet remain calm in a crisis and identify an idiot without them opening their mouth.

I do however excel in one particular area.

I am the master of embarrassing myself in spectacular, knuckle biting fashion where onlookers cover their eyes, turn their backs and mutter things like ‘please don’t’ or ‘Somebody stop him’ and ‘for the love of God’. It’s a skill that I have honed over many years and continue to fine tune this day much to the fear of my children.

To be fair I am the architect of my own disasters either through stupidity, arrogance, alcohol or a combination of the three. Let’s start at the beginning… the opening salvo…

Launch. Warm. Puppy…

The loss of control

In 1976 I briefly joined the Navy. That’s not actually true. In reality I was dressed as a sailor to perform the Hornpipe in a school play with a troupe of similarly trained 7 year olds. This was a low level affair with low level ability in the form of one of the seas most famous dance routines…in fact it’s possibly the only sea dance routine. No ship here was required merely a dusty, dry school hall and selected apparatus used to give the impression of a ships deck.

The day before the main event we were all taken to the hall for the dress rehearsal at the hands of Mrs Butcher. Butcher was an animal. Twisted with multiple Sclerosis and held up by two crutches, she wobbled in at a frighteningly slow speed she seemed to take great pleasure in blaming her situation on us, the assembled innocents. I fuckin’ hated her as she was a bully….a bully of small children. During the rehearsal I found myself in dire need of a piss. At that stage in my life I was not in possession of the half gallon bladder I have now and so when I needed to go I needed to go immediately.

I looked at the clock. I recognised the time as time to go home and we still hadn’t had a practice of the routine. We were simply locked in a room with a broken old lady who wanted to berate us. I still remember the agony of holding it in but stood firm in the joyful knowledge that the bell would imminently ring and I could leave.

When the bell went Butcher decided to initiate the final practice. Animal. Up we stood. I raised my hand to ask if I could go to toilet and was screamed at twice and told to shut up. She pounded the keys with her gnarly fingers and we were off.

Even the most rudimentary Hornpipe involves a lot of movement. It’s a bouncy dance almost like you are actually performing it on a boat. I was in no state for bounce. I was in no state for anything.

I started to move and it was evident fairly sharpish that I was getting warmer in the crotch region. I looked down and noticed the seepage. Out of fear of the quadruped I thought the best course of action would be to speed up and get the job done quicker. In hindsight this was a bad idea but a truly magnificent sight as I had turned myself into a human urine sprinkler.

The more ferociously I hornpiped the frothier my dirty protest became.   No one was dancing but me and all the while Butcher continued to play. I stared at her and she stared at me… a double incontinent stand-off. No one giving an inch. She banged away at the keys, eyebrows raised, head bobbing, staring at me and me alone while I increased in speed. She must have thought that I was sweating profusely from my cobblers and nowhere else.

At the end I stood still in my own mess. Everyone else was outside my urine arc….The circle of piss was not breached and a small area of dusty school floor had been irrigated by me.

Silence prevailed. Where my shorts were once warm they were now cold, so, so cold. Around me the floor was wet. I just ran out ashamed and embarrassed by a child bully on sticks.

I imagine she has long since passed on. I just hope her last words weren’t ‘Shut up’ or ‘Rosebud’…I hope they were ‘Piss Boy’….

The blind stupidity

At 12, I sat in a classroom of fresh faced herbertry waiting for the results of a maths exam. The teacher, another bitter and twisted old spinster but with added religious zealotry took great pleasure in reading the results out from highest to lowest by the name of the pupil.

She finished the roll call without my name and then announced that she had ‘something special’ for the class. I knew it was my result but unlike now then I was an optimist and so thought ‘Fuck me….I’ve smashed it’.

I hadn’t smashed it…. I had achieved 11%.

She loved it. She revelled in it. She was smiling. Once she’d finished she chucked me out the room in humiliation to stand in the corridor as I ‘wasn’t worth teaching’. Lovely. Classic Catholicism.

I stood in the corridor and was approached by a jolly deputy head who asked me what had happened. I told him and he looked angry. He wasn’t angry with me, he was angry with the teaching method. He went in the class and after a short period of intense conversation I was reinstated to my desk much to the collective joy of my classmates as they were all more now clearly more mathematically minded than me. She never spoke to me again and never took any further interest in my mathematical ability or lack of.

It’s funny that I now deal in numbers and she is merely as dry as the dust that could be found in her undergarments all those years ago. Teachers eh? Spreading the love on their terms in the 1980’s…..

11% though….Jesus… you probably get 8% for managing to spell your name without adding a number… Hmm… maybe my Dad was right all along.

The massive error of Judgment…

At a party one night in my late teens I decided that I would try to pull the girl everyone appeared to want to get hold of.

When I look back now I find the general fascination with her at the time ludicrous. She was a dull individual and not a patch on the girls I ended up having a great time with. She was vain, boring and arrogant but she looked the part at that moment. She went out with an utter prick from the year above. Easily smashable, a potential weeper with a city boy name.

During a brief hiatus between my teen fumblings I found myself without female companionship. At this party I realised she was without her hugely punchable ponce so I thought I’d give it a go. I’d talk to her, lay it on the line, open up, all that shit. What did I have to lose?

….Hmmm… ‘A lot’ was the answer to that conundrum as I made it clear that I was going to do it before I did so a small crowd had gathered to watch my imminent death…

I moved in. I looked into her eyes, held her hand and, as planned, laid it on the line.

Now in my life I’ve made a lot of women laugh and on some occasions it was deliberate. This wasn’t deliberate and I wasn’t even naked.

She pissed herself with such ferocity that I thought she was going to require an ambulance. I’d never seen a woman laugh like that at the time or since. I stood up, looked about at the assembled pointers and laughers and retired to trap one in the toilet where I sat with my head in my hands for an extended period wondering why the fuck I thought that would work.

I saw her in adulthood in Waitrose. We never spoke. She was dealing with a child I assume was hers and I was looking at a packet of Weetabix….Kids… The great leveller. She looked the same…Blond, arrogant and pompous. I’m over it, I believe she maybe also.

The arrogant lack of preparation

The best man’s speech.   Christ. I can barely type it. Sometimes I sit on the train and something reminds me of that speech and it chills my blood.

I am a trappy tosser. I know this, most people know this but a few years back I was an even trappier tosser. I was a monumental prick but I’ve mellowed. I’ve mellowed because you can’t maintain that level of bollocks forever. Now I’m just a bloke who thinks he’s mostly correct with a foul mouth….it’s a family thing..

It was during the monumental prick phase that our man in Hong Kong asked me to be his best man. I was honoured, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t fuck it up or let him down.

The stag weekend went well. York for the races. I was in control. I got everyone there, I got us in the Hotel, such as it was, I got us to the racecourse, I held the whip for 72 hours, I dealt with the City Boy who wanted to buy some booze thief with a massive rack a bottle of Champagne from the our whip by simply repeating to him that it ‘isn’t going to happen’ and I pointed out the women pinching one off in a gutter in daylight whilst wearing a fascinator to the group. It was my job to do all this stuff and I stood up and did it….no problem…

In the run up to the wedding Jen started to ask me about the speech. She rightly suggested that perhaps I should plan it in some way. I took no notice. I’m funny right? Easy… just speak, make people laugh, I’ve been doing it for years…What could go wrong?

A lot went wrong.

The panic kicked in during the pre-reception drinks when I realised that I was in a state of advanced refreshment. In itself this wasn’t a problem as when you are pissed you are generally indestructible however on this occasion I was twisted and panicked which is a fatal combination. I also had people coming up to me to tell how great the speech was going to be because I was ‘hilarious’ and they ‘couldn’t wait’ which was adding to the pressure. In order to bluff my way through it I maintained a cocky persona throughout the meal. I had nothing but thought, wrongly, that by being a flash bastard I would be able to wing it. My only real hope would have been for everyone to be as mangled as I was but that was a long way off.

When the time came I stood up, soaked up the expectation, saw the smiling face set to ‘laugh’ and died on my feet. I didn’t freeze I simply delivered the most humourless, incoherent speech in the history of weddings. I forgot all the best man etiquette and just rambled on to absolutely no laughter and disappointed faces. At one point I was prompted by a bridesmaid who I disliked intensely and almost snapped back an insult. I didn’t though as even in that moment of comedic death I managed to maintain my fuckin’ professionalism.

At the end I sat down to muted applause and went full Rioja. I looked at Jen. She grimaced….hmm… no help there… I looked about and no one would hold my gaze bar The Wand who clapped long and hard in sympathy. Fair enough, I had no complaints, I had asked for the humiliation and I got it. Flashness took control of my brain and I fucked it up.   It haunts me to this day as Bun and the Welsh Princess deserved better than that. I’ll fix it one day.

These are just some examples. They still sit with me as moments of extreme embarrassment but nothing compares to the last one. This was my masterpiece, my Mona Lisa, the pinnacle…

The Pencil Thief

In 2001 I went on holiday to the Greek island of Rhodes. It was very, very hot but at that point we had no kids to worry about and could simply drink and relax and stuff. We had a lovely apartment and as it was in the days before IPod’s I had to take CD’s and a player with me which allowed me to sit on the terrace every night listening to low grade metal and the odd classic album while enjoying a cold beer.

In the apartment below was a young couple from Essex. They need names so let’s call them Joey and Belinda for the purposes of this retelling. Joey was all Oi! Oi! with a slightly lazy eye and Belinda was classic Essex blond with a ponytail and an eye drawing chest.

For some reason never heard of in Essex she appeared to be a fan of Seattle grungers Soundgarden. I’d been playing a lot of them on the terrace and so we got chatting. They seemed decent enough in a ‘holiday people’ kind of way so we arranged to meet in the bar for a beer.

Over the next week we got on famously and saw them almost every night for dinner or cocktails and even though they were eight or so years younger we genuinely had a laugh and I only embarrassed myself on one occasions when I was drunk and fell straight into a paddling pool fully clothed… we got over it together, we laughed, we were drunk. During the holiday they got engaged and bought us a Surf and Turf dinner in celebration…. Happy days….

And then we reached that moment of dread that we all have on holiday. The moment that nobody wants with the ‘holiday friends’. The ‘let’s catch up when we get back’ moment.

Now I’ve been here before. In Marbella years previously during another relationship I had a similar scenario where we got friendly with a couple of odd bods who happened to support the Arsenal. My other half at the time arranged that we would meet up for a game when we got back. We did, it was weird, they were dull and we never did it again.

Belinda asked me for a phone number as they were going to have an engagement party upon returning to some hovel in Essex and wanted us there as we were the first to know about the engagement. I was thrown by her genuine enthusiasm and so made a fatal mistake.

The key is this scenario is to pretend you want to be ‘Best Friends Forever’ and then hand over an incorrect phone number. There were no mobiles of note then so you could get away with this as they couldn’t check your number right there on the spot. Piece of piss. It’s also harder now due to social networking and general honesty but this was 2001 and we were scum, selfish scum with no kids. We were kid-free and had loads of kid-free mates so didn’t need these extra kid-free fuckers.

Even with all these things in my favour I inexplicably handed over my correct home number. They left happy and I imagined that they were merely a couple of plums who I’d never see or hear from again.

A month later, at home, the phone started to ring. It was a regular ring, so regular in fact that I started to let the answer phone deal with it.

One night the phone rang and I made the mistake of picking it up. It was Belinda. The party was arranged and we were to be the special guests, the ‘holiday mates’, the couple set for a ritual burning in a poorly assembled, Essex located Wicker Man. I went with it, I faked joy knowing that when she told me the date, whatever the date, I would be doing something, anything else and it would be impossible.

I delivered the bad news that we were completely unavailable for the weekend picked and that weekend alone, any other weekend but that one and you couldn’t stop me from coming if you tried. The phone went silent. I then I heard the crying.

For a minute I thought I may have been the fiancée and I’d called the wedding off. She cried a lot. She was distraught. I’m not great with crying ladies unless they have really got on my tits and made me punch the wall of a pub before I leave without looking over back ever again (that’s another story). She carried on crying and so I relented. We were going to a party in Essex and Jen and I had been given free accommodation so we could party all night with our holiday chums.

A week later Jen and I are driving to the venue in silence. The party was in a guest house owned by a relative. We park outside and Jen and I look at each other. We are helpless. No words are exchanged.

Belinda rushes out and we are now trapped….any potential broken down car scenario is now not viable. There is no escape as accommodation is assured. This is my social Alamo.

We enter the building where I meet the family and a completely uninterested Joey. He couldn’t give a toss. I had made plans for this in the form of 24 cans of Fosters which I intended to make a massive dent in at my earliest convenience.   If I had to attend a party where the only two people I knew were the focus and one of them wasn’t bothered that I was there then I needed to be pretty smashed.

After the initial introductions in the first hour Jen and I were pretty much on our own. Belinda occasionally came to speak to us but Joey wasn’t interested and who could blame him?

Jen and I were now booze hostages, too drunk to leave, too sober to realise our situation was hopeless. In order to deal with the situation I decided to up the ante by increasing my intake dramatically. No one to talk to, no reason not to fill my mouth with refreshing alcohol. Jen was alright. The kindred spirit of women, fussing and flocking together coupled with the fact that she can function in any environment saw her through it so she didn’t need me, I was a lone lager warrior striding through the rolling tundra that was a B&B engagement party on the flightpath near a roundabout in Essex.

Hour Three: I started slurring.

When you are drinking and know you are drunk you are in trouble. Crossed eyes, stumbling and waves of nausea should be a cue to stop but due to a mutual reluctance to get involved I cracked on while sitting on a chair next to a sub-standard, Spinal Tap inspired buffet.

Hour Four: Des Lynam is pissed…I know this as his face is blurred…

I find myself waking up in my room surrounded by empty cans with ‘Match of the Day’ on maximum volume. For some reason I have been placed in my room in order not to do anything even remotely embarrassing. I’m insulted. I now have a hangover during a piss up which is never good but I’m at a party and so initiate the famous ‘second wind’, in essence, I’m going back in…

I stumble through the door to Party Central to find that most people have left. Jen brings me to a table where I’m introduced to a series of the happy couple’s late arriving relatives. I slur a greeting and head for another can.

In the group I notice an obnoxiously pissed bloke that isn’t me. It’s Uncle Brian and he’s a postman. I’ve never liked postmen, a strange breed, year round shorts and militancy is a tinderbox of stupidity. I was also, at that time, a Post Office investigator but was dealing with other employees and not postmen. I stride towards him looking for the confrontation and luckily he’s up for it as only a Postman can be.

We get chatting in a low level aggressive way and the simmering tension is being noticed around the table and particularly by Jen. Finally we get around to our employer, we are kindred spirits working for the Queen of this realm and we need to talk about this a lot.

Straight off the bat he makes it clear that he cannot stand Post officer investigators. Not a problem… I fuckin hate postmen. We’re off and running and it gets heated fairly quickly. Jen starts to sweat. I see her looking at me even though she is in a conversation elsewhere on the table. She looks stressed. I give her the thumbs up to calm her nerves but all she does is furrow her brow, tighten her lips and shake her head furiously. I’m pissed but I’m still just about on the button and so in an attempt to reassure her I smile at her and nod slowly. I then slowly turn, like Regan’s head in ‘The Exorcist’, to Uncle Brian and while pointing an accusatory finger I spit out the following:

“You!!… Brian the Postman (I emphasise the ‘P’)… Have you ever stolen a post office pencil for your own use?..”

All chatter in the room abruptly stops….

“You what?” says the Pencil Thief.

“A pencil” says I. “Do you have a Post Office issue pencil anywhere in your house?”

“Probably” he concedes…..

“Aha!!… Thief!!!!….” and then I cautioned him. Right there at the table.

“Brian the Postman….you do not have to say anything but it may harm your no doubt insufficient defence If you do not mention when questioned by me (points at self) something which you (point at him) later rely on in court (points to heavens)…. Anything you do say may be used in e-v-i-d-e-n-c-e (I spell it out)….Do you understand? Brian? Understand?”

(..as a quick side story, I once interviewed a bloke at two in the morning in a Central London police station with a very drunk policeman. After directing the bad man and his equally bad solicitor to the interview room by saying “Let’s get it on!!” in an accent more akin to a cowboy, He started the interview like this:

“You do not have to say anything…(silence for a good 15 seconds as he forget the rest of the caution he’s been using for 29 years)…..Ever….”

Fear not Dear Reader… I got him back on track)

Anyway…. back to the story…

I am surrounded by open mouths, horror etched on their faces as they are witnesses to a social car crash. The only person not static is Jen who is hurtling around the table to extract me like a Special Forces operative grabbing someone chained to a radiator in a dark room….

I’m dragged off to our cell…. All the while I’m shouting “Thief!!…He’s a Thief Jen!!!” while pointing at Brian who screams back:

“I only borrowed it… so it can’t be theft you twat”

Victory was mine. He felt the need to explain himself….Ha!!! Another villain exposed… he has cracked.

Jen forcibly bundles me into the room. She mostly shuts the door and turns to our horrified hosts to attempt an apology however I take advantage of the crack in the door to thrust through an arm, point my finger in Uncle Brian’s general direction to shout ‘Thief!!’ once more.

I don’t recall the tirade Jen gave me in that room as I had now been taken by the Booze Monkey. I was in a bad, bad way and her words and insults were nothing compared to my trauma at that moment. Eventually I pass out completely oblivious to my actions and dream a dreamy dream.

The following morning I awoke in the toilet. It was clear that I had been expelling the poison all night and also clear that I was still expelling the poison. I drag myself to my feet and attempt to get myself together. I look bad and feel worse.

I pull on some clothes and head to where I hear noise. In the dining area I find Jen and her new Essex family eating breakfast. Only Jen speaks to me and even that is begrudgingly. I attempt a friendly ‘hello’ but no one gives a fuck, they just continue to consume, Egg, Bacon, mushrooms, sausages and…Ahhh… upon seeing this outstanding platter I get the 9 second warning that partially digested Lager expulsion is imminent and so I immediately turn and run for my toilet and the solace of yacking at a volume sure to put everyone off their pig based meat feast.

Two hours later than we had planned and I am finally in a state capable to leave. I have managed to make it out of the room to the front door on the strict condition from Jen that I simply smile and speak to no one.

We reach the sanctuary of the car and Jen fires up the engine.

Normally when you leave someone’s house after an overnight stay they remain on the doorstep, all smiles and waves. Of course they could be mumbling ‘fuck off tossers’ through shit eating grins but you don’t hear that as you’re in a car, all you see is happiness and joy.

We spin the car round and turn our fake smiling faces to the door. Nothing. Not one wave, not one smile, not one person. All we see is a closed door, a door that had been closed for a while. The symbolism is overpowering.

We head off in silence for 25 minutes. In minute 26 Jen bursts out laughing. She knows that deep down even though it was excruciatingly embarrassing it was funny. Deep down we have successfully avoided a ‘knees up Mother Brown’ Essex wedding and will never see these plums again. Deep down Jen knows I will be in the best man’s speech at a wedding we will never be allowed in set foot in and deep, deep down Uncle Brian nicked that fucking pencil making me the best investigator she knows and If I’d been given more time I could have had in ‘C’ wing before the end of the night.

We receive no more teary phone calls and we receive no heavy parchment envelope filled with miniature horse shoes and bells inviting us to a wedding with a Pencil Thief… I unselfishly threw myself under the embarrassment train for Jen to save us from a second death.

Remember: It’s not about me…it’s about them…The Others….

More crud when I return from all the tears and dark stuff…

Onwards….

….Every day I get in the Queue…

First blog of the Year.

This is a mini blog as I’m working on a bigger one about embarrassment and my ongoing association with it. This little effort was conceived on the top deck of a bus… a particularly mental bus I was on this Monday.

These blogs came about as a result of my Facebook posts of observations on a bus journey I took daily through North London. I was bored riding the same journey every day and so started observing the freaks on ‘The Bus of Dreams’ as I called it. If you look about on a bus you can, and I do, have a field day. Bus dwellers are fuckin’ odd and I’m proud to be one of them purely from an Anthropological perspective.

Of course some routes have better freaks than others. Some buses have so much ammo you could assassinate all their characters ten times over from multiple angles. I started doing it out of boredom but I kinda like it and imagine that we all do it to different levels… somewhere on a bus or in a pub or on a blog I’m having the piss ripped out of me so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting a particular bus for a particular reason….The ins and outs of that can wait for now but it’s not a fun journey and I don’t I don’t relish it in any way. I get this bus from the depot so I’m one of the first on the thing.

Getting a bus from its start end point is a joy in itself. You are wholly beholding to the prick behind the wheel. The cock with the timetable controls the doors and won’t let any fucker on the thing before his allotted departure time. They sit alone on the bus in darkness, farting and smoking while we the proletariat stand in the rain and cold begging to be welcomed aboard. And then the magic moment. In the gloom the shadowy figure lurches towards his driving cage, the bus shudders into life, the lights explode and the oaf at the wheel turns the destination board to somewhere else, somewhere wa are not and the doors open.

‘HOORAHHH!!!’

We cheer a weary cheer and all slope on apologetically so we don’t annoy our saviour. For a split second he is our God….

Bus drivers are a miserable, pot noodle eating rabble. They never smile, they rarely speak and they mostly have a carriage which suggest that the bus was built around them. Some of them attempt kookiness. Badges, kangol caps on backwards, leather waistcoats or worse the leather driving Jerkin, string back driving gloves and on one occasion I saw studded leather driving gloves. They seem to all wear shades of some description but I’m noticing a leaning towards Aviators like they are controlling some form of fighter plane. Perhaps in the piss stinking, Razzle Readers wives poster infested canteen they frequent they have names like ‘Ice man’ and ‘Goose’ and spout on about a ‘a difficult manoeuvre by the pedestrian area’ or a ‘a difficult disabled passenger’. These people are professional drivers…The men and women of oil and diesel….y’know…. morons, power crazy morons…

I’m at the stop and the plum is sitting alone on the bus. It’s cold out but I’m a happyish so continue listening to Mastadon which warms the bones.

The bus bursts into life and an entire herd of craggy, old women appear from nowhere like an outtake from ‘The Walking Dead. I’m a gentleman. I assess the scene and realise that none of them will physically make it up the stairs so I let them all on before me with a fake smile. I see them thank me but can’t hear it as I’m engrossed in ‘Blasteroid’ a particularly explosive piece from the Mastadons. Out of the corner of my eye I see one final old crone heading towards the stop at pace. She knows the Oaf at the wheel will scoot off if he can before she reaches the door threshold so I delay my entry out of pity for the old bat. She makes it but I ain’t letting her on before me. I’m on, facing out the goon behind the wheel. He stares forward not even a passing glance. Knob.

I’m up the stairs like a shot. Empty. I can sit anywhere this is rare. Years ago I got on a bus about half five in the morning as I needed to be in work early. I went up the stairs and was confronted with a cloying waft or some magnitude.  I looked about and saw the issue. I went down the stairs and had to actually speak to the driver.

‘Good morning Oaf… Are you aware that lying upstairs there appears to be a street person or as we used to say in the 70’s ‘a tramp’?’ says I.

‘So what mate?’ he spits.

‘Well he appears to have delivered about 4lbs of fruit and nut based shit into both his trousers, such as they are, and the entire back seat…. Are we continuing or shall I alight? ’

‘Yeah…. I know…. He did it about an hour ago. But I’m on a schedule’ he says and off we go at speed.

Great, He’s on a schedule so a bus of shit it is…. He didn’t give a monkeys.

This is what I’m talking about. An uncaring world where shitting on public transport is acceptable and a bloke is happy to transport the shitter about.

I take a seat and the late old bird freak appears at the top of the stairs.

She’s Rothmans craggy and appears to be covered in dust. The entire top deck is empty but she wants to sit behind me and cough….marvellous. I contemplate a polite ‘Will you fuck off please?’ but can’t actually be arsed so I suffer in Metallica based silence.

We move off from the stop and head towards a place where people will be. I’ve done this route a number of times like I said so I know the real freaks are imminent. I always sit nearside so I can see the true glory of the people at the bus stops. Nothing like a crutch or some crossed eyes to warm the cockles….. If we’re lucky a drunk builder will appear.

First up the stairs is a young girl carrying a Minions back pack. She doesn’t actually make it cleanly up the stairs but falls face first two stairs from the top. Behind her is the mother. Lank hair and lank clothes but she seems a decent type until she tells the little girl to stop ‘fucking about’….lovely. The kid isn’t shocked or phased so I’m assuming it’s a regular occurrence which she will pass on to her kids and so on for generations.

Next up we get the prize freak…. A weapons grade professional bellend. Bearded, mid 20’s, builders shape. He’s wearing white-white trainers and low slung jeans and is ready for a night out. The prime rib… the Big Kahuna…Le Grande Fromage of bus freakdom on this bus, what a time to be alive.

Like Lank Mum and offspring he takes the top front seats of the bus. The Art Student once told me that you have to take the front seats in order to pretend that you are driving the bus. He’s a grown man and he should know better but I humour him and pretend to be the co-pilot on our many trips together.

Beard freak takes the seat and starts to get his phone out. I’m two seats behind him on the angle and can almost decipher his text messages as they seem to consist solely of emoji’s and upper case expletives. He probably writes with a blunt crayon and so requires most answers in the modern day hieroglyphics of smiling faces, dog turds and hearts. He’s holding his phone (iPhone 6 naturally) at eye level to view it. No discretion, no crotch level viewing, no sheepish glance around prior to opening it…. It’s straight up so we, the innocent, can witness the contents.

His photo library is up first. Multiple crotch shots of some woman he has no doubt imprisoned in a basement. She looks like she’s literally enjoying herself and I find myself impressed that she’s actually managed to take the photos herself from that angle. If we are not viewing her naked ‘noo noo’ we are treated to the double breast push in an ‘I can make one big one’ way.

In my job I see the contents of a lot of other people’s phones and this practice of having a photo of a loved ones ‘special place’ is unbelievably common.   I don’t understand it. It’s like a 21st century trophy wall. All different shapes and sizes, shaggy ones, groomed ones, angry ones, happy ones, empty, full you name it I’ve seen it, all stored on a memory card for immediate viewing. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not really interested in seeing one unless I’m in the room with it and am preparing to engage with it in a number of ways. Call me old fashioned but it’s not really my bag.

He continues to peruse and starts on the videos.

First up we have a video of some football hooligans knocking the shit out of each other. He likes this so views it again. Then he shuts it down and opens another. Cage fighting. Two overpaid ponces knocking the shit out of each other with some choking and rolling around…. Two views back to back. Lastly I get some more football numskulls knocking the shit out of each other. I’m spotting a theme here… Fighting and Fucking. Classic Bloke….Classic thick bloke, probably drinks Pils and likes Adele and Coldplay.

In between songs on the headphones I hear an anguished cry behind me. I look round and see a bloke with a homemade haircut and hubble strength specs. He has a long head and judging by the broadness of his forehead and the thickness of his neck he has been incarcerated at some point. He’s lightly rocking back and forth and is letting out the occasional scream and random laugh. It reminds me of Vinny Jones when he was interviewed after beating Liverpool in the cup final in the 80’s. He was so taken by the moment that he lost the ability to form words and simple said ‘OI!!’ to every question asked of him while drinking a pint of milk.

I didn’t see this bloke get on as I was busy watching skin and punch up films on some bearded freaks phone.

I look ahead and see a familiar place. I can walk home from the next stop so head to the stairs.

I get to the lower deck, usually a refuge for the old, infirm and twitchy but it’s banged out with shouty people all talking different stuff at the same time.

Do you remember that scene in ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest’ where McMurphy hijacks the bus and takes all the nutjobs on an impromptu trip? Well I’m on the English version of that bus but as I don’t want to go on a fishing trip prior to some electrotherapy and a lobotomy I exit via the middle doors and leave the insanity behind me.

A twenty minute journey containing Porn, fighting, shouting, swearing and insanity…. The Bus of Dreams…

Next time I’ll tell the embarrassing tale of The Pencil Thief and other moments of my social downfall…

“..Two, Zero, One, Five…Over..”

Another year ends. So, how did it go? How was it for you? The best? The Worst? Or merely the same as all the others? I’m describing this year as ‘Alright’. Nothing majorly eventful of taxing happened and so I’m left with an overpowering sense of ‘Meh’ to the whole 365 days.

I’ve had worse years, I’ve had a lot better. A beige year, bland and normal when it could and probably should have been so much more given that the Boy went to big school and I tore the roof off the house in a major refurb. A memorable year for these two reasons alone but generally a bit dull and forgettable …. Like most years in my 40’s. The ‘Dad years’.   The 30’s… now there was a decade. Totally out of control on a number of levels.

From a work perspective I, sadly, maintained my dislike of the job. This needs to stop as I’ve got a lot of years to work and I seem incapable of kicking open the exit door even when I’m successful in an interview.

The public sector is a teasing mistress. It gets you to pop the question but doesn’t tell you the full story till you get your foot in the bedroom. Then it’s a cab home or creeping out the flat in the night while they’re asleep. I took the cab as they couldn’t afford me as it were. I endlessly await a teary phone call of apology…. I’m not hopeful.

So it’s time to find the love for the current employer, the old girlfriend so to speak. In reality the love started to fade when my heroes and friends started retiring leaving me with either downtrodden employees who have been broken by the system or fat, lazy fuckers stealing a living. I lost an equine hero this year but hopefully I can still visit the stable on regular occasions to water The Horse.

What also didn’t help was that the year started with defeat where a bad man fled the room in tears having been let off the hook. Tears of Joy and a bullet dodged by him. Never trust the public, they are random and go weird occasionally. This result hung around like a bad smell for the remainder of the year sapping the enthusiasm of all directly involved in it. On the upside the work year has ended with us on the up and bad men on the rack. I feel slightly reborn and keen to nut back into it…. We’ll see… it may not last but I’ll try to rise above it the crud and relive the good old days.

It was also the year that the boy tore himself free from the shackles of kid football.

I have never been involved in something so pathetic in my life as Under 11’s football. Overburdened kids shouted at by parents who believe their kid is on the cusp of being the next Beckham and so not so much an outstanding sportsman but a money making machine for them.  These parents generally haven’t played the game but know all about it while shouting thing like ‘get stuck in’ and ‘man up’…. these people are Arseholes.

I never really wanted the boy to play regular football even though I did it for years. My low level experience of it was that it was overly pushy with the kids and I never wanted the boy to be under any pressure during what was supposed to be a fun thing but I allowed him to play about four years ago. It was all going mediocre until this year when the coach turned out to be a bullying prick.

It’s very difficult watching someone shout at your kids when you don’t. Every fragment of your being wants to walk across a football pitch and smash the shouter all over the shop but you can’t do that as you’ll be arrested or, even worse, embarrass your son. Instead I bit my lip and hoped that the boy would decide that he didn’t want to do it anymore. Towards the end of the season during which he had become more miserable and more poorly treated at the hands of a coach whose son was the favoured average player in the side, the boy decided enough was enough. He made his own mind up.

The cup final would be his last game and he made me very proud with a two goal, two assist 13 minute cameo which stuck it all up the arse of the twat running the side. At the end of the game when he was lauded by the other parents as the hero the coach said to me in front him:

‘It’s a shame he didn’t do that in the other 20 games’

This was typical of the stroker but instead of wiping him out I simply shook his hand, informed him that we were no longer available and left. The boy is a much happier chap now and so it has proved to be the correct decision. He can play football in the right environment at another stage in life. If it isn’t fun then why would you even consider doing it as a pastime?

At the beginning of the year I decided that I wanted to see more of my old mate and to a degree I achieved this. I tore myself away from mindless work drink ups and made the effort with those from the old days. I feel I successfully managed this but didn’t feel my efforts were always appreciated or supported. I spend a lot of time sorting shit out in the name of nostalgia but I reckon my part in that play is over….Exit, Stage Left….

On the upside I saw nearly all those mates of mine who live abroad.

The Bowman and the Queen of Gin visited and a great night in Highgate was had. Perhaps I should visited them this year rather than sit on my arse pretending I don’t fly….We’ll see. Big Jim visited at the exact moment the Arsenal beat United. Always great to see a Northern Monkey on the rack over a curry served by an East European. Team Ewing flew in and a lovely night was had in a back street North London pub where I was incorrectly identified by someone for the third time in his life. The love of the Ewings is something that needs to be recognised on a global level. The joint decision made by them to do what they did is beyond commendable… it’s a booker prize wrapped in an Oscar with a Nobel Peace prize flake on top. Love conquers all in the end and they are proof of that.

And Bun returned for the summer. Me old mucker arrived for shits and giggles in the sun. It made the summer for me. Top fun all round…. Our paths will all cross again with more frequency than this shit I’m sure…. I long for those moments as my Friends are my brothers and sisters rather than those I was chucked together with. Unusual but true….you don’t chose family but you choose your mates so the bonds are greater in my view.

The loft was built and is enjoyed immensely. This was my first foray into extensive building work and it was a lot less stress than I imagined it was going to be mostly due to the speed and quality of the builders rather than my control of it. I’ll continue the painting odyssey during my imminent month of no booze. No holiday was had due to the build and we’ve vowed that this will never happen again…. Too long without doing fuck all can kill you.

On the family front all is good in this house. The kids grow up and are moving forward and Jen is still the jewel in my life. Don’t tell her this, keep her on her toes. Bizarrely she takes no interest in these rants. She doesn’t read them so she’ll never know.

On other family fronts it’s time to close some doors for good. Too much misery and bile from some and I’m not a patient man so it’s time to chuck away the key and put the onus on those with the issue to rectify the situation or get the fuck out. I’ve no time for time wasters, I’m too old.

Like I said at the beginning I’ve had better years but I’m still lucky. I don’t struggle and am aware that my whinging is ludicrous given the lives of others but I still love a moan like the rest of us. I turn my back on this year and merely remember a boy growing up and a box on the top of my house….little more than that.

Thank you for your support in reading my crap. I do it for fun, to stimulate my brain and so the kids can read it in the years to come and see that their Dad wasn’t just a miserable, pissed up sod in his youth.  If it makes you laugh then great as life is about laughing and fun. If it isn’t then you are doing it wrong.   Take the tragedy that comes with it, take it and push forward, find the joy and remember the good times and not the way things may have ended… It’s the ‘Lemmy method’ without the warts and leather.

Goodbye 2015….. I’ll remember you like that Van Halen album sung by the bloke from Extreme that makes even this diehard shudder in his boots.

Onwards to better times….. enjoy your night…. I’m having a curry and a bottle of Rioja before I join an alcohol free bubble for a month…

More Crud in the new year…

“..It was Christmas Eve, In the Drunk Tank..”

Picture the scene…. A frosty Christmas morning, a 14 year old wakes up oddly excited. He looks to the end of his bed to see a small pile of perfectly wrapped gifts. He springs out, unusually athletically and bounces towards the presents. Without opening a single gift the teenager runs to his older Brother to spread the good news….

“He’s been Dan!!….He’s been!!….Father Christmas has been!!!”

My brother was a poor riser and so I was not unduly concerned by the initial silence prior to being verbally attacked.

“…what the fuck is wrong with you?….you’re 14 not 5… now piss off you prick…”

Welcome to Christmas.

I shouldn’t have been too shocked by his outburst as he had generally stopped laughing and smiling at some point in the previous four years and as far as I’m aware has continued this tradition for the last thirty three but was this really necessary on the greatest of all days?…. That’s right…the Greatest of all days, during the greatest of all times of the year….. No….No it wasn’t…

Fear not dear reader, I would have my vengeance in the shape of a ‘Shakin’ Stevens’ album which he was due to imminently open…. Cock…

Christmas is it for me. You can stick my birthday up your arse….I don’t care. Easter? Ha!…Shite… religious undertone… fuck it. New Year’s Eve?….don’t get me started… fake hugs in packed boozers with non-professional drinkers you neither know nor like…

‘Christmas’

Look at the word… marvellous. Not ‘Xmas’… ‘Xmas’ is for the filth of the planet, it’s for those scared of Jeebus and for those who don’t want to offend. Say ‘Seasons Greetings’ if you wish but never ‘Xmas’…

Let’s start at the beginning.

My childhood was a frantic affair but those stories will be a different blog. That will be the last blog, the last blog ever. My childhood Christmases’ were outstanding and filled only with joy and happiness. No expense was spared, everyone smiled at some point and the fun factor was high. The tree, the coloured lights, the tinsel and the smell of tinsel, the inflatable father Christmas, the silver goblets, the food, the Astispumanti, the crates of Holsten Pils and the gifts.

There was no red and green Victorian Christmas poncitude that I now love, oh no, it was tack, it was flammable and I loved it. I still find myself sniffing tinsel to this day and I am transported back to that time.

I was never left wanting at Christmas. I got everything I wanted, we all did, whether my parents had the wedge or not. Snooker tables, Action Man, Sony Walkmans, Hot Wheels, Matchbox Le Mans racing set (which I used to hide porn playing cards in…unfortunately my Mum took it back to the shop without telling me and the cards were found by the assistant in the presence of said mother). I remember it all and appreciate every small fragment of it. Glorious times…The best of times…Always.

Of course at 14 I realised Father Christmas (never Santa Claus) wasn’t real but when I woke up that morning, the morning of the tirade of many Danny delivered tirades, I still wanted to believe it.

I was caught up in the moment, I knew the score but I didn’t really want to know that score as knowing the score was the first turning point in your relationship with Christmas. The Father Christmas myth is the magic and anyone killing that for their kids in the name of ‘reality’ needs to take a hard look at themselves in my view. If you want kids to have reality then start explaining that their soft toys aren’t real, running with your hands outstretched doesn’t make you an airplane, the News is the only TV programme they require and the old man at number 54 needs to be avoided. See? Reality isn’t always necessary…

My parents were the Christmas heroes. They delivered the goods on every level and created the template for my Christmas future.

My Mum was the driving force. All fun, all the time, particularly at Christmas.

A couple of examples of ‘the crazy’ include when I once came home to find her lying on the stairs on her back pointing downwards, arms splayed, eyes rolling, and tongue lolling. I was with Bunny, our man in Hong Kong, at the time and like true professionals we simply stepped over her and continued up the stairs.

“I could have been dead” she said from her prone position.

“Well you ain’t are you…?” I replied.

We moved up the stairs, she remained holding the position like David Gower delivering a classic cover drive.

Another time when I was alone in my parents’ house I ventured downstairs in nothing but my pants for a glass of water and was confronted by her springing out from behind a door with a bag on her head with the eyes and mouth cut out screaming. I screamed like a girl. You’re always vulnerable in your pants so it was potentially an unfair fight. My scream fuelled her laughter to fever pitch…. Mental…like a horror film, the stuff of nightmares.

My Dad was and remains a big character. Anyone who is happy to tell someone to aggressively ‘Shut Up’ in the lobby of a church at midnight mass deserves some kind of award. He is fiercely brutal when faced with what he decreed to be stupidity or God forbid ‘disrespect’. He loves Christmas and made it great till I left home. He taught me how to lie under the tree looking up through the lights, tinsel and baubles where I would imagine I lived in it like a London based Chip from Chip ‘n’ Dale. My kids do this now, they love it.

He also once gave me and my mates an ice cold crate of Schlitz beer prior to us departing for our first Christmas out on the lash. I still remember the moment and the taste and occasionally I’m transported back to that time when I have cold lager at Christmas…. A great memory… He was a generous bloke when it came to fun..

He was great with us as kids but not so as teenagers and adults so unfortunately all bridges appear to be ash due to unequalled stubbornness on all fronts by all parties.

…Anyway all that shit can wait for another time….

In my mid to late teens Christmas became a hunt for female companionship. It was essential to get hold of someone to share the Christmas experience with.

No one wanted to be the loner, the ‘Tom McCarthy’, the ‘too cool’ yoot who would turn up late to all the parties as he’d been ‘hanging around’ somewhere else on his own. He hadn’t, but that was all he had. He missed great laughs in order to create a mysterious persona enabling him to drift in late doors. It wasn’t cool, he looked like a cab driver and he missed out on the fun.

In the late teens we were in the trenches. We were existing in dark, damp football clubs making pricks of ourselves for a Christmas snog or the chance of a Christmas snog. We were fearlessly walking into pubs in the hope that that specific barman, that fucker in the Torrington wouldn’t ask for ID and then chuck you out in front of the ladies thus scuppering any chance you had of interaction whilst holding a manly pint. Women never had this problem as they we always welcome and encouraged into pubs by slimy, too old barmen.

In order to properly entice women, ‘Argos’ was visited and high end, ‘Elizabeth Duke’ yellow metal jewellery was purchased usually in the shape of a wishbone or a Teddy bear. These were the love bullets waiting to be delivered at Sixth form Girl School common room parties where the teacher on the door was bribed with Kestrel Super to allow entry into the inner sanctum. Good times with top women, they were and remain Legendary….

All those girls played their part in the good stuff at Christmas. They were responsible for the buzz of receiving the card from any one of them. What followed was hours of forensic examination where you would stare at the simple greeting within, where you desperately try to read something, anything into the one kiss at the bottom. Was it a sign? A trigger? A nod and a wink? Was it a mistake? What was it? Is it Pity? The written version of a hair ruffle followed by a tilt of the head and an ‘Awwww’, it was as sexual as a hairy cheeked kiss from a piss smelling old woman….Pathetic. I was Timid… I’m no longer timid. ‘Say it, don’t think it’ is my motto as it’s better to get an answer, good or bad than to wonder what it might have been….No regrets now, plenty at the time.

So, Christmas as a child and then a youth was everything you remember. Festive, cosy, warm and hilarious….and then you leave home and move in with a girl.

Adulthood. The despair of Adulthood.

In pre parent adulthood you spend most of your Christmas time on the lash in tinsel heavy pubs shouting over Slade, The Pogues and Wizzard until midnight when all hell breaks loose and you engage in mass hugs with strangers.  This was the time of great Christmas laughs…

I used to run a football club bar. It was always out of control. If we weren’t fighting the punters we were dragging them through windows where they had got stuck trying to gain entry after being chucked out.

The most out of control moment involved a barman of mine, a half Irish, half Maltese pretty boy punching the birthday boy in the face over the bar after he had clicked his fingers at him. As the punch was delivered I looked at the other barman and we all just closed our eyes in resignation.

This was a tad awkward but as we were in charge we rallied, blamed the recipient of the blow for antagonising the deliverer and threw him out temporarily from his own do. We allowed him back in for the sake of the till however at the end Franco decided he wanted another crack at him and walked toward him with the now legendary line of:

‘Ho! Ho! Ho!…the rain is coming down and here comes trouble’

The bloke didn’t know whether to run or laugh… he ran…we laughed.

On one occasion I made the mistake of allowing a booking in Christmas week for the ‘Young Rotarians’, a bland bunch of young conservative types who needed a good hiding. They wanted the place for 40-50 people so it was a small gig, trouble was I could find no one to help me run it. As ever, up stepped Bunny. We had drank enough that Christmas and so both fancied an easy night…

We got there early for no apparent reason and as there was little else to do we started drinking. This was fatal as by the time they started arriving we were beyond ‘nicely alight’ and were heading into ‘well oiled’ country. Christmas was about to hit the Nigel and Clarissa’s right in the face.

The trigger for the mess we were in was a trophy I found kicking about behind the bar. The trophy in question had been won by Bunny and I a few years previously. We decided that this would be our drinking vessel for the night and so we donned tinsel headbands and got involved. It was the definitive ‘cup of a carpenter’ and we had, indeed, chosen ‘wisely’. We named it ‘The Cup that Cheers’ and we filled it with a cocktail of Kronenborg and a run through the top shelf and whenever we drank from it you would have to shout ‘The Cup that cheers….Cheers!!’ while raising it in the direction of the non-drinker. As you’d imagine this was a great idea when only two of you were in the club but not so great when you have 40 oddbods in cardigans and pristine side partings drinking lemonade staring at you.

Anyway, we made it through the night even after the ‘Why the fuck aren’t you drinking you ponce… it’s Christmas’ remark to one particularly irritating stroker drinking his fifth tonic water… he didn’t see the funny side but we were having a good time so who cares eh?

Another Christmas barman was ‘The Rash’. A very funny man.

We worked another Christmas do with a ginger barmaid surprisingly called ‘Ginga’ who loved a laugh. At the end of the event we stayed on a played pool and drank as a wind down.

I’m quite good at pool as I’m sure two polis in Manchester will testify so I’m winning easily against The Rash. I’m lining up the final shot for victory and I look up from the cue to the pocket and see a blockage, a blockage in the form of a large pair of testicles attached to The Rash.

I looked up and he was standing there doey eyed, looking between me and his hairy brains saying ‘Helllooo’…. What do you do? Well, you smash the ball as hard as possible. I never saw the Rash’s bollocks again and that saddens me greatly.

Most Christmas nights out during this period where like some ex-girlfriends, great at the time yet forgettable now. Nothing of real note happened other than drinking, again like some ex-girlfriends. Some nights still stick in the memory though.

One Christmas Eve I found myself in a Wetherspoons Pub. This normally goes against every principle in my drinking head. Terrible pubs selling low level beer to the toothless, thick and urine soaked. I once saw a work colleague get refused service in a Wetherspoons due to being in a state of advanced refreshment. This is the drinking equivalent of climbing Everest carrying a rhino…. It shouldn’t be possible.

So I’m sitting in a Wetherspoons with a group of mates in couples. It’s getting towards midnight and so we are ready for the struggle cuddle with assorted strangers in our festivity arc. I’m in the company of my missus at the time, The Bowman and his wife The Queen of Gin, Googan with possibly Miss Curtis, the lounge lizard Breen with his, at the time, hostage and some others who I’ve taken the time to forget. The clock strikes midnight and we drunkenly celebrate. Happy days…

It was at 0004 hours that the problem started when a surly little fucker started hanging around our table. Initially he was merely watching but then it became evident that he was some sort of ‘staff’ twat. Then he got involved and started aggressively picking up empty glasses that were lying about…

….and then it happened….

For some reason this bloke was unaware of two things. Firstly, taking a Gin ‘n’ Tonic from the hand of the Queen of Gin isn’t going to end well…. If she don’t get you then The Bowman certainly will. I can still see her ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ incredulous smile as it was whisked away by the bravest idiot on the planet.

Secondly it’s close to fatal if you aim a punch at a man capable of firing a longbow unless you too are a longbow man. He wasn’t. His only association with anything remotely archer like was activating a Schnapps optic.

In the inevitable melee that followed I was punched in the face resulting in a Christmas black eye and a thick barman was given the ‘bad news’ by The Bowman before being arrested for his own safety…. Apparently he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown and so had lost his mind which was clear from his attempt to wrestle some juniper from the hands of the Gin Queen.

Fancy dress played its part on Christmas Eve on three occasions however only the first time was fun.

On the second occasion I found myself dressed in full Musketeer garb sitting in the palatial Highgate abode of some kind of posh Dublin born, city boy type while The Rash seemed to be oiling him up for potential business. I was not impressed as I was supposed to be on a pub crawl in the rain which was infinitely my appealing.

The third time was really a bridge too far as we walked around Crouch End in full Lederhosen… dull, dull, dull…

As usual the first time was the most memorable. Nuns. Four Nuns and a Priest to be precise.

The plan was to do a pub crawl of Highgate after going bowling in the afternoon. At the bowling the nuns sat obediently while Father Googan arranged the shoes.

The rules were that we could only drink Guinness (black and white), religious based alcohol (Bishops Finger, Abbots, white wine), travel by bus everywhere and we had to enter MacDonald and ask for ‘Fishes and loaves’. It was as very funny night with the best mates and will never be forgotten. It’s amazing how good you look in a wimple if you have had a shave… you become sexless just like a nun….I was liberated…free…

I recently read Nick ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Frost’s biography and there’s a part where he describes snogging a girl on a bus on Christmas Eve 1999 in Finchley while being watched by a man dressed as a nun…. That could only have been one of us.

We ended the night returning to a local pub where I stumbled into Mildred out on her first Christmas since I left her. She was in the company of the half of what I once called mates who believed that I had treated her badly… Fuck them…. My memory is long and nasty and in my head they will remain… rotting.

Mildred was teary. It could have been me turning up on the plot but equally it could have been that the ice had melted in her drink, or that the lights were too bright so it was hard to be completely sure. I didn’t care. She had ruined my last Christmas and I was pleased that she was upset…. Nasty I know but t’was the way it was.

And then I changed jobs and joined an organisation of such festive debauchery that even I was quite shocked.

My first interaction with this organisation was being invited to their Christmas party prior to joining. I was told to attend the O’Neills in Soho where they would be.

I had never seen or met any of them and my only instruction was to be there at 1300 hours. I got there at 1230. They didn’t get there till 1500. I was so nervous that I had consumed 6 pints of Stella for Dutch courage…. I was mangled. I pulled myself together and managed to drink and eat my way through the lunch before leaving via a soho sex shop where I purchased some porn DVD’s.

I got home and Jen look me up and down in disgust and said:

‘So…It’s going to be like this is it?’

…Yes….Yes it was….

Back in the day, my job effectively closed down from 1st December till the New Year. Unbelievable levels of festive hedonism, it was a festive dream come true. I’d been to Christmas parties before in my previous employment and on occasions things went out of control. The smarties, the Vodka and the liquidizer in the office spring to mind but those were one-off moments. They were organised events not random out of control frantic drinking because the pub had tinsel or it was the 1st of December or ‘Christmas – Day one’.

The drinking was relentless. You could easily find an event from 10th December onwards every night if you fancied it. If there wasn’t an event then one was created by me and my Chief conspirator and friend for life The Horse. It was easy.

We were once in a pub in Camden for a couple when the faintest of snow storms started. We ignored it and it got heavier. We kept looking at the window at the snow, then we looked at the tinsel, sniffed the tinsel, looked at the Guinness and continued drinking.

This went on for hours and the snow increased. London ground to a halt due to rapid snowfall but we couldn’t leave because it wasn’t deemed festive enough until ‘Fairytail of New York’ could be heard in the pub while you were holding a Guinness. Those were the rules. Horse lived in Essex, The Yorkshireman lived out West and I lived 7 miles away.   We were snowed in due to Christmas Drinking Rules. I ended up walking home.

Due to the snow, half way I found myself exhausted and had to stop off in a pub for a rest. I opened the door in a blizzard like Captain Oates had he made it back to the tent. In the pub I found single men sitting alone drinking. These idiots had similar rules and were also stranded by their own festivity….they all smiled. We all knew the score.

When you have kids it all comes flooding back and you can relive all the great Christmas stuff you were forced to put on hold on the name of trying to be aloof about Christmas due to the pressure of the mid to late 20’s.

You now have the partner who can tolerate you and your ways and you have the children. You can be what you want to be and revert to a childlike state of excitement at the prospect of the tree, Father Christmas and the Magic. I see it as my job to instil all this crud into my kids so they can pass on the unrivalled joy of it all.

Personally I only want a good time at Christmas, I don’t want gifts because if I wanted it I have probably already bought it…. I’m 46 years old. Anyone telling me it’s too commercial or is a religious event can go fuck themselves as I’m not interested. Similarly anyone using the outstandingly annoying expression of ‘I don’t DO Christmas’ can also jump on the ‘Get Fucked’ bus. Get with it, get on it or get in the Bus…

To me Christmas is about Joy, children, fun, laughing and friends. Mostly laughing. Of course we remember those who have gone but it should be we Joy of the people and nothing else. Remember the Person not the End. The smiles, the laughing, the stuipidness, the warmth…..The good.

I attempt to see everyone I love at Christmas. It’s my thing. I start planning the diary in October and I scatter the events as much as possible. I rarely don’t turn up and will always explain why I’m not coming if I can’t. I don’t get this back though and am becoming more disappointed with turnouts as the years go on. I need to ignore this and focus on the proper people, the ones that match my festive desire. ‘Never judge anyone by your own standards’ my polis mentor said to me once and as he was never wrong I’ll endeavour to take that on board in the future.

And so we stand on the cusp of another Christmas Eve, the best night of the year. The kids will be frantic so I need all my skills to exhaust them. The magic will be at its peak in this house please ensure that it is in yours.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I barely drink over Christmas…. Wine isn’t drinking is it? Jeebus loved so it must be ok however raise you glass to Christmas and sniff the tinsel.

Merry Christmas to you all….see you on the other side.

Go. Mental. x

“..What strange lunacy is this…?”

It’s been a very odd few weeks since my last effort. All kinds of madness thrust in my face like an unwanted todger in the night.  Politics, Paranoia, tragedy and fire….lots and lots of fire…..

Once again I started writing a different blog, one where I dismantled Facebook.  But as usual I bored myself and found a different trigger.  I found Paganism.

However I’ll come to that later.  Firstly I’ll briefly address the original idea for this month’s rant.

I am a prolific Facebook user.  I make no excuse for this as I find the whole medium hilarious and instant.  It shouldn’t require thought and takes seconds to post something.  I rarely, if ever, sit at a computer to post.  I do it on the hoof as it were, when I’m out and about doing stuff or I spot something worth ripping the piss out of.  I used to get lots of ‘you’re always on it’ shite where my reply would be ‘if you know that then you must be too’.  So what if I’m always on it?  It’s easy and a laugh… live with it.

In 2008 I started my page.  I was late to the party and was admittedly sceptical about the social media thing but as I like to embrace technology I decided to give it a go.  I saw it as good way of keeping in communication with some people that I wouldn’t normally see or hear from.

You could argue that if you don’t see or hear from someone on a regular basis then fuck them, you don’t need them.   I would usually subscribe to this mind-set as I don’t think like a rational, normal person.  I’m a reactionary who springs to snap judgements before having a think and then completely changing my mind.  Don’t be me…..be normal.  With Facebook I decided to be normal….. To begin with.

I checked back through my Facebook to see what my first post was.  It was outstanding:

“…is suffering from back pain…”

Riverting stuff eh?  A nothing post….hopeless.  Who cares? What would you say in response?  I remember posting this and thinking that I didn’t even care. A poor start.

It was clear I needed a ‘thing’, a reason to post something rather than a random statement of the moment, so I made a conscious decision to make my shit as funny and as joyful as the medium, although useful was essentially trivial.

On a brief initial scan at the time after acquiring a few friends I noticed a recurring theme.

Cat pictures.

The site was packed with cute cat pictures.  It was reminiscent of the late 80’s where the walls of University bedrooms were adorned with that poxy poster of the musclebound model, bare-chested, looking into the face of a new born baby or the picture of James Dean moodily walking down the boulevard of blah, blah, blah, or the ‘Betty Blue’ poster, a film of such low rent that it was merely made to separate socks from there 17 year old owners within the first seven minutes.  Subtitles added to the mystery but essentially it was Euro trash discussed intensely over warm cider by floppy haired film student cocks needing a good shoeing.

These images were meant to inspire but all they did was make you look like a moody ponce trapped in your own intensity.  Cat pictures could poke it.

The first clash I had with someone was when I ended up embroiled in a conversation about Facebook suggesting things you might like.  You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that this function is driven by the info you give it but no matter…. He ain’t no rocket scientist.

The complainant was whinging on about how it was an infringement of his civil liberties that anyone should dare suggest what he liked or disliked.  I was hesitant in my response, which is unusual for me, but I couldn’t hold back.

I pointed out that the whole Zuckerberg platform was free and so it didn’t surprise me that based on things you actively say you like they would suggest stuff that could help their advertisers.  I also pointed out to the whining prick that if he didn’t accept the policy he could do three things:

  1. Stop using Facebook
  2. Stop liking stuff on Facebook
  3. Get out of my fucking life

This went down badly and so I was drawn into arguing with the knob about the meaning of ‘free’.

To me, If you are handed a free vanilla Ice Cream you don’t complain that it isn’t strawberry… you either accept the freebie and its vanilla fantabulousness or you reject it and go ice cream free.  You have the ultimate sanction….You can decide not to engage with it.

This was the point when I thought that the whole platform must be littered with nut jobs from all parts of the bonkers spectrum.

There’s the needy who post lines like:

  • “…Oh God!… not again…”
  • “..I can’t believe he/she did that..”
  • “.. I’m not having that..”

These are ‘No point’ posts which crave interaction, they need a response mainly along the lines of ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’

I had (notice past tense) a ‘friend’ who posted this stuff regular.  I used to respond like I knew what she was talking about hoping that she would correct me.  No one knew what she was talking about but she was incapable of starting or sustaining a conversation without there being some form of personal trauma.  In the end no one replied.  If you want a reply to your posts try using this thing:

‘?’

The Question Mark. It works on all levels otherwise it’s just a statement…an up your own arse statement craving attention.

The flipside of the needy are the obsessed.  These are the people who think that everything you post is about them or something they did.  My posts are about everything and nothing, everybody and nobody.  If I’m talking about you you’ll know…. I’ll name you directly as I love an argument..

Then there are the part time political activists with the deeply earnest posts who have been particularly prolific this past six weeks mainly due to the immigration tragedy and the rise of some bloke trapped in a time warp from 1975.

This blog isn’t my political platform so I won’t bang on about my views and so I’d like to think that others would do the same on Facebook.  Unfortunately I’ve been subjected to dead toddler pictures, downtrodden migrant appeals, Rioters being battered by the Police and the like whether I want to see them or not.  I was called a ‘cunt’ and a ‘Tory’ simply for not agreeing with a particular point of view.  That’s fine, I’ve been called a Cunt before and I’m certain it’ll happen again but there seems to be a lack of understanding in the concept of point and counterpoint.

The other thing with the Activist is that generally on Facebook you are posting to your friends and so your wish to push the view to a wider audience collapses at stage one.  Generally we associate with like-minded people so shoving your view down their throat on an hourly basis has little effect.  I know what you like and dislike that’s why we are friends and this goes for all the others on your page.  Go global if you must but not local as it’s pointless.

It’s not all bad.  Facebook is a marvellous tool for humorous interaction with people you don’t get to see on a regular basis.  Without it I would have no communication with friends and relatives all over the world as I’m a lazy bastard who doesn’t pick up a phone.   I’ve met new friends and rekindled relationships with old mates.  I like it…It does its job and if you keep it low level it can be a great thing unfortunately there are too many Warriors of the Intergoogles looking to reinvent themselves as modern day heroes.  Luckily I realise that I’m not a hero…I’m just a bored twat spouting nothingness.

On a lighter note….Paganism and the Fires of Hell.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Hastings, not through choice but not due to abduction either.  Obligation has taken me to this seaside hamlet of few sights, few teeth and fewer thumbs.  The in-laws lived there and so I was taken there on many occasions to visit.

I’m not big on seaside towns.  It’s the transient nature of the average punter mincing around them rather than a general irrational hate.  They always feel temporary and fake to me and my personality and nature insists that I imagine it in a bleak winter landscape rather than at its peak in a tepid English summer.

My gauge of a place is whether I would want to live there and I’ve always thought I couldn’t live in Hastings.  What would I do during the winter when I’m watching my car being eaten away in the sea air?  Plan the annual external house painting?  Take a walk down the ‘Old Town’ (they all have an ‘Old Town’), to see worn out coffee shops and shops selling shell encrusted clocks that you don’t need or even like?  Play tuppence drop to win something shite? Or just drink my loaf off in a worn out boozer frequented by salty sea dogs with a sign that says ‘Bikers welcome’?

If I ever live by an expanse of water it will be hot all year round and I’ll be eating sardines cooked on the beach not slurping a pint of prawns under an umbrella next to the crazy golf.

All this being said I agreed to return for a night out with Jen, the kids, Jen’s sister and brother-in-law who are always great company and good fun. It was sold to me as a beach party with fireworks… It wasn’t quite like that.

I’ve always enjoyed the initial stages of journey down to Hastings.  I can’t explain why it might just be the fact that I’m on the road.  The problem really kicks in when I see that sign that says ‘Welcome to Hastings – Birthplace of Television’.  This sign gets up my nose as it means we have arrived in Hastings.  It’s at that point that I feel the blood pressure rising and the tetchiness kick in.

We arrive at the accommodation.  My initial reaction is a well-trodden road for Jen.  I slag it off without actually entering the premises. My default position is one of misery and woe when leaving my house to sleep elsewhere as any bed that isn’t mine tends to break my back.  The guest house we are staying proves to be excellent value with a brasserie attached including a bar with Guinness.  She knows me so well…. As long as Guinness is available I’ll suffer anything.

Prior to leaving I research the event we are attending.  It’s the Hastings Bonfire Society’s annual event where they parade through the streets before igniting a huge pyre on the beach. Essentially this sounds dull however it’s free and involves fire so I’m in.

After a brief stay in the room I decide to go sit in the bar as there’s only so long I can sit and wait for Jen and the kids to get ready.  I head to the brassiere bar and order a G from a very young barmaid.  I’ve had better…. The Guinness not the barmaid.

I sit in the window, alone like an imprisoned orangutan.  I don’t go to bars alone so this is a rarity and I try to savour the moment or solitude but in walks a large group of locals spanning various age ranges.

Locals.  I hate Locals. I can tell they are locals by the limps, small thumbs, sloping shoulders, small heads and boss eyes.  They seem excited, almost frantic.  I can only assume it’s because the magic of fire is imminent.  They all talk at the same time about fuck all and I notice they view me suspiciously.  One of them has that look that can only be described as ‘the finger through the toilet paper’…. They are wary of the lone stranger… I’m winning.  My mind wanders and I realise that I could run this fucking town.  I was born for this moment, I can envisage a future where I’m leading the toothless masses of Hastings in revolt against the rest of society… I am Caesar from ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’… A simian forehead and just about enough intelligence to lead an army of the stupid… I AM THEIR GOD!!

…Anyway more of my rise to power in another blog… onwards…

I’m in the bar with the freaks.  They are talking about the fire ceremony and they have started to drool and chatter.  There’s also random bursts of too loud, inappropriate laughter.  All I can decipher are random mumblings with the occasional clear use of the words “fire” and “burn” said slightly too loudly and quickly… I shift uncomfortably and am pleased when the brother in law appears as he’s an ex-soldier and will be handy should we have to burst free from the bar in some kind of normal person jail break.

Shortly after we are joined by our families and we retire to the restaurant to eat. Saved by women and children.

I’m surprised by the menu.  Lamb fillet and Dauphinoise potatoes rings my bell and as it’s the greatest of all potato dishes I choose instantly.  This is odd.  Hastings has always oozed gastronomic wasteland for me.  Random ‘meet’ crammed into stale bread held together by the cheapest of napkins so I’m thrown by this classy effort.

I once went to breakfast with Jen in Hastings where she ordered ‘Ham and eggs’.  Not sure you can fuck that up but she received two slices of wafer thin plastic ham, a stale finger roll and a hard-boiled egg (unpeeled) rolling on the plate.

I still remember her face and my laughter which was only cut short by the arrival of my breakfast which when ordered sounded like ‘double egg on toast, bacon and mushrooms’ but when received was ‘egg, bacon, sausage, tomatoes and beans’.  When I queried the plate before me I was informed by the waitress that the chef can only cook what is listed on the menu at which point I pointed to Jen’s plate.  Apparently Jen’s effort was him ‘giving it a go’… outstanding.  By the way I never eat sausages in cafes.  If I want to chow down on a low quality pigs cock I’ll join the current government…eh?  Like that?  Topical…

Seaside food is usually shite.  Whilst working in Brighton with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met I was provided with a battered cod fillet impaled on a stick… bit like a fish lolly.  All. Wrong.

Because the food was good I was filled with optimism when I strode forth towards the ‘Pyre’ erected on the beach.

The streets were busy with freaks in costumes ready for the parade.  Lots of pirates and death makeup like a low level Mexican Day of the Dead parade without the heat, sun, proper costumes, choreography and beautifully tanned people.  This is that festival for the shockingly pale, ham-fisted, puffer jacket brigade.

We reach the sea front and it’s mobbed.  It’s like a prison has let everyone out for the night…. A prison, a borstal and a home for battered wives…doors thrown open and the ghost of Ron Pickering has shouted ‘Away you Go!!’. This is the Hastings I remember.  The Walking Dead manifest into reality.  Excluding those I am related to I’ve counted 58 teeth amongst those in attendance and it’s clear that the local tattooist is a multi-millionaire from neck tatts and kids names in gothic font on forearms.

….I’m in the nitty gritty here… it’s a tinder box of luke warm excitement and I’m with the people of the soil… the common man….Cameron’s Britain…

We smooch our way to the front of the railings within sight of the massive pyre of pallets and random wood.  To the front of the tower is a giant anarchist Guy Fawkes mask.  I’ve inadvertently entered an anti-capitalist rally.  This could ruin me.  I couldn’t be more capitalist.  Earlier I was sitting in the accommodation wishing I had brought the Bose mini dock Bluetooth speaker as the quality of the radio in the room was appallingly poor… I want all the stuff and I want it now.  Luckily these Jubs ain’t political they just like burning stuff and swearing loudly at their kids.

The brother-in-law informs me of the timescale and it appears that we has an hour to kill while the parade of torches winds its way through the Old Town and back to the sea front.  I was aware this would happen so I’m cool with it.

I survey the scene.  What strange lunacy is this?

Now I’m not sure how big the Hastings branch of Sports Direct is but I can only assume it is like the 02 arena with tills and cheap umbrellas.  Everywhere I look I see ‘Lonsdale’ and ‘Karrimor’ and ill-fitting, highly flammable leisure suits.  This seems like a collective cry for help given the imminent inferno.  I have never seen so much cheap leisure clothing packed into confined area in my life.  It’s like the crowd at an Iron Maiden gig in Poland in 1987.  It’s actually quite a feat of logistics given the A roads down to Hastings that Sports Direct are capable of delivering this amount of tat to the residents on a regular basis.

The next thing I notice is the smoking.  I hate smoking.  I’ve never smoked but have had to live with it for years.  Every girl I ever had the pleasure of ‘entertaining’ smoked.  It was deemed ‘cool’ by women of my vintage back in the day so if you wanted to be involved you had to accept it or spend the nights weeping into a pillow in a lonely bedroom with the ‘Grattans’ catalogue lingerie section.  Just for the record ladies, we don’t like it, it tastes bad…. But we get on with it….for you because we are professionals and need the companionship for the sake of our sight.

The amount of smoking is noticeable…all ages….puffing.  There’s a couple next to me in their 40’s who are vaping.  They are heavily vaping in between some gratuitous snogging.  I’m subjected to entwined tongues and I haven’t even typed anything into Google although this search would read ‘Fugly couple sicken thick crowd’.

They stop vaping and eating each other and engage in some top notch swearing during which they start smoking.  That’s right, the vaping has stopped but the real smoking has started meaning that they can maintain a constant state of nicotine refreshment.

I turn away and look into the distance and see a red glow.  It reminds me of that scene in ‘The Two Towers’ when the Orc army are approaching Helms Deep to slaughter everyone.  Problem is I’m stuck in the middle or more Orcs and see no heroes able to assist me (Aragorn) or the brother in law (Legolas).  It’s an Orcfest and I have no weaponry other than complete contempt.

‘They are coming!!”

…the cry rings out from what I assumed was a bearded bloke to my left… Turns out it was a woman in need of a shave in a ‘Tap out’ sweatshirt.  Everyone hustles forward to greet the torch bearers who are bedecked in sea based fancy dress.  Chillingly they are also dragging a 12 foot papier-mâché model of some generic seafarer that they intend to reduce to ashes.

After ten minutes of various drum banging and flame gathering the horde surround the Pyre… Ignition is but a moment away.  In a bizarre twist I’ve gone all caveman and crave an out of control fire… the mob has taken control of me and I have become one of them.

Generally I’m poor with fire. I can’t control it.  I had lots of bonfires out of control through poor planning and seeing me light fireworks is comedy gold… Torch in mouth, taper gingerly wobbling towards the fuse whilst carrying a watering can is the norm followed by a frantic run to safety as if I’m escaping the blast zone.  When the boy was a baby I experimented with mood lighting by placing four tea lights in a ceramic vase behind a microwave in order to create some kind of ponce inspired ambience.  The effect was outstanding but when I left the room I forgot to extinguish the candles and 10 minutes later was fighting a blaze from kitchen worktop to ceiling as they overheated in the confined vase, melded into one giant candle and exploded.  Jen wasn’t happy and so now like a three year old I’m not allowed matches in case I threaten the safety of the tribe.

The tension is mounting as the horde close in….who gets the honour of chucking the first torch? Which local dignitary puts fire to wood?  Surely the manager of Sports Direct will be the one given his services to textiles and moulded soles throughout the town will be in the frame or perhaps the local tobacconist who has manged to bring joy to all ages and all medical facilities in the area for a number of years.  Neither of these two titans of local industry get the nod and so some random nobody shoots his bolt and chucks his torch straight into the heart of the pyre. After a brief cheers of madness hundreds of other torches are chucked on.

I’m not too sure what was in the middle but the stack has gone up in seconds like a roman candle and the heat is tremendous from my vantage point about 100 yards away.  The whole thing is exhilarating and I find myself scanning the crowd for the overly nourished in order to add fuel to this fire of all fires.  Surely one of these loonies is willing to sacrifice themselves to fuel the lust for flames?

After five minutes of watching the inferno it’s clear that it’s getting slightly out of control with the top of it licking up a good sixty feet into the air like a sun flare.  If the wind changes direction I’m pretty sure that the entire area could be engulfed in flame.

The assembled herd are taken with the fire frenzy and shouts of ‘BURN!! BURN!!’ are heard all around.  Out of the corner of my eye I notice the local fire engine silently move towards the pyre as if the brains on hose #1 has realised that he could get the key to the city for stopping a disaster…

In order to supress the crowd and presumably contain the blaze on the quiet the PA announces starts the countdown to the firework display.  This is the real reason we are here as the kids love fireworks and I’ve read that this is a good effort.  I’m now pleased that we have this position near the barrier as I should have the perfect view of this near legendary display… I turn to the kids…

“Turn your faces to the sky children in preparation of the delights to come… we don’t want to miss one dazzlingly explosion..”  The kids look up, the joy evident in their innocent faces, I set my face to maximum excitement…. Here we go…

Three…two…..one…… kerrrrrrrboooooommmmmm!!!

….I’ve never been a lucky person on any level.  If I can misjudge something I probably will….

Behind me I hear a massive opening barrage of fireworks.  To the front nothing.  Nish.  Nada. To the left an aged and toothless old crone points skywards and cheers but she’s looking behind me… everyone is looking behind me.

I spin round to nearly see the display in full flow. I say nearly because not only have we put ourselves in the wrong place for the main event but a very large street size is obliterating all but the edges of the main explosions.

I turn to the kids to avert disaster and find that they are still looking skyward in the wrong direction with beaming smiles.  I whip around to take in the majesty of a ridiculously large road sign silhouetted from the remnants of East Sussex’s greatest firework event….. The brother-in-law looks at me and rightly pisses himself.  This sort of shit only happens to me.

And then, with three massive explosions in the shape of three 12 foot seagulls the event ends.  The PA announces that the lunacy is over and we should all return to our pathetic, fire free lives.

The herd shuffles off and we head back to the guest house bar for a night cap where we are confronted by a packed house of soft drink guzzlers watching four Dads knock out mid-tempo cover versions to rapturous applause worthy of a Led Zep reunion gig.

The next morning after sleeping on a bed as hard as a dogs head and a fully acceptable breakfast in a room smelling of bleach, we take a walk into the old town and I am pleasantly surprised.

No longer do the cobbles smell of piss and sick after a Saturday night but it to have gone all bohemian with all kinds of new coffee houses with books shelves and bars with London DJ’s popping up.  It’s Brighton-lite without the stag and hen do’s ruining the atmosphere and the ponces flopping about in heavy trousers and bow ties seeking out new types of coffee in tiny, tiny cups.

Of course it still has the hippy shop with the £200 copy of Frodo’s sword from ‘ The Lord of the Rings’ which has not been sold in the 10 years I have been coming here but it is now joined by a £150 full size plastic Gandalf staff which lights up with magic….or pressing a button.

It’s a strange feeling but I’m enjoying myself mooching around and I suddenly get the feeling that I could probably live here.  I stare into an estate agents window and view a five bedroom property with land that I could buy outright if I sold up in London….  My mind thinks about it…. I’ve had a great time but could I live here on a daily basis without the thrill of the Fire? The surge of naked heat? The smell of burning tinder? The rush of the torch bearers?

…’No’ is the simple answer…. Fuck the seaside…..

“…The Guild of Master Craftymen…”

I was going to write a different blog but chose not to.

A blog is self indulgent pursuit at the best of times but one about a night in your life that you thought was hilarious to you and those present might not be to others so it’s best to leave it as a five minute anecdote in a pub.  If you see me about and don’t know the tale of “The Black Balsam”, ask me and I’ll spill it like I spilt that particular liquid all over a quilt on that fateful night but be warned…you’ll need a strong stomach and a disturbing, guttural sense of humour.

This blog will be more relevant than a night out 15 years ago and more in keeping with why I started an observational blog a year ago about the freaks I encounter in everyday life.

..It’s been a busy month…

Firstly, the Prodigal Son returned, all too briefly, form the Far East, and the nights out with far flung mates from various locations made me realise why we have tight knit circles of friends rather than rooms of associates…less is more.  Many beers were downed and then Bun was gone again and life returns to normal for the sake of my liver.  Top stuff all round from you all…..We should do it more often and with increasing ferocity. Here’s to the next time…

Builders…..  ‘Tradesmen’,  ‘The Grafters’,  ‘Men of the soil’. This month my house has seen a swarm of builders crawl all over it in the name of ‘Loft Conversion’.  I’ve been watching them closely.

Before I describe my interactions with the builders I have to explain something…I need builders, without builders I would be living in a cave, or under a bridge as I am generally hopeless at DIY.

Examples of my lack of prowess in the building game are many but include notable examples such as falling out of a loft hatch having not seen the hole, electrocuting myself rewiring a door bell and being found in the doorway by a kindly passer-by, putting up a coat rack with such ineptitude that in the end I simply put a picture up to cover the mess and screwing through a central heating pipe when your girlfriend is eight months pregnant and flooding a downstairs neighbour.

Actually the last example was my crowning glory of stupidity as I simple wanted to stop a floor board creaking and managed to screw cleanly through a pressurised pipe.

I was alerted to the problem by the 75 year old in the flat below who was worried about the water dripping from her light fitting.  As she spoke it hit me….. I run upstairs and pulled up a floor board to see the screw perfectly central to the pipe. Un-fuckin-believable.  Stupidly I remove the screw and am hit in the face with a luke warm gush that Ron Jeremy would have been proud of.

While I stem the flow Jen rings my mate Kieran.

Kieran knows builders, he knows all kinds of people, he’s a popular bloke who I trust and have known for 35 years.  After about twenty minutes Kieran arrives with Knoxy who is the only plumber he could raise at the time. Knoxy is a yet another great bloke, a professional, a lover of Brazilian beer and Golf, a man with tools that haven’t come from B&Q.  I can’t see them arrive as I’m lying on the floor holding the pipe, stemming the flow, grafting hard doing low level, non-plumbing plumbing.

I look up and see my saviour Knoxy has a broken arm.  I look at Kieran with my ‘are you taking the fucking piss’ face to which he merely raises an eyebrow. He’s a man of few words and we are deep in the shit now so I have to trust him. Knoxy’s a pro… this just might work.

Over the next hour Knoxy instructs Kieran in what to do and I lie their helpless in my own dirty uselessness. Between them they fix the problem and then piss themselves while talking about me being an idiot in my own house.  Who can blame them? The screw in question was placed directly in the centre of a floorboard exactly where a pipe would be. If you need a pipe finding I’m your man.

It’s safe to say that my skills are limited.  Jen is the brains.  She does the measuring and I do the hammering… so to speak. She is all precision and I am the blunt instrument. I endlessly question and doubt the measuring but she is always accurate and I am always incorrect.   I am used as muscle on low level tasks within this house.  Lifting stuff, smashing stuff…. I am the torque of the screwdriver or the heft behind the mallet.  I am nothing and so I rely on the skill of others…..

So let’s start at the beginning…. All major projects start with these fuckers.  Scaffolders.

Scaffolders are a breed apart.  They are the foot soldiers of the building industry…the grunts…The animals.  They are not unskilled as putting up and taking down scaffolding, to me anyway requires a certain skill and immense strength far beyond my capabilities.  The problem with the scaffolder is the stupidity.  I’ve never encountered one that wasn’t a bit of a stroker.  They tend to be trappier than normal, more “Oi! Oi!” Than “Ahoy! Hoy!”.

They also have little regard for your stuff.  They smash stuff unnecessarily.  My neighbour had scaffolders at the same time as I did from a different firm.  It was a bare chested tattooed face off scenario where they were like apes fighting for territory with my scaffolders worthy winners of the ‘2001’ bone due to the fact that they didn’t smash a window with a scaffold plank or smash my door light with a wayward pole.  They might be wankers but at least they are my wankers.

It never used to be this easy.  Years ago another set of scaffolders hoisted up their erection around my house during which time they played football in the garden with a tin of watery paint spraying it up the wall….there was no apology.

I also recall sitting in the living room while the main man gibboned his way around the poles before hanging outside the living room window staring at me for a good minute while gently swaying. We locked eyes and it was I who blinked first in order to get the job done. It was slightly unnerving but we got through it…together.

The scaffolders leave and I meet the main men.

These men are tasked with creating my loft.  Simon and Peter.  This throws me.  Where have the builders’ names gone? Where is ‘Pete’? Where is ‘Keith’? or ‘Dave’ and ‘Steve’?  I can’t have this….next you know they’ll be a builder called ‘Tristram’ or ‘Jeffrey’.  This trade is the final bastion on the “…’Ave it!!…” culture.  I’m not having it.  I will shorten their names to ‘Si’ and ‘Pete’ in order to maintain the long standing traditions that made this country and its workforce of Ladbrooks attendees and bacon sandwich eaters the Masters of build that they are.

Both Peter and Simon are lovely blokes.  Simon is the older one….the brains…wiry and lithe whereas Peter is the young muscle with a brooding silence.  He don’t speak much and I imagine he’s killed many a rabbit during a friendly cuddle.

Lovely or not I’m ready for these fuckers.  I’m preparing to go all ‘Gangmaster’ and lay down the law about lunchbreaks and bookmakers visits.  I’ve been here before years ago when I came home unexpectedly to find the two Polish labourers grafting and the natives of this land up the café or in William Hill’s on my day rate… pisstakers.  Not this time.  I’m Judge Dredd with the hump… they’re not the law…. I am the law.

Out of the blue they whip out prepared salads from their bags and bottles of water and ask if they can use my refrigeration services…the power shifts in their favour as I become all accommodating.. Dirty Rotters…

I stand by the kettle. I know my place.  I’m arranging the specially purchased, low level, dust teabags and the white sugar that only gets an airing in the chipped ‘builders cups’.  I’m eyeing them up.  Strong tea the colour of mud with three sugars each I reckon as nothing else is acceptable in this office worker / builder stand-off.   Fuck this shit, one is on juice and the other wants milky tea with no sugar, no wonder the country is all over the shop..

We have ‘Day One’ small talk and they climb the scary ladder to the roof… Oh yes…. ‘The Ladder’.  I hate ladders, wobbly, bouncy and only going up, usually these attributes would grab my attention but not today….they have the upper hand, I’m on the rack early doors.

Over the next few days I make sure that I’m about in the mornings to have a chat with the main man and as a result I get to know him and we engage in bawdy chat where I throw a few fucks in and laugh at stuff I wouldn’t normally do.  But I’m not in it for the swearing, I can easily out swear anyone alive or dead. I was trained by a professional, angry swearer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of offensive language… He was the Gandalf of Expletives.

I’m engaging with him as over the first few days he’s been slightly taking liberties in his attitude towards Jen. He’s not rude or abusive because that would be easy to deal with through physical ejection from my house with a note for his boss explaining that the next £8,000.00 won’t be forthcoming from the client. What he is doing though is being condescending, patronising and mostly sexist.  If you’ve ever met Jen you’ll realise pretty quickly that this kind of attitude is doomed to failure. Jen knows her stuff as she’s the queen of research.  Six building firms have attended this house to tender for the work with Jen knowing all about them before they enter the building.  One of these firms couldn’t answer Jen’s questions and after telling her she knew ‘her stuff’ they left in shame.

A few years back during another epic refurb project instigated by Jen I came home to find her in an uneasy stand-off with some lumpy aging builder.  I asked what was wrong and she raised an eyebrow and explained that the builder, on delivering the comical quote, refused to accept Jen’s decision and was waiting to discuss it with ‘the man of the house’.  I dispatched him robustly…

This plum thinks he can blind Jen with technical bullshit…. He can’t….and so in order to keep the peace I intervene and sit him down to explain that whatever Jen wants, she gets.  It’s the law of the house he’s tearing apart.

At this point it all spills out…….His wife has left him…..

This throws me momentarily.  Normally I couldn’t care less and ‘Not my problem’ would leave my mouth but as my future comfort rests in his hands I feel the need to show a crumb of concern.  Over the next ten minutes you would have heard me say the following:

  • “You’re Joking mate?” (shocked mouth agape
  • “Unbelievable” (arms folded, head shaking slowly)
  • “She’s well out of order” (while prodding the table)…
  • “What you going to do?” (oozing concern, palms open followed by “what CAN you do?)
  • “it must be difficulty” (raised eyebrows, head tilting to one side)
  • “how are the kids?….must be hard for them” (mouth downturned slightly)
  • “take her to the cleaners mate”  (hard face engaged, fist clenched)

…and my personal favourite…”The Money Shot” if you will….

  • “Do you think she is sleeping with someone else?” (deadpan)

I was actually more industrial with the final question as I wanted one of two possible reactions in order to trigger the worker in him.  He could be disgusted and return up the ladder or he could be shocked and would return up the ladder….. He returned up the ladder in disgusted shock….Happy Days….

Over the following weeks I was subjected to a daily update with regard to ‘the wife’.

On one occasion he showed me a picture of her on his phone and said:

“You wouldn’t let that go without a fight would ya?…look at her!!… I’ve got enough love for the two of us!!”

I look at the picture.  She’s alright but wouldn’t stand out in a crowd as there is too much ‘vagasling Essex’ happening in my view.  Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder so each to their own and so I let out a non-descript, non committal noise to let him know I have acknowledged the existence of the photo before me.

…Mental…

Over the next few weeks I get a daily update on the state of his collapsing relationship.

It’s not too bad.  Turns out he’s the type of bloke that checks his missus’ phone and doesn’t like what he found.  If you don’t want to know then don’t go looking is my mantra.

Checking someone’s messages on their phone is as bad as whatever they are up to.  He deserves the misery but his kids don’t so I remain lethargically sympathetic which gains me the upper hand.  The problem I have is that he’s not retaining enough focus on my loft as his mind is elsewhere…. I can’t have that.

It got so bad at one point that when I asked him if everything was okay he informed me that he had instructed a solicitor.  “What?  For the loft? “says I, raising a finger skyward.  “ ahh… sorry” he says, “..my head’s all over the place at the minute”… If he don’t get up that ladder… it might be.

The job progresses and all the trades start to appear at my house…

First up.  Plumbers, the drummers of the building world.

Unless you are a heating engineer I see plumbing as fairly easy.  Plumbing is Lego with the problem of added water. So long as you understand gravity and washers it shouldn’t really be an issue should it?  Two plumbers turn up.  Ross and Chris who are brothers.  Chris barely speaks and I get to thinking that builders, when in pairs, leave all the interaction to one or the other.

Ross is a professional.  He talks calmly like a surgeon about to remove a tumour, a tumour that turns out to be my money.  Nothing he has to do is a ‘problem’ and he slowly and methodically talks me through the process completely unlike the two in the loft who are keen for me to stay away until it’s completed.  I like the plumber, he’s a man I can do business with and I trust him not to mess me about.

During the build I spend a lot of time working from home so I can keep an eye on the workers.  One afternoon I make the mistake of wandering into the garden to have a look at the progress from a different angle.  I instantly know this is a mistake as they are on a break and are looking down at me from the top of the ladder…

“You coming up to have a look mate” one of the flash fuckers says with a more than a hint of a laugh in his voice.

They know I hate the ladder, it’s a test I can’t fail.  Without replying and in silence due to fear I start the ascent.  I may be a desk monkey but these Jubs can’t have the upper hand and so I must conquer the spindled snake of death arcing and bouncing it’s way up to my roof through the imaginary clouds making it even more hazardous.

Once I’m up there they skulk about and I ask hundreds of questions.  Their realm has been invaded and I am back in command of my own house.  I will now randomly appear at the top of the ladder in order to pile on the pressure, by pointing at things clearly half built.  I overcome my vertigo to bluff my way through it.  Getting down from any height is relatively simple.  Like air travel I find the descent easier as my mind tells me that with every second I’m closer to the ground and so the chances of survival increase.

….and then the Plasterer arrived….

Plastering is an undoubted skill.  If you’ve ever tried to do it without ten years of experience you will know this. The plasterer appeared two days late.  I was told he was sick but he tells Jen he was busy elsewhere.  These tossers can’t even get the basic lies straight.  He only drinks water and ‘squash’ which is a word I haven’t heard since 1976.

He’s a little bloke, about 5’ 4”… a little cockney plasterer who I reckon I could throw a good 20 feet 3.87 inches, easy.  He has that high pitched voice that Hertfordshire based Londoners have…You can really feel the bigotry and violence in the pitch.

I don’t take well to this bloke as he’s whinging that the job is too big and he keeps endlessly repeating it like I’m going to tell him not to bother with some bits. This doesn’t happen, in fact I find extra bits that he can fix as he deserves the slavery.

He also has that annoying habit of being overly polite.  He can’t speak to me without apologising for nothing or thanking me for everything.  I’ve already told him that he can use the water and the tea bags and I’m getting slightly arsey at having to repeat it in order for it to sink in.  I almost tell him that as long as he doesn’t shit on the floor and gets the plastering done sharpish I’ll be happy.  I switch off from this cheeky, chirpy, Cockney Herbert in order to deal with the Electrician.

The electrician requires no ‘dealing with’ however as he’s in his 60’s and has seen it all before.  He has the client / builder balance correctly aligned.  He’s polite when need be, he’s funny, doesn’t moan and he’s quick and accurate.  He does the job once with minimal fuss as he’s a seasoned campaigner.  Like an old sweat the Sparky drinks strong tea (“two bags mate”) and two sugars… outstanding stuff from the old man.  I applaud him.

The tiler is another matter.  The milky coffee with no sugar belies his carriage.   He’s a big unit with a cap that doesn’t fit his head. He’s North London encapsulated in one massive body and he hasn’t even opened his mouth yet but I can tell from his peculiar gait. I eye him up and it makes me wonder how he’ll manage to carry out the tiling in the tight places but as he’s clearly not starving I’m guessing he’s capable.

He introduces himself and seems decent enough initially but it all starts going downhill rapidly when he continues talking and talking and talking.  He also has that ‘jokey’ demeanour of the nervous where everything is a joke that only he laughs at.  In the ten minutes we chat I know everything about him.  Where he lives, family history, work history (he used to be a postman) and significant events in his life.  Overly nourished and externally happy, the worst of all combinations. So long as he does a good job and I limit the interaction we’ll get along fine.

As the days go on I start to trust in their abilities and leave them to it.  And then quite rapidly and without me paying much attention their work is done.

Unfortunately like all builders they leave one thing not quite completed.  It’s like that Killer Whale documentary where after gorging themselves on seals for hours all they do with the final one is chuck it about rather than eat it leaving the feeding frenzy ‘open’.  I’m certain all builders have this same mentality.  A job isn’t complete until it’s not complete.  The job left unresolved is a creaky floorboard so I’m not making a massive deal of it, and I’m not attempting to fix it either. I let them keep the tradition as even though it doesn’t sound like it I respect builders, I need their skills and respect the traditions of the building industry even if

So I stand in the new loft space with a smile on my face.  It’s over to me now as finances dictate that I am the decorator.  I’m organised and have all my stuff strategically arranged for maximum efficiency, I’ve been watching the professionals.  I climb the step ladder and roll on the first stripe of the ‘mist’ coat on the newly plastered wall.  The paint runs thin on my roller and I lean back to admire my opening effort.   This is a piece of piss…I’m a natural…

I blindly step off the ladder in awe of my achievement while planning a new career as an international decorator for the glitterati and step straight onto the edge of a plastic tub of paint splitting it from top to bottom.  As I watch the five litres of white emulsion ooze onto the newly laid floor I open ‘Google’ up on my phone and search for ‘mute, non-cockney, happily married, tea drinking decorators’…

….Nothing…. I am alone with a puddle of paint with no skill….

….Bollocks……

” …The Season of the Bitch…”

Mistakes.   Everyone has made them.  Some are small and mean nothing, others are massive.

This is the tale of my greatest mistake which was a relationship I engaged in far too quickly without any thought.  It was a painful experience but a valuable one in the life experience box.  Unfortunately it took four years and put me almost back to where I was when I started.

Fear not dear reader, it’s none of you and it will only contain the funny, or odd moments rather that the sad, tragic ones of which there were a few and one in particular.  That incident or the ‘Traumatic event’ as I refer to it later as, will remain in the dungeon in my head as it would be unfair to release it even though she’s not party to this.  My trusted soldiers know that moment in all its graphic emotional detail and I’m happy that it remains like that.

All relationships have problems and challenges to overcome otherwise they wouldn’t be interesting and we wouldn’t crave the company of the opposite sex.  We all love a challenge but the magnitude of some challenges only become apparent when you are up to your guts in the blood and bullets with no sign of escape.

The transition from the previous relationship to this fruit loop is not relevant so all you really need to know is that following a lot of arguing and weepy agreement “previous” and I split up.  I believe to this day that we both think we ended it as we still don’t agree on the way it ended the reality is that we just grew apart as we were essentially different people at that point.  Relationships mostly end with either death, annoyance or irritation on the part of one or the other and this was no exception.  In essence I found myself at the tail end of one relationship, with an intelligent woman I’d known since School and almost immediately into another one with a whole different kind of animal.

Firstly, I should explain something.  I have never knowingly pulled or chatted up anyone.  I have relied on luck and at a push humor to get me within the snogging arc of a woman.  Essentially this is because I am a shy person initially regardless of all the mouth and opinion.

My ‘technique’ when it comes to the opposite sex is to either let it all happen around me or blindly walk straight into it to see what happens…. Sometimes it works and sometimes it goes spectacularly wrong on a number of levels.

She needs a name so let’s call her “Mildred” as I don’t know anyone called that and it’s not her real name.

I met Mildred at work.  She was engaged at the time to a hippy with no big toes.  When I met her she seemed normal and I didn’t know she was a weepy, scatty, needy, head case, spend thrift, manipulative, liar with a food allergy and a heroin addict, bullying, father.  Had I known these factoids I would clearly have chosen a different chalice…. In the words of the Knight at the end of ‘Indiana Jones and the last Crusade’ I chose unwisely and ignored my own mantra of “Knowledge is Power” to dive headlong into uncharted territory led by something far smaller than my brain.

And so we head back to the mid 90’s to an wage crippling rented flat in North London and a CD player blasting out floppy hat wearing, mumbling drunk dwarf troubadour Van Morrison’s opening lines of “Astral Weeks” his much heralded 1968 snooze fest album…

 “If I ventured in the slipstream

Between the viaducts of your dream

Where immobile steel rims crack

And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me? Would you kiss-a my eyes?

To lay me down In silence easy

To be born again”

 This ‘chuck a few words at a piece of paper’ approach to lyrics is complete cobblers and its endless playing should have sounded as a screaming, twirling, flashing red light warning siren to anyone at the beginning of a relationship. Unfortunately she saw these words and in fact the whole shower of shit album as the bedrock of a future with me.

As lust is blind I attempted to embrace this shit rather than ignore it and return to familiar, simple territory in the form of Van Halen’s greatest lyric from 80’s Hard Rock classic ‘Everybody wants some!’

“You can’t get romantic on a subway line,

Conductor don’t like it says you’re wasting your time

But everybody wants some….I want some too…..

Everybody wants some…..how ‘bout you?”

These lyrics mean more to me more than a miserable Irishman’s ramblings as I have, on many occasions, actually been on a tube train with various women in a series of romantic clinches wanting ‘some’. However both sets of words mean fuck all in reality. Never pin your hopes on a song to define love because, unless you wrote, it it’s not about you or the one you crave, you’ve merely borrowed it to be a ponce and potentially have sex.

Like all relationships it started well….or perhaps relatively well.

There was the inevitable opening salvo of lots of sex, drinking, eating and excessive socializing.  However the party period ended fairly quickly and I soon found myself in a usual routine.  It’s a bit like going on holiday and falling in love with the place you visit.  You dream of living there as you had such a great time on holiday relaxing but if you lived there every day and had to suffer what everyone else does on a daily basis to survive like tube trains, weather and work then  it’s a different story.  It becomes just another thing that you deal with.

Due to the situation on her side we moved in together immediately and rented a flat in my locality.  In hindsight I probably should have moved somewhere else but I was more connected than her and so she headed my way.  This was exciting for her but difficult for me as I would inevitably bump into the “previous” which would have been awkward for everyone.  To be fair the “previous” didn’t make it awkward… she dealt with it with aplomb and class much to compound my shame.

The problems started fairly quickly.   One Saturday after we had moved in I prepared to head off to play football, a heinous crime at the best of times but in this case right up there with sleeping with her sister apparently.  She knew I played football…. Everyone knew but she assumed that was over in favour of long walks and far off looks…She was wrong.

This caused a major wobble on the part of Mildred as she expected to be with me every waking minute.  She looked distressed and described herself as ‘gutted’ which I found hilarious for a grown woman.   This was a sign of things to come, the first hint of the deep anxiety within.

And then the crying started.

The floodgates opened and they wouldn’t shut for four fuckin’ years…. Everything seemed to spark her into floods of tears.  Cats in adverts, Dogs on leads, running out of teabags, Van Morrison, The Beatles, bruised apples, dishcloths, the ‘wrong’ rice, prawns, the bloke with no big toes, another ex I’ve never met,  bin liners that were too small, train stations, dishwashers, pine furniture, the smell of crayons…. You name it she’d cry about it or attempt to cry about it.  It turned out to be a dewy-eyed ‘love me I’m vulnerable’ tactic.  Tears should never be used for a manipulative purpose because you might need them one day.

Then there was the stupidity.

A moment of this that sticks in the mind is one morning when we were standing at an open platform waiting for the train to work.  It was very windy and she was standing with her hands in her coat pockets.  I was looking down the track for the train talking to her all the while when I heard a muffled screaming.

I looked around and a carrier bag had blown up and lodged itself around her face in an Alien face-hugger kind of way.

She was screaming and ferociously shaking her upper body and head trying to free the bag.  It was reminiscent of that dance that aging potbellied Quo fans do to “Whatever You Want”.  I look across the tracks and see that the entire southbound platform are in hysterics… who can blame them?  I nearly issued an Selwyn Froggatt double thumbs up before realizing that I was responsible for her.

I suppressed the laughter and calmly walk over to her and remove the bag like a kidnapper revealing himself to the captured. I then surveyed the scene of facial devastation. Hair disheveled, make-up smudged.  It’s a mess….Head Carnage at eight in the morning.  Unsalvageable.

I ask her what happened and she explains the bag just flew up in the wind and wrapped itself around her face.  Being slightly less than truly thick I had worked that out already.

“Why didn’t you pull it off with your hands?” says I…

(Long pause)

“ ..They were in my pockets….” she says…and then bursts into tears….

I saw a lot of this stuff.  It was real low level intelligence that I wasn’t used to.

You don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to realize that you can’t cook a frozen pie in a microwave for 30 minutes without an issue involving a window and a descending, smoking pie crashing into the roof of a parked car from 20 feet above it.  It’s not normal to put cooking salt in a dishwasher and if you are going to lie remember the previous lies or you get sussed out pretty quick and possibly in a restaurant in Rhodes by a mate of mine..  I appeared to be going out with ‘Duckface’ from Four Weddings and I didn’t like it.

The “previous” was and is a highly intelligent person from intelligent, well-mannered stock.   This is what I was used to.  I’d never been out with someone this needy and dim witted and so I was struggling to adapt without smashing a hammer into my forehead to level the playing field.  She had forced me into some form of educational snobbery even though I was comprehensively educated to a low, can’t be arsed level.

If you go out with me you need to be a fairly robust woman to reign me in as I can get out of control fairly quickly.  I’m happy for the argument and can take a bollocking so I need a woman who can dish it out.  I’m not used to subservient, tearful, pretend dimwits who struggle with the basics in an adult relationships.  However it was my shit storm so I ploughed on as there was no one else to blame.  I was in it and needed to deal with it…

And then I met the family.

No one else’s family can faze me as I come from an intense upbringing.  Metaphorically it was kill or be killed with extreme humor chucked in.  It was a great laugh with some challenging moments but it made me a better person capable of pretty much dealing with anything.

In the first few months I had heard a lot about Mildred’s Father.  My initial reaction was that he sounded like a prick. That remained my position throughout…. He was a prick.

Prior to meeting him I was constantly warned that he was mental, a “loose cannon”, “not to be messed with”…blah blah.  But like I said I was brought up by a master piss taker who never, ever backed down and so I was ready for this bloke years before I met his daughter.

We arrive at the family ranch following a fraught panicky journey on her part where she didn’t like the seat on the train sparking a little cry in carriage two.  The Mother was lovely, the brothers are funny talented blokes…. the sister is pretty much a scumbag who I would never like. Cocky and sly with a low level smirky husband.  Right up my street…

I look around for the Patriarch… I see the granddad sitting in a chair, all craggy and wizen in a haze of cigarette smoke.  They introduce the Dad and I look behind the granddad for a body.  Nothing there.  And then it clicks.

I look around at the terrified family and my face says ‘are you lot taking the piss?’. I reckon I could get my whole hand around this bloke’s neck and I have tiny, pixie hands.  The visual experience was hugely irritating and immensely punchable.

He was a beady little bloke who liked to sit in silence desperately trying to intimidate all before him but he was and failing massively on this occasion.  I shook his hand and he held the grip slightly longer than was necessary, always a sign of instant defeat, in my view.  It oozes ‘I’m the Guv’nor’ but masks inadequacy in the trouser department.

He spent most of the time with his shirt off revealing heroin (burned, bent spoons had been found in the garage) sculptured abs and overlong spindly, snapable arms.  I was fascinated by his nose which was a monstrous, coke chugging hoover where the most surprising thing about it was that it wasn’t battered flat by someone with a better handshake.  I’m not backward at coming forward so I decided to engage him in conversation.  I could sense that I was irritating him immediately as I wasn’t Mildred’s ex, the no big toes hippy who barely spoke and was a timid frightened boy at the best of times.

To keep the peace I backed down to allow him to win in his own house.  In the long term this ultimately was a mistake as he seemed to thrive off my territorial compliance and became a greater bully to his family than I should have allowed him to be.

The greatest moment of bullying witnessed first-hand by me was on Christmas morning when I’d stayed at the family home.  I was sitting on the sofa next to the Dad engaging him in a meaningless conversation when the mother entered the room and asked me if I wanted a bacon sandwich.  Before the words had finished coming from her mouth, Dad interrupted and said “I’ve told you before Cunt, don’t interrupt the men when they are talking…. Now fuck off…”

….Lovely stuff eh?  I’ve heard a lot of swearing in my time but not much this unnecessary to boost your own skeletal ego.

At that moment I had two options.  I could either remove myself from the sofa and follow the mother out of the room (nothing) or I could wipe him out on his own sofa, potentially get arrested for GBH and ruin Christmas (all).  Sadly as I love Christmas I chose the festive, less violent option I walked out to apologize myself to the Mother to raspy B&H cries of “where the fuck do you think you are going?” from the oxygen thief.  We would never engage in a conversation again.

In reality these mugs had let this bag of bones dominate them for years and so I felt only partially on board to assist them. I was new on the plot and not a knight in shining armour or gun for hire.  There were two brothers who could have removed him from their lives long ago but cowered in his skinny shadow.  They suffered him… I didn’t have to.

It was a defining moment in the relationship.  I wanted nothing to do with the Dad after that so it made things extra difficult as oddly they were a tight family in the face of brutality.  Long after we split I heard that the mother snapped one day, battered him and chucked him out… that’s all it took, one moment of defiance from the bullied and the bullies generally crumble.

Life continued and we bumbled along living in an expensive flat.  We had no money as she had expensive taste and wasted it all.  For some reason she would only wear top end make up and lotions that would skint me out monthly.  She would sign up for college courses and then only attend once before weeping and claiming it was the wrong thing.  She required specialist food, special shoes and liked to travel by cab even from North London to Wandsworth on Christmas day to deliver a trifle to her brother…. I was losing the will… she was a money pit rather than a life partner.  When you start to worry about the wallet over love it’s the clearest sign that you need to jack it in but I refused to give up.  I wanted it to work.

It’s at this point that the traumatic event happened.  It will forever be emblazoned on my memory like a red hot burn mark from an electric ring reminding you to get an oven glove next time.  It brought us closer together temporarily as it should have done.  It was a bad time.

In an attempt to fix the problems and start afresh somewhere with less memories we bought a flat which had a mortgage considerably cheaper than the rent we were paying.  It was important to try to draw a line under stuff and push forward.  I saw this as a chance to make it work and for a while it did but all the tears and crap returned albeit in a different venue eventually.

It was a nice flat but had difficult neighbours who were hard work.   The neighbor directly below us was an alcoholic hippy with a habit of leaving his front door open in a drunken stupor.  I could deal with this as it was no big deal…. Everyone likes a comedy drunk right?

The next door neighbours were more challenging.  You couldn’t bump into them or in fact see them without an endless conversation that required a “go away” conclusion.  If you didn’t cut the conversation off you would never get away.

Our flat had a first floor terrace that overlooked the crazies garden.  It was impossible to sit on the terrace doing anything without multiple, rapid fire questions from them.  “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? What are you doing later? When are you doing it?”  This kind of thing…. I was getting ruder by the day… they were oblivious, committed and continuous.

One day I come home from being out and I walk in the kitchen and find Mildred crying.  This wasn’t an unusual occurrence but I felt compelled to ask as it was more sustained and moany than normal. It would appear that the neighbours had been in their garden engaging in a spot of external, garden based felatio.

Now, I’m no prude and generally believe that if it floats your boat, is legal and affects no one directly you should be allowed to do it but this was taking the piss.  They were aged and pale not sleek and glowing like porn stars.

I asked Mildred to try to explain exactly what the problem was.  She said that she was doing some general weeping around the house and had ventured onto the back terrace to weep at the garden.  Once outside she noticed a rather old man with long, flayling white hair facing skywards with his eyes closed.  Below him, was the bobbing head of the 60 plus year old neighbor who I’m reliably informed was going at it like a dog with a hot chip.

The deliverer of the ‘chip’ wasn’t her husband either as I knew him to be taller, balder with a lazy eye and an elongated head.  I tell Mildred to calm down and remove herself from the hysteria she was heading towards as it’s not as if she’s unaccustomed to the act she’s been witnessing.

I’m not certain how I kept a straight face but in the spirit of professionalism I did and headed to the garden to confront the ‘gobbler’ and the ‘gobbled’.

For dramatic effect I stood on the terrace, stentorian voice booming downwards to the cowering trainee ‘goo girl’ and toothless Father Christmas lookalike who clearly couldn’t believe his luck at this stage in his life.

“I know what’s been going on here….. You sicken me….disgusting…”  Says I emphasizing the word ‘disgusting’.  They look sheepish, panicked and shocked by my authority. Santa attempts to speak, then pauses… I intervene with a finger to my lips which I then point at him.

“You mate…. I’m watching you…”

This is a complete load of bollocks with absolutely no meaning and no intent on my part but I’m banking on intellectual inferiority  kicking in as he isn’t the brightest tool, although Mildred did claim that he was ‘shiny’ ‘mauve’ and ‘bulbous’ and she’d know… she’d seen a few.

Then he speaks… He’s filled with hate and anger not embarrassment.

“..I’ll burn you fuckin’ house down…” he says in the very fast voice of the frantic…

There’s a twenty second pause while I let this sink in. I only do this for dramatic effect as he couldn’t be less threatening if he tried.  I smile… then burst out laughing, he goes absolutely mental in a ‘let me at him’ way, the Gobbler howls at the moon and Mildred wails into a tear sodden tea towel…. Bedlam erupts around me and I’m tempted to find the camcorder however I laugh and point at him….it’s the stuff of nightmares but I continue the ‘point and laugh’ schtick until I shut the terrace door and head out of sight to mop up a river of tears.

In the aftermath I decide that whenever I see the recipient of ‘natures nosh’ I will simple make the ‘Nee Nar, Nee Nar’ noise like a police car indicating his eventual arrest.  It drives him mental and I even do it from within the house when I see him in the garden when he can’t see me.  The felatioed pensioner screams the place down thinking he’s hearing ‘voices’ every time….slowly, slowly, catchy monkey….

In an attempt to calm the situation and stop a potential inferno engulfing my flat I bow down to Mildred pressure and contact the local authority who intervene and force the pyro’s into writing an apology.  This apology was followed by a rather crude hand drawn picture of me on fire being anonymously posted through the letterbox. When I eventually leave Mildred in the coming months, another anonymous note is passed through the door which reads:

 “… The Devil is gone…Good…”

 It was at this point that my interest in Mildred started to wane considerably.  Does anyone really need all the whining?  Is it why you attempt to start up a life with someone? No it isn’t.

I start enjoying myself without her, in fact at times I don’t even think about her when I’m out.  I was less than saintly during this time… the smaller brain had literally raised its head and left the relationship.   This was when I met Jen and so that was the end of Mildred as far as I was concerned.

And so we reach the end game…the burst for freedom, the first cut of the barbed wire.

The reality with any break up is actually saying the words that is the Rubicon moment.  You only have to say them or hear them once to know It’s over.  It’s rarely said in haste and normally it is meant…. It’s the fatal blow.

I had thought about the words for a while and then one morning I woke up and decided the time was right and I needed a better life than this and so delivered the bad news.  To my surprise she was remarkably calm about it.  Maybe she’d cried herself out over the previous four years or perhaps she was as miserable as I was.

We told the respective families and started to make the necessary arrangements.

Bizarrely my parents were less happy with the situation than I thought possible.  Perhaps I hadn’t made it clear how bad the situation was…..they seemed to be suffering from a sense of grief that would hang about for about 6 months which caused some problems.

It was decided that I would leave and she would buy me out of the flat as I had called on the situation.  I would get a bit of money but when you balanced off the credit card debt she ran up in my name I’d end up with nothing but I didn’t care, the prize was moving on to happier times.

I needed somewhere to live and the ‘previous’ came to the rescue.  She said I could move back into the old flat which she now rented out which was handy and financially beneficial for me rather than her.  She is an lovely woman and remains a great person and I will be forever be grateful for her assistance during this time when she really should have let me suffer in a mess of my own creation.

In the run up to leaving I decided that a good idea would be to not hang around the flat too often.  Mildred was getting increasingly anxious about living on her own and all the old weepy, mental problems started to raise their head which merely confirmed that the correct decision had been made.

However I started to notice that the ‘mentalness’ only happened when I was in her company.  Somehow she successfully managed to crowbar her way into a half of my mates who excluded me from social events so she could attend.  I later found out that she had told this group that I was knocking her about.  This was complete cobblers.   I’ve never hit a woman and never will.  It’s the coward’s way.

I was hit quite hard once by a woman. I was at a party in the late 80’s in a bathroom when a right hook was delivered to my face by an angry girlfriend… probably my fault but there was no moment when I thought retaliation was acceptable or even partially warranted.

She also started spreading the word to the gullible that I was responsible for the traumatic event.  Her parting gift to me was to split my mates for her own weepy selfish exit.  I have little to do with those believers now….. I chose wisely….

In the week running up to my departure I needed to get on the lash, large.  And inevitably up stepped Bunny.  He sorted me out.

Two days before I moved out I was in the pub with Bun and I told him about all the bad stuff and the lack of stability…

“… I think she’s a bit nuts Bun…” says I through a haze of lager…

“..Mental mate… always has been…” he tells me….

“What?…. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Not my fuckin’ job to tell you…. Your job to find out….My job is to be here at the end for you… You wouldn’t have believed me anyway…”

Fine words from a great man…. He was spot on… Who would listen?

We leave the pub and I head back to the flat for the penultimate time. Bun comes with me as he’s ludicrously polite and feels the need to say his goodbye’s to Mildred… He’s in my gang… he isn’t sucked in like the other fuckers, he’s cutting it dead….

I open the door to the common area of the building and I find an obstruction.  Bun and I force the door and find the alcoholic hippy from downstairs lying unconscious on the floor.  He’s disheveled and I notice his teeth have been smashed out.  I could do without this.  This’ll push her over the edge in the last moments before I go over the top…

After we stop laughing we drag him to his feet, dish out the expletives and chuck him in his own door.   I pick up his teeth and chuck them in after him.

As expected Mildred is hiding in the flat terrified…. She’s heard the commotion and thinks death is imminent.  Bun says his goodbye’s and leaves me to it with a ‘good luck’ pat on the shoulder… in 48 hours it will be over.

We sit in silence for a long time.  Half the living room is filled with boxes of my stuff stacked up and ready to go.  I’m not moving very far so I’m expecting some fall out in the next few days.  Finally she breaks the silence:

“You’re not really going are you?”….she looks serious…

“Yes mate I am.  Do you remember that bloke who came and transferred the mortgage to you?  That was real.  All that stuff in boxes will be gone on Saturday and you need to understand that.”  It’s a painful moment but reality is required….reality is always required.  It had sunk in as no tears appeared.  It was real.

The day I move out she leaves early…. She’s not interested in witnessing it and neither would I be.  I use a mini cab on a shuttle basis to move in six trips.  It’s only a 10 minute walk away but as it’s my manor I feel I should remain in the area with the mates who believe me and not her.

And then it was done….

The last box is in the new/old flat and the cabbie is paid for the easiest job of his life. I’m in a flat I had left four years before with a can of lager and a load of boxes.  I sit with the radio and start to go through the boxes.  She has all the photo’s and all the joint purchased music the very lifeblood of any relationship… the memories and soundtrack of that period of your life and I didn’t ask for any of it and didn’t want it which says it all.

Then there’s a knock at the door… It was inevitable.

I open the door and she is standing there.  She rushes past me, up the stairs and walks around all the rooms in silence before bursting into tears and leaving at pace.

And that was that….

I conceived this blog as I was clearing out the loft and realized that in the 25 years since I left my parents’ house I had no good memories of a large section of that time. All there is are a few photos a note in a copy of the ’The Fellowship of the Ring’ from a man from the Crystal Palace thanking us for putting him up for Christmas. There’s no ticket stubs, no CD’s, no nothing.

I’m not blaming anyone for this other than myself as I chose the path of hedonism over intelligence with someone not suited to me.  I expect no sympathy….

The four years with Mildred were pretty poor and contained a moment of such taxing emotional tragedy that I can never forget her. It’s a deathbed memory even if I can eventually forget the tears and the bullshit.  It’s my curse…

Am I harsh?  Probably. I’m glad that I’ve maintained healthy friendships with all the people I’ve been ‘involved’ with.  That would be impossible with her…. Too teary….too selfish…

I think it is important to embrace the past relationships we have as part of the journey.  If you get involved with someone it’s forever whether you stay with them or not. Those memories exist and they play a part in your life for better or worse.   I’d like my kids to know that it can go wrong but you do recover and do move on.

Deep down she was probably a nice person but I only had that in flashes. Instead she chose needy, snidey and ultimately nasty which is normally the ‘run for your life’ trigger. I was blind to this and it proved the stupidity was mine and mine alone from the outset.

I’m not one for turning back the clock to erase the past but if I was this experience and the traumatic event specifically would have been the moment for the rubber in more ways than one.

So…. I had escaped mentally scarred and beaten from the season of the bitch, with a diminishing friend list and Jen wasn’t ready for to take the dip into my plasma pool yet.

I had gone backwards.  I needed mates or perhaps flat mates….. I need to tap up the Mancunian with the Black Balsam….

….now that sounds like a title for a blog…

“…Turkish Prison Trousers…”

Welcome my son….welcome… to… the routine.

  • Wake up
  • Bathroom
  • Dress
  • Tea
  • Walk
  • Freak Box

Every day the same.  Soul destroying.  Humans as Robots.  I try to snap myself out of this horror by watching…. Always watching….however…

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?”

This is my favourite, poncey, latin quote.  It loosely translates as “Who Watches the Watchmen”.  It works on many levels in my life unlike this quote which I once saw on the wall of an Irish themed pub:

“Strangers are just friends you don’t know yet”

Fuck that.  Strangers are merely targets for a twisted bloke’s blog…

It’s a chilly morning but refreshingly sunny.  No one likes rain on a walk to a sweat box so I’m happy enough to feel the chill.  Every day I pass my old primary school.  It’s been 35 years since I walked out of the doors but it still makes me smile. I have lasting memories of this place.  Reading ‘The Hobbit’ for the first time, Kiss chase, doing the Hornpipe and pissing myself during a school play as I was too scared of the music teacher to ask if I could use the toilet…  My God she was evil… Glory days tinged with fear.  I think I’d be right in saying I only know one ex pupil of this school and I’m glad I do know still know her… It’s been a journey..

In the car park I notice a piece of PE ‘Apparatus’ that was used when I attended the school.  It’s effectively an ‘A’ frame that was used to connect walking beams together.  I used to think it was a massive jump from the top but in reality it’s no taller than my kitchen bin.

‘Apparatus’..when did people stop using that word? No matter, it’s a nice nostalgic distraction from walking the Green Mile to the train to work.

I reach the station.  No sign of the God Squadder.  Not seen him for a while now so he could either be sitting with his deity or weeping in solitary confinement following a dawn raid for his computer. I’m hoping for the later..

The train is banged out as I’m later than usual but I manage to slip into a seat before the larger horde pile on at the next, more popular stop.  Sitting down on a packed tube is slightly disturbing as you are at a subservient crotch level which is rarely a good thing.

We trundle along and I minding my own business when I notice that the bloke standing in front of me has his fly agape.  What do you do?  I’m at crotch level and he is swaying from side to side with the trouser cave inches from me. I feel like Billy Hayes in ‘Midnight Express’ staring up at a hulking fellow prisoner on his knees in the shower waiting for a tasty treat to be violently administered.  To make things worse the owner of the Turkish Prison trousers is smirking in a cross eyed post coital way. …I’m uncomfortable…. I’m staring into his abyss and there’s a hint of a greater horror within the folds, lurking, lolling, craving freedom.

I seize the opportunity to give up my seat to a more willing participant in, what I reckon is, the inevitable crotch to face interaction following a heavy RMT ‘jumped a red’ based shunt. If the new seat dweller happens to be yawning it could be distressing for us all.

I rarely give up my seat.  The last time I did was by mistake. I was sitting quietly listening to some music and I noticed some bloke mouthing words and poking at the seat next to me.  He was a Frenchman.  I looked up and dramatically pulled out the earphones to find he wants me to move up a seat so he could sit with his girlfriend.  Inexplicably I did as requested.  My normal reaction would have been to replace the ‘phones and flash scathing contempt at him but I simply moved sideways like a paid off bouncer at the back door.  I let myself down and I know it… I’ve also let this magnificent city down.  Because of my actions we now have a Frenchman running amok telling people that the English, and particularly Londoners are polite and can be pushed about. No Frenchman should think that.

Historically I would only give up my seat to pregnant women and the disabled.  I’ve eliminated the old as, in my view, if you are on a train without a stick then it’s a matter for you… you made your choice, you are in the arena, you fight like the rest of us… this ain’t no Titanic lifeboat turnout.

Old people were essentially the reason I sit tight.  Many years ago I was minding my own business on the lower deck of a bus when a brute of an old lady barrelled on.  She was the type of old woman that you are not quite sure is a woman.  She’s wearing trousers has short hair, minimal make up (caked on) and a haggard face through sucking on a thousand Lambert and Butler king-size.  The only sign of femininity was the ‘basketballs in a parcel sack’ chest bobbing towards me like dogs watching a random ping pong ball bouncing across a kitchen floor.

It was a busy bus and although seats were limited they were available. The old girl walks up to me, grabs me quite firmly by the arm and in a gruff ‘Queen of the Council estate’ way says:

“..You!! …Out!!…I’m sitting there… These seats are for people older than you…MOVE!!..”

She then attempts to drag me off the seat.  I resisted and ask her what ‘the fuck’ she thinks she’s doing.  She hesitates and is clearly ruffled that I just haven’t rolled over like a timid neighbour confronted by a travellers BBQ.  I point to an empty seat that she has walked past and tell her to sit there but she wants my seat as she ‘always sits here’.  I inform her that she doesn’t know me from a bar of soap and so needs to be careful as randomly grabbing people on buses, with force, may result in a similar reaction.

She stands firm thinking I’m moving…. I’m not.

When I choose to do something I see it through. I’m a professional stubborn prick…I was made this way.  Let me give you an example…When you’ve held a stag weekend drinking whip for 72 hours straight, an old lady on a bus should causes no significant issues.

I decide to stay on the bus past my stop just to annoy her and stop her getting this specific seat.

After two fast taken corners by the driver and considerable wobbling on the part of her massive norks, she decides that my idea is the best for option on this occasion.  She wobbles off and sits, all the while eyeing my seat…… I wait and get further from my house but I sit firm… like a belligerent  twat…

Eventually a younger woman gets on and I offer her my seat before getting off a mile from my own house.  Victory is mine…pathetic I know.  Since then I’ve remained seated until I see a ‘baby on board’ badge, a pushchair or a walking stick.

I squeeze my way to the area by the doors and finally stop next to an overly nourished builder who is hanging on to the overhead hand rail.  I’m a bit too close to him but I have little choice as we are all sardined in.  I start to feel a bit woozy…  It’s not the heat but the blast zone of this fucker’s alcoholic armpit which is pumping out high levels of Stella Artois smog.  He’s sweating. It’s that boozy, still pissed sweat… a cold sweat.  He’s concentrating deeply on the floor.  I ease back as I’m not keen on the potential splash back should he unload a digested keg of froth and kebab remnants all over the floor.

I’m having a ‘mare here….I’m trapped between a crotch nuzzle and chunder splat…..

I distract myself looking around for oddities…

Sitting down I see an Italian.  He might not be Italian but he strikes me as Italian.  Bald yet well groomed with a goatee and expensive sports casual attire.  He’s engrossed in an iPad but his other hand seems permanently lodged up his nose.  He drilling deep, and he couldn’t care less if we can see him.

I watch him closely as I’m interested in where he might stick the debris.  He’s well into his stride now and has managed to excavate his hooter through five Piccadilly Line stations. I’m surprised his head doesn’t cave in and some lost Chilean miners emerge from the wreckage… It’s worthy of a round of applause and some bubbles…..He’s a fuckin’ animal…

Next up, in my line of sight, I see a regular on a lot of tubes across London.

‘Superdry’ man.  The t-shirt, and coat are liberally covered in Japanese writing embroidered from a Chelmsford factory… It’s rubbish of ‘Hollister’ standards tinged with Abercrombie and Fitch…

Superdry won’t fit me no matter how many zips you add to the coat. I’m the wrong shape. I’m more barrel bomb than precision missile. Superdry seems to be designed for the puny or the happy to wear clothes that don’t fit in the name of coolness brigade… I am not cool…I have never been cool.

Usually accompanying the Superdry ensemble is the miniature, blue (always blue) Adidas bag slung across the body.  What is the purpose of a bag that merely carries a wallet and, potentially, an apple?  To be fair, I carry a rucksack mostly out of habit.  There have been times when the only thing in it is an umbrella so it’s mainly my stupidity that picks it up in the first place.  The miniature bag on a bloke is ludicrous and smacks of low level drug dealer ‘stash’ rather than umbrella and bus pass…

Superdry man is having breakfast on the train.  He’s troughing one of those health biscuits that ‘replace’ breakfast.  Nothing replaces an egg and bacon bap no matter how tasty you claim it is.  This bloke needs carbs quick rather than a dull, cardboard cereal bar.  He looks like he barely has the power to fasten one, let alone a number of bespoke zips on his Essex based Japanese jacket. Hard times for the Cool….

I see a lot of eating on trains and it’s usually the same people doing it.  I’m not certain I’ve ever eaten on a tube train when sober but I’m willing to accept that others have.

There’s a bloke who gets on my evening train, same stop, same seat, same time and he’s always gnawing on a cheese and onion sandwich.  Over the years I’ve seen a builder eat a cold Sunday lunch (including congealed gravy) from a Tupperware box at six in the morning and a ratty haired hippy eat three Weetabix with milk from an oversized mug as well as numerous Polish builders shooting home made whisky in the rush hour at Christmas.

Perhaps it’s some kind of ‘dark web’ sub culture that I’m only just clocking on to, where the cheese and onion sandwich on the 16:43 to Cockfosters indicates a penchant for nailing ones cobblers to a plank. It’s could be the modern day Pampas grass depravity flag.  I might bring a Tuna and sweetcorn sandwich tomorrow just to see if anyone gives me the nod.

I get off the train early as I had enough of the human soup and because my shoes are so comfortable that I enjoy walking in them.  Yes…. I did write that.  I’m old and therefore all about the comfort. These shoes are a dream.

My crazy feet I reluctantly deposit me at a door in an undisclosed location in Central London.  I get the 70’s lift to the 9th floor.  The usual suspects are in, sucking up the overtime in the name of ‘banged out busy’.  This isn’t wholly true and is really an excuse to eliminate mortgages or purchase gadgets.

In the corner sits ‘Ben Nevis’.  Like the mountain it’s a massive, ragged, non moving lump from North of the border where the base is littered with the rubbish of a thousand visitors… Coffee cups, water bottles and food packaging surround it and there is neither the will nor inclination to clear the area in the name of hygiene.

The mountain stirs and spews forth a mockney / scottish ‘Hello mate’ reminiscent of the diminutive, mouth on a stick and one time Bee Gee groupie Lulu.  Like Lulu it’s hard to like this individual as there is a real feeling of falseness oozing from its pores.

I smile and return the greeting and am just glad that I have arrived too late to witness the mountain  chow down on double cheese on toast with onion from the canteen as it’s a messy, smacking, noisy process which turns even the hardest stomach.

Hang on a minute … Cheese + onion + bread = cobblers + nails + plank….

..I put on the forensic gloves and reach for my claw hammer…. I am ready…..are you?

..The Golden Special..

The North.  I’ve had some top times up there and some truly terrible times…

Leeds is an outstanding place if you like pole dancing and transsexual DJ’s taking the piss out of you for dancing to “Baggy Trousers”.  Newcastle is fantastic for politeness, red wine on tap and the world’s largest assortment of sequined ‘Gunts’.  I went to Newcastle once with the Horse and the first thing I saw when leaving the train station was a queue coming out of a ‘Greggs’… it set the tone…

Then there’s Bolton and Wigan.  Wigan is worse than Bolton in my view.  Drab and depressing it offers little in the way of humour or, dare I say it ‘fun’. It is grey.

Sheffield is a lovely City that I’ve spent a lot of time in as Jen’s family are from it however generally I’m not a Northern person… I’m a Londoner and have low tolerance for stranger interaction, whippets, pigeons, lard cakes and coal.

And so I find myself sitting in a car with The Spaniard and Bunny heading North to the beautiful hamlet of Glossop for more two wheeled punishment arranged by the torturer Bunyan on a rocky Peak District trail.  ‘Why?’ you ask, well that’s easy.  Never let pain and temporary disablement get in the way of a great laugh.

For some reason we head off on a Wednesday night.  It’s a bit of a trek and we arrive late to the slight annoyance of the Farmers wife who is providing the accommodation.  We apologise and she shows us to our rooms.  In a stroke of genius Bunny has isolated The Spaniard in his own cell as we can no longer suffer the comedy snoring.  We are not keen to dig a hole on the moors at midnight so it’s best all round that he goes into solitary at night.

We then head out for a few pints to get an idea of the locale.  It’s a recon trip really with no high expectations as tomorrow we ride…

We don’t venture too far and find a purpose built, flat fronted pub.  We walk in and discover that it’s a chrome and neon tribute to New Orleans Jazz.   Normally we’d be out the door in a flash but time marches on and we need watering.

We sit down and my associates start talking to some yokels about the local nightlife in preparation of our assault on it tomorrow night.  Bunny and the Spaniard excel at this stuff.  I’m not as accommodating with strangers and particularly ones outside of the M25 as my default position is to tell people to ‘fuck off’.  Bun and the Spaniard are different.  I don’t know anyone who dislikes them whereas some members of my own family don’t like me much…. No matter… their loss.

We sinks a few pints and Bun reckons he knows the score for the following night so we return to the farmhouse to sleep…perchance to dream.

We wake early and are fed mostly animal pieces by the farmer’s wife.  She’s not a young woman and looks hardened to a Glossop winter.  She strikes me as the type of women who could happily castrate a goat while baking some bread.

We head off to tackle the Peak District which the Devil describes as a ‘piece of piss’.  We don’t believe him but it turns out he was telling the truth.  We have a glorious day tackling the mountains with no real problems at all.  We are hardened from our one other trip and this is a lovely ride around with few problems.

We’re out for a few hours and the legs and internal organs are standing up well.  We descend a hill on a sweeping tarmac road directly next to Coniston Water.  It’s a lovely, chilly, sunny afternoon and as we reach a corner a stone built pub appears as if planted there by Jeebus himself.  Naturally we stop to refresh ourselves in the cool sun.

We spend the rest of the day acting professionally and cycling about until we follow the road back through stunning scenery to the car and a journey back to the farm.  We have the taste for beer.

We get back and the farmer’s wife appears happier to see us.  She’s seems used to us cockney scum now, either that or she’s lined up a ‘Straw Dogs’ style beasting at midnight and is lulling us into a false sense of security.

“..Going out in t’town tonight lads?” she says through farmer’s wife teeth where her tongue looks like a prisoner.

“..Indeed you aged and toothless old Northern Crone..” says I…

“..It is our intention to avail ourselves of Ale and vittles’ at any one of a number of the humble hostelries in the town centre. Can you recommend one that will provide the necessary sustenance delivered by a buxom, accommodating, rosy cheeked Glossop lass?”

Clearly I’m paraphrasing for comedic affect.  The reality was more “Yeah…. Now fuck off and leave me alone”… y’know?  The traditional London greeting.

Bun tells her we are heading off after we’ve showered and she gives him a key and cackles a disturbing cackle.  I look at the Spaniard who is adopting full rat face while licking his lips and twitching his nose…. He’s got the taste… Glossop could be in trouble.

We set out from the farm to walk into town. It’s a damp, dark night with a slight misty hint.  We spot a traditional looking boozer in the near distance.  There’s a warm glow to it and it looks promising.  We get to the door and I pull the handle.  I step inside and stop as there’s another internal door presumably to keep the heat in…. I look down and then I see it.

On the mat between the doors is a fully loaded condom.  It’s like a used piping bag.  We all stop and soak up this vision.  We all look at each other in silence and then look at it again.  To me it looks fresh and I’m tempted to touch it in order to assess its warmth.  I don’t actually touch it but my mind tends to work like this when I’m in shock…I need all the information to really believe it. We seem to have been in the doorway quite a while now and so in order to move things along I push on, stepping over this tribute to the cockneys, clearly left by a frantic local, to enter the Saloon bar.

We’re in… It looks bleak.

A lone barman sits on a stool by the bar top flap.  It looks empty from this side but there’s a Rive Gauche whiff of life from the other side of the bar.  The barman approaches.  He looks ex-military, wiry and brutal…

“..Are you t’London lads?”  He says…

“…Yes mate…” I say, hitting maximum London.  It would appear the whole town knows who we are. It’s chilling and I start eyeing up table legs and ashtrays as makeshift weapons.  In my distracted moment the Spaniard steps forward and smooches the Bar Oaf to death as only he can until the bloke is eating out the palm of his hand.  I’m lead away by Bunny…

We sit down to plan the night.  Bunny’s work on the locals the previous night has revealed a nightclub and a curry house that we must go to.  It’s hard to imagine that this shithole has a ‘must see’ venue but we are here so intend to live the dream.

After a few pints it’s evident that men are at a premium in this pub, in fact we appear to be it.  I look about and feel that the assembled ‘females’ are a bit overly done up with a lot of flesh on show for a Thursday night in a low level pub in a low level town.

The Spaniard returns with another round and informs us that the barman has told him that Thursday night is ‘Ladies night’.

“He seems to think we are in luck” says the Spaniard…. We all stop and look about the pub.  It’s a skin and bone car crash. We’re only lucky if we have deliberately travelled here to breed with the offerings in this place.  There’s a lot of silver based skimpy clothing, heavy blue eye make-up and everyone seems to be older than us.  They all smoke, smell of cheap perfume and drink vodka with ham hock arms and mottled ‘cankles’.  It’s no surprise to us that the men are elsewhere, most likely teetering on the edge of chairs with their belts around their necks.  Bunny surveys the scene… His face says ‘I have a dogshit under my nose’… no one from London in this pub is impressed.

We drink up and move on to a groan of sequined disappointment.

By the time we decide to take on the night club we are nicely alight.  It’s only about nine o’clock but we need a new angle and slight break from the guzzling.  We’ve been to a few similar pubs and its all very samey so the inevitable comedy of a Glossop nightclub is needed.

We approach a neon lit building we are told is the place.  It’s called ‘Prohibitions’ or ‘Aces’ or something equally naff like that.  On the door we are confronted by a shaved gorilla dressed in black.  He’s a big boy with a goatee and an earpiece with curly cable disappearing into his collar.  He got that mark of real quality on his arm…. The Bouncer Brotherhood card.  He’s friendly in that ‘don’t fuck me about or you’re dead’ kind of way and after looking us up and down and checking through the door he allows us through to the darkness of club.  It’s £3.50 to enter which should be all the warning we needed to turn around and leave £3.50 up.

Inside the place is ‘Banging’.  I believe this is the correct term as my experience of clubs is usually looking after the coats and drinks while ripping the piss out of the monsters at a ‘rock’ night in Camden.  The music is loud, the DJ is giving it plenty and the lights are swirling around.  The walls, adorned with zebra pattern wallpaper, are dripping in condensation due to the heat in the place. The barman is visible in silhouette only and is spinning bottles like Tom Cruise in the 80’s. The place is on fire… there’s only one problem…

..We are the only punters here…

There’s me, Bun, The Spaniard, a DJ, a Barman and a mirror ball.  There’s a hint of movement in a booth by the wall but it could be vermin or worse some ‘ladies’ on the bespoke night out.  Whatever it is it’s not looking for interaction which is a good thing.  We can’t even fall back on chatting to each other due to the level of the volume whacked up to enhance the dulcet tones of ‘Yazz’ from ten years previous.  After one bottle we leave.

We pass the gorilla on exit and he’s chipper.

“Dern’t wurry lads… I’ll remember your ferces… cum back anytime lerter and you can go straight through…no extra charge…”

Fantastic….. a freebie to a hell hole…. He knows we’ll be back…We know we’ll be back….

En route to another Pub, the Spaniard drags us I into the previously mention best Curry House in Glossop. Bob politely engages with a very small, sleepy waiter to book a table for later when the drinking is done.  The waiter looks shifty and surveys the empty restaurant.  He’s clearly working out where he can squeeze us in later.  The Spaniard books us a table and we go for one last mini session to close off the evening.

When we leave the final pub we are well oiled but starving hungry.  We head back to the curry house via the club with the free entry.  The Gorilla nods at us on the way like we are regulars and in and we head through the gloom to the dance floor…

The place is still ‘Banging’… the DJ is knocking out ‘Ride on time’ at a ferocious volume and the barman is engaged in conversation with three hefty lumps at the bar in dresses.   I look about and count the crowd.

Six punters including us.

Worryingly the three lumps have noticed us three.  It’s a 1:1 ratio in their heads but judging by the forearms of the first one she’s a three man job and we are unlikely to win.  We are their ticket out of this place.  We bolt for the door and head to for a curry all the while hearing the Gorilla letting us know that we can come back later for free….

We get to the curry house just after 2330 hours… The Spaniard is already embarrassed by our lateness and so is preparing humbleness on a grand scale.  We pile in expecting to be told its over and wake up the waiter…. It’s empty.  I’m not sure they’ve cooked anything here tonight but we appreciate him remaining open for us.

We sit down and he’s all over us.  The Indian beer arrives with the menus.  I look around the table. We are a mess.  The Spaniard is all mouth open with his glasses on the end of his nose with occasional of Rat face traces.  Bunny is at the raised eyebrow, trying to focus stage and I know I’m adopting the punch up face.  I only have two drunk faces.  ‘Punch up’ or ‘Happy Moron’ but as I can feel no smiling I assume it’s the former.

We survey the menu.  In a box to the bottom under ‘Specialities’ it says ‘The Golden Special’.

‘Three Golden Specials and pillau?’ says Bun…. We all nod in agreement, too pissed and too hungry too argue.  The Cobra flows and the chefs peer out from the kitchen like we are royalty.  We are loud…loud but friendly.

The food arrives.  It’s a murky brown lump of stuff.  It’s at this point that I’m wondering what meat is involved in the sludge… it might have been a better idea to have sussed this first.  I receive my gruel and roll a spoon through it.  It is meaty.  That’s good.  It’s a dark meat which indicates Lamb but hang on, that was white meat and clearly chicken.  Two meats? …Sweet Jeebus…A prawn!!  This won’t end well.

Bow down before ‘The Golden Special’.

Lamb, Chicken and Prawn in an unctuous heavily spiced ‘rocketing shits’ based gravy.  I dive in, too hungry to care about the consequences in the morning…

We all lap it up and thank the waiter with a heavy London tip… we have no class. His handshakes says ‘Friends for life’ but he’ll forget us before the cash enters the till.  We head back to the farm and collapse in our beds.

I wake late to the smell of the farm…. But it’s not the farm.  It’s us.  We are in a bit of bother here.  I make it to the toilet which Bunny has just left… There ain’t no 15 minute waiting time here.  Desperate times mean desperate measures and I’m in with Bun’s fug.  Waking up when I did was a good idea as my brain had issued the command of ‘everyone out’ and timer was rolling.

After a challenging 20 minutes I crawl from the kharzki… I look at Bunny lying on the bed in a sheen of sweat.   ‘Hot Brown Dulux?’ Says I.  He shamefully nods like I’ve suggested a cuddle.  ‘Are you capable of driving back?’, He issues another nod.

The Spaniard joins us.  He’s unusually pale for a man from the Med.  He’s oozing a face that has delivered three litres of Galaxy Hot Chocolate to the sewer.  We are brothers bonded by mud….

We pack up and head away much to the relief of the window opening farmer’s wife.  She’ll burn those mattresses…they are no longer fit for purpose.

The drive back is hilariously teenage.  We stop on several occasions just for fumigation purposes. Glossop has brought us to our knees, we will never return.

I still wonder how warm that condom was….

…The Devil Rides Out.. (Part 2)

… You may recall that I was standing before a mountain looking down at my mate Bunny untangle his feet from his fancy pedals. He looks sheepish and smirky.  The Spaniard and I look like two punters who have sussed out a magician.  There’s no turning back so we decide to start the ascent again.

Bunny heads off and this time he’s beaten the initial slope and is into his snake hip stride.  The Spaniard and I are falling back at this early stage which is distressing.  I notice that Bunny’s feet are pedalling quicker than mine and suddenly realised that I have gears.  The right gear seems like a good idea and so I click the toggle and it gets easier.  Easier… it’s all relative right?

My heart is close to explosion and we’ve only gone 500 yards.   Just so you know I am better on a bike than this but this 500 yards has been directly up and on loose earth. I look ahead and see no top to this incline and start dreaming of a hospital bed in my exhausted delirium but I battle on. I briefly look behind me to see The Spaniard in full ‘rat face’ mode.  He’s breathing heavy and snorting through the nose but he’s in control and in better shape than me.

Bunny is gone… flash bastard… he’s over the horizon with the laminated map.  He’s probably resting at the top or perhaps engaging in push ups for pleasure.  The Spaniard passes me before the plateau at which point I regret drinking ever and promise to never do it again.

At the top I find Bunny sitting down waiting.  He has the waiting face on.  The Spaniard is bent double breathing heavy and I arrive in what can only be described as a crash.  I throw the bike to the floor and dry heave. Bun looks disgusted and rightly so.  I was a mere 29 at this point and should have been in my prime.  I was in fact a drunken shell of a man.

It takes a good 15 minutes of recovery time before we move on.  We still aren’t on the down slope but it’s less ‘up’ which I see as key to survival at this point.

We cycle on and my body starts to adjust.  I no longer feel as though I will fill my Lycra with the equivalent of 2lbs of mashed Dundee cake through a loss of control.  I start to feel a slight moment of freewheeling indicating a change in gradient which raises my spirit.

“Here we Go!” shouts Bunny over his shoulder “This is what it’s all about”…  We start the first descent.

It’s not a huge drop but it means speed is upon us.  Ahead of me Bunny adopts the position of a speed racer and zooms off. He knows his stuff… he once purchase ‘Professional Mountain Bike Wanker Monthly’.

We hit speed and quickly reach the bottom of the drop which goes straight into another incline so I decide to change gear and pedal in order to lighten the oncoming burden and maintain the upward momentum.

Ahead I’ve spotted a deep pothole at the base of the drop but Bunny hasn’t…. this could be bad.  He hits the pothole at full tilt and is thrown from the bike. His super cool shoe pedals detach and he disappears into a bush.  The Spaniard and I race past the fully kitted out heap with camel pack suction tube flapping in the wind…. We cheer, laugh and scream ‘fuck you Bunyan, Fuck you!!’ in the most brazen act of Schadenfruder every seen on this hillock.  He could be dead… we don’t care… he is The Devil…The Spaniard and I are ahead for the first time without the fabled laminated map which we are too stupid to control.

The Spaniard and I sit at the next natural stop.  We gorge on energy bars like two 15 year old girls locked in a bedroom cupboard with a box of chocolates and a bucket.  Bun won’t like this gorging as he’s marked power bar stops on the timetable in his head and this is unscheduled and unwarranted.

He arrives dishevelled… Not fully so as I’ve never seen him that way but partially rumpled.  The Spaniard and I adopt our waiting faces….The worms have turned, we have the upper hand temporarily, we’ll milk this puppy till he next destroys us.  We move on and it’s clear that the initial climb was worth it as we now only wind up slowly which is something even I can cope with.

We start racking up the miles with no major disasters until we come to what looks like a tarmac road descending almost out of sight through a wood.  Bunny informs us that this is the big one.  The full speed drop.  I look at the Spaniard and he looks worried.  It’s been evident throughout that he’s been at the back on the few downhill races so far.  No matter we are on the edge of the reason we are here.  I’m up for it and so is Bun.

I dispense with the helmet and put on a rather fetching baseball cap as I’ve decided that if I crash and fly through the air I will adopt a comedy star shape and cooler hat rather than look all flappy limbed with a dome head as I embed myself in a tree… No one wants to see that…. I’m considering the public here…

Bun sets off.  My God he looks good from behind…he’s all sleek.  Me and the Spaniard look like we are wearing bin linings by comparison, no wonder we are slow… Well that and the tonnage…

It’s a sweeping tarmac route through the wood but it’s quite steep so you pick up some serious pace. I’m in the slipstream of Bunny but it’s too dangerous to check behind me to see how the Spaniard is getting on.  I assume that if he had crashed I’d have heard it.

It’s an exhilarating blast and I reach the bottom at roughly the same time as Bunny.  There’s no sign of the Spaniard…. It could be over for him.  We wait what seems like an age and I half expect a single flaming wheel to roll down the hill towards us as a sign of an explosive end but nothing comes.

And then a noise….tyres on tarmac in the distance followed by the vision of the Spaniard juddering towards us sedately in an on/off brake pumping manner.  His helmet is positioned on the back of his head like the hat on that talentless ponce from Curiosity Killed the Cat.  The chin strap appears to be strangling the Spaniard and his eyes are streaming and bulging.

After we stop laughing he explains that half way down the force of the air in his face pushed the helmet backwards like a head parachute as he hadn’t tightened the strap before take-off.  As he was going fast (an unverified boast) he couldn’t stop and just went with it, accepting his strangulation while hoping that he would reach the end before losing consciousness.  For the record I saw no signs of arousal and there was no whiff of tangerines.

Every downhill means an uphill and the next one was massive and took some time.  By the time we reached the top we were all shattered but I was in a mess.  We met some more professional cyclists at the top and I was overly friendly with them in a ‘pissed bloke on a night bus’ way due to a lack of oxygen in my body.  We have a friendly chat and I tell one of them that I love his ‘see-through’ bike.  He looks confused and humours me before riding off.

“Lovely Perspex bike eh Bunny?” I say to the Devil.

“What you talking about?” he says.

I get irate and explain that the bike we just saw the pro’s on was made of a see-through material.  Bunny sits me down and explains that the bike we saw was chrome and the leg I could see through it was merely a reflexion of the nearest leg to me…

….I have been taken by the Delirium….We stop for a while and consume water.

We finally move off and discover a bespoke technical section which Bun explains is a bit like 80’s TV classic ‘Kick Start’.  As it takes us downwards we decide to give it a go.  The key apparently is to lock your back wheel and almost skid the whole way.  Failing to do this results in gaining speed and the gradient is too great for idiots like us. The back wheel lock is essential and Bun can’t stress that enough.

As usual Bunny leads the way and soon disappears leaving the Spaniard and I trying to work it out.

“Watch me Bob” I say… “It’s easy”…

I start the descent, pull the wrong brake leaver and go over the handlebars sideways down a brambled slope.  The Spaniard knows that if he laughs I’m likely to smash him to pieces so he tentatively asks if I’m ok… I piss myself laughing… It’s ok… he can now laugh.

He then gives it a go and we get the same result but crucially he loses his specs in the fall.  Without glasses the Spaniard may as well be underwater with his eyes open… They must be found.  Luckily he was in the ‘Biggins’ phase and we find them after 10 minutes of laughing and searching.

We finally reach the bottom where Bunny is waiting dismissively shaking his head.  He thinks we are fools but we are way ahead of him… we’re idiots…

All that is left now is a final tarmac road push back to the car and the escape from Mount Doom.

We get back to Looney HQ starving and battered.  All the other cyclists look clean and fit. We look like death is upon us.

We head to the room to shower and clean up before dinner.  It’s at this point that I notice that my gusset area is extremely tender.  I examine myself in the shower and note that my arse is bruised black from the pounding of the saddle.  I feel dirty.  I leave the shower and see my associates examining each other in a similar fashion… we are all pounded… It’s like a Centurion bathhouse…

Starving and ready for beer we head downstairs to the dining room and bar.  Mountain men are everywhere and we notice a small area set up for live entertainment where a lone Bontempi keyboard and a microphone sit.  We ignore this for now as we need food and this madhouse seems to specialise in curry.

There are only three curries available on the menu and no other food.  Korma, Madras and Vindaloo.  If you finish the Vindaloo you get a plastic medal of achievement.  Bunny and I decide that our arses have had enough damage for one day and go for the Korma.  The Spaniard is no such shirker… he’s in for the Vindaloo… He is one of this country’s finest citizens… he stands alone for London and England.

We sit and eat and the Spaniard sweats and breathes heavy.  He looks like he’s had a hefty smash to the mouth but he won’t be beaten, he’s a spice God who wants a plastic medal.  Inevitably he succeeds and finishes looking like a ‘Top Gear’, mouth breathing audience member at which point we retire to the ‘bar’.

The bar is small and has those fucking annoying 70’s bar tables that are at shin height.  Dark wood, Double Diamond ashtrays and damp beer mats are everywhere.  Due to limited choice we have to drink Stella.  None of us drink this normally but we bank on it killing the arse pain.  Everyone in this bar looks like they’ve had a harsh winter except us. We look like three dazzling young urbanites who thought they could do extreme sports and failed.  We are not the fresh meat they are after..

In the corner of the bar next to the makeshift stage on a high stool sits a hippy chick.  She’s respectable but could probably do with a long shower.  She has no business in this Welsh ‘Prancing Pony’ filled with Rangers and Hobbits.

We are then introduced to the evening’s entertainment.  In walks a rather scruffy tramp in a black velvet jacket.  He reeks of Silk Cut.  He’s a big lump with very dry ratty hair reminiscent of a dismantled Afro.  Droopy eyes adorn the ruddy face and below the corned beef ball nose he has the classic Tom Selleck ‘tache.  He has a great stage name like ‘Johnny Tweedy’ or ‘ Duncan Bourneville’  but I can’t recall it exactly.

He starts the show with ‘Saturday Nights alright for fighting’…. Just a tramp, a microphone and a low level Argos keyboard.  He’s belting it out and becomes truly magnificent with every pint we sink.  ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘White Wedding’, ‘Wonderwall’.. you name it he can nail it.  The bar is rocking and even the mountain men are sombrely bobbing.

He completes the set and after a break where he sinks large Bushmills like R Whites he starts again.

“Any requests?”  He says in a Brummie accent.

I’m in. “Do you know Van Halen?”  I barely finish the sentence and he’s all over the keyboard intro…

“NEXT!!” he screams….

“The Who”… BOOM!! He knocks out the intro to “Won’t get Fooled again”…

“NEXT!!” he spits…. It’s hopeless, He’s a genius…

The hippy chick turns out to be his wife. I’m convinced there is some kind of Stockholm syndrome scenario happening here because they can’t really be together.  She’s brought to the microphone and knocks out “Running up that Hill” by Kate Bush with the voice of an Angel.  It’s a marriage made in Heaven and Hell.

The last bell rings and we head to bed happy.  We crawl up the stairs and even sleep through the Spaniard’s nasal assault.

We wake early and all appear to have become disabled in our sleep…we back up, thank our hosts and head back to sanity…

“Never Again Bun” I squeak from the back seat…

“How do you fancy the Peak District?…. could be a laugh..” says the Devil Bunyan…

I see The Spaniard’s wide eyes and smiling rat face in the mirror…

“We’re in..”

Now there’s a story…..

…The Devil Rides Out…(Part one)

A week off in the name of God.

A magnificent spring day of blue skies, bright sunshine and a cool comfortable breeze.  Time to get the bike out.  I’m not a prolific cyclist even though I like to claim to be. The main reason is I’m not too keen on finding myself wrapped around the wheels of a skip lorry cutting a corner so won’t ride the mean streets of London.  I love a bit of ‘off road’…. Easy now.. I’m talking about cycling.

It was different as a kid.  London was less scary in the late 70’s and early 80’s and as street kids the bike was your car.  You went everywhere on it without the fear of death or worse, theft of the precious machine.  Your biggest worry was a puncture.

I had all the classics.  ‘Chippy’, ‘Tomahawk’, ‘Grifter’… outstanding stuff.  My brother, who I believe smiled once in about 1977 during a BBQ for the Jubilee, had the fabled ‘Chopper’.  He was never worthy of that beast…

The Grifter was the one.  The bike of my prime, made from cast iron with a hard foam seat and the legendary throttle gears making the wheelie a dangerous, involuntary gear change, mid-air testicle crusher if you were capable of lifting the bike.  I received a Grifter for my 10th birthday and rode around like Peter Fonda, all swagger and cobblers as If I ran the streets.  I never saw anyone else on one.  I was a God. I was “The Grifter God”.

One summer day I’m cruising about and I stumble onto an estate I’m unfamiliar with where I’m confronted with a flash bastard also on a Grifter.  Fucker.  I’m 10, he’s taking the piss and needs to be crushed.  I’m The Grifter God and he is nothing. He’s clearly unaware of who I am…he needs to get learned..

In the finest traditions of this kingdom I challenge him to a duel… a duel by speed.  We shall race.  No words are spoken but we see a lamp post up the road and we both know the score… calf power will win the day and the loser must melt their beast down for tank parts.

Off we go… he’s doing alright but I have Irish legs which are unbreakable and contribute about 65% of my body weight… this should cause no significant problems.

At half way I start the push.  I still recall thinking that we were very close to each other handlebar wise and inevitably we clash bars.  This results in the pair of us becoming airborne while the bikes fuse together as one giant Grifter with the weight of a car below us.

I hit the concrete face first with my hands by my sides like a drunk that has passed out and fallen over…The definitive ‘reverse arm death’. I then proceed to slide face first on the concrete for what seemed like a mile.  When I finally grind to a halt I have a friction burn along my nose and cheek, the knuckles of my hands are bleeding and my knee is a gaping bloodied hole.

He is in no better shape.  For some strange reason we embrace, all snot, blood and tears, as if to appreciate each other’s efforts.  We untangle the twisted wreckage and make our way to our separate homes bleeding…. It was a defining moment… I was a man… I had face death etc. The Grifter and I were one.. We had bled together and conquered the fear of the crash, nothing could stop us…. Except Adam and the Ants… That killed it…

Years later I acquired a BMX, purchased for a sweaty wad of cash from a future Commonwealth athlete at the back of the Rainbow in Finsbury Park.  My mother assured me it was a legitimate transaction and re spraying it immediately was what everyone did when purchasing a bike under these circumstances.  I didn’t care… red, blue, it didn’t matter I just needed a machine I could bunny hop on and wear a motorbike helmet like a pre Bulldog Bash Eddie Kidd.

In your late teens the bike goes out the window and you look for a more comfortable ride with less potential mess… and I’m not talking about a car…

After all the trauma of women in the late 80’s and mid 90’s I found myself sitting with a hangover in the company of The Spaniard and Bunny. This was not an unusual scenario at the time and usually happened on the floor of the Spaniard’s flat following Rioja and Cheese for 12 hours.  They are talking mountain bikes and we get around to planning a trip away.  I have no bike at this point but I don’t tell them that…. I can sense adventure.

As expected Bunny has all the kit.  He’s got the great bike, the clothes, shoes that connect to the invisible pedals, the shades, he has the laminated map and crucially he’s got the body… he’s sleek like a panther, lithe and bender…

The Spaniard and I could be in trouble here.  We are built for comfort not speed, we are about power not endurance, we love rouge and offal not Fizz and fruit…. It will be challenging.  On the upside The Spaniard has run a marathon and I have the Irish legs…. Unfortunately he also likes a Marathon and I also have the Irish body.  In years to come The Spaniard and I would drunkenly use the services of a rickshaw in Edinburgh to go to a curry house 500 yards away.  The driver, a skinny cyclist, asked us to get out of the thing so he could get it off the pavement prior to departure.  When we arrived the driver, who we subjected to screams of “Faster, Faster Fucker” throughout the journey, couldn’t speak through exhaustion…. £2 was the fare but as we were cocky cockney’s we gave him a twenty…. Pathetic… him not us…

We convince each other that mountain biking must surely involve alcohol at some point and so we sign up… Snowdonia is the destination and Bunny assures us that the track is relatively flat so we should be alright.  ‘Trust me’ he says….

After spending £120 of equipment I don’t need, including waterproof socks and borrowing a bike from my not smiled since the 70’s brother which I never return to him we load up the car and head off to Welsh Wales.  It’s a Friday night and we know we’ll be late arriving as everyone in London is trying to escape.

It’s a long drive and we only stop once in Gloucester for a bag of chips.  We park the car and head to the town centre which appears to be deserted other than for a toothless oaf with a laminated ‘Big Issue’.  There’s literally no one else about on an early evening Friday night in the town except fast food sellers.  We get a bag of chips and sit in the car eating in silence.

The Spaniard breaks the silence. “Gloucester”… he says…

Bunny and I wait for a pearl of wisdom for he’s a very intelligent, well-read man….will it be about the rich culture and history of this Cathedral City?  Will it be architectural? Or will it simply be Doctor Foster related?..

“Shithole…. Well Done”…. He starts the car and we speed out in silence, history is behind us  and now we have some welsh business. It’ll be my first visit to the land of the Dragon since the Lampeter weekender where Bun put me in a room with a public schoolboy in transition and the Toilet of Doom.

We arrive in Llantrydd Wells late. It smacks of The League of Gentleman.  It’s dark and we only have time to unload the bikes and grab a couple of swift beers in the bar which contains Welsh mountain men with few teeth and a healthy hate for the English.  We laugh loudly and nervously and as we don’t die we reckon we’ll be alright.

We sleep in a three bed room on the second floor and it’s the first time I experience the Spaniard’s snoring which is truly impressive.  It’s almost impossible to believe that he could sleep through it such is the volume.  Years later on a stag night in Galway, we shared a room in the plush Railway Hotel on Eyre Square.  On that occasion the snoring was so bad that I hovered over him with a pillow and contemplated a mercy smothering…but that’s another story…

As is the Englishman’s right we ignore all the ‘early start’ shit and wake up late for a fry up.  A day on the bike is ahead and so like pro’s we see fuelling up as the best option.  The hotel is empty and devoid of other mountain bikers who have done the right thing and left early.

I’m hanging around the lobby in all my lycra.  I look magnificent and wish that I had been the lead singer of an 80’s metal band as I’m finding the fabric ludicrously comfortable and the padded gusset is like a dream come true.  Bunny and the Spaniard appear.  The three of us look like Van Halen in 1982, all skin tight and lumpy crotches with a whiff of alcohol.

Bunny then takes me into an area off the dining room to show me something.  It appears that he has booked us in to the headquarters of the Monster Raving Loony Party the week after Lord Sutch has died. Pictures of Loonies adorn the walls.  It’s an Omen… horror on the mountain awaits…. I’m hearing duelling banjoes and squealing pigs.  I look at The Spaniard for support but he’s smiling manically and has dried the inside of his upper lip to expose Rabbit teeth… he loves a challenge… he’s mental..

We load up and drive to our destiny.

We arrive at the start of the track and the place is banged out with what look like professionals.  We look wrong, well The Spaniard and I look wrong.  Bunny is oozing ‘locked back wheel technical descent’ while the pair of us look like two kidnapped drunks being forced to cycle for the sake of their health.

It was at this point that Bunny pulls out the laminated map.  He informs us that he’s decided that we aren’t doing the fabled ‘Red Bull Run’ which I was told is a 12 mile fast pace speed ride.  ‘Thank fuck for that’ says I.  I temporarily relax.  He continues… we are attempting the 26 mile long ride up the mountain with limited descents …

The Spaniard and I look at each other… I become Fletcher Christian, The Spaniard is a disgruntled Smee but Bunny is Captain Bligh of the Bounty… a filthy bastard of a man. Mutiny is imminent.

‘Don’t panic’ He says in a way only he can ‘I’ll lead’…. No shit… the two man 28 stone combo behind him is unlikely to be overtaking him anytime soon.

We position our machines… Bunny is on point, I am second and The Spaniard has our back.  I look ahead and all I see is mountain…

‘Ready?’ Says Bunny… we utter no words and simply nod and weep.  We are Sam and Frodo at the Black Gate and all hope is lost.

Bun pedals off professionally, all hips out of the saddle but after 15 feet he loses momentum on the slope and falls off as he’s forgotten his pedals are connected to his shoes…we look down at him in heap…

….We. Are. Fucked….

Bunny… my best mate, my Captain, my Hero, my Grim reaper….The Devil Rides out…

…To be continued…..

“…Random Drooling Oaffage…”

Justice.  A tiny word but a powerful one.  It resonates globally.  We all want justice….we want what is right.  It’s a basic right of the people…

I’ve just witnessed justice get a good shoeing.  Months in a room of highly paid public, jowly schoolboys wearing wigs only to find that the 12 random, normal people are thicker than suspected and acquit the bad guys. Even the jokers awaiting their fate look shocked and the Big Wig just slumps in his chair..

Hmmm… an analogy of the magnitude of the error might be required.

This isn’t the actual scenario or indeed anything remotely close to it as any specifics discussed on here would be highly unprofessional but it will give you a flavour of the stupidity of the situation…

  • Man walks into a bank with a shotgun.  He walks up to the cashier and blows her head off.  He then empties the till and leaves after writing his name and address on a piece of paper which he leaves on the matter splattered counter top.  He looks up at the CCTV points at his face and says “It’s me… I’ve left a note”.  Polis read note and cruise round to the address.  The door is open and they find the man counting the bloodied money.  Polis get the man to court where the chosen 12 insist he didn’t do it and say he can keep the money. Man leaves with his liberty intact to commit more crimes and spend filthy lucre.

Thirteen years I’ve been doing this stuff and this is the worst professional defeat. I can take defeat, I’ve lost lots of stuff in real life and generally you move on but this is different. The dim appear to be in charge.

Anyway…there’s always another bad guy and another jury….so, from 12 idiots to one special Oaf in three Oafs I encountered in a crowd of 60,000…

For my sins I attend a soulless concrete football stadium on a regular basis to witness millionaires ponce about in order to fall over a lot.  I love it.  It’s a hilarious all day event and on some occasions the actual football is peripheral to the laugh to be had.  Don’t get me wrong, I love football… I always have and I always will but it’s never going to ruin my day…. Unless we lose to the runt club of London wearing Blue…

Match day starts in a fantastic Irish public house en route to the ground. Best Guinness in London without doubt.  This is where I meet the mature art student I attend with.   We play a game where we try to beat each other to the pub.  I’ve never been one for drinking alone but I quite like the quiet half pint before we meet up… it’s calming.

This precious moment is shattered by some random Irishman who decides that he wants a chat with me about some woman he knows.  He decides to tell me that he has a date later and would I like to see a photo. I decide to humour him even though I was brought up to tell strangers to ‘fuck off’ and let him show me the photo reel on his phone which contains a rather graphic photo of his brother having sex with a Brazilian woman he met on holiday….hmmm… I know…. It could be anyone and he sounds like a nut nut but I’m killing time and he clearly assumes he’s in a Galway bar where you speak to strangers in that twinkly eyed Irish way.

I let him ramble on about a brothel he uses locally until he crosses the English line by attempting to pay for the Guinness I’ve ordered for myself.  I stop him there and inform him that we aint in Dublin and he aint my mate. He moves away…. Harsh maybe but this is London… we are animals.

My associate arrives and we remain at the bar to sink another couple of pints in the shadow of the Irishman who’s itching for interaction… we speak no more.

We head to the ground 25 minutes before the off.  The walk takes us past a travellers wedding dress shop directly opposite a pub of such poncitude that I refuse to be seen in it.  It serves East European beer in tall glasses and you need a beard or a record bag to enter.  If a building needed a good shoeing this would be it.

We get to the ground and head straight to our seats.  I’ve had the same seat for nine years and so know everyone around us.  They are all good people and we are lucky that they have a good knowledge of the game as being surrounded by idiots would test me.

Behind me are the two Johns.  They know their stuff,  particularly John #1.  Next to them is a guy who sings with the gusto of a man used to knocking out hymns prior to delivering some new age sermon.  To look at him you’d never think a song was in him.  He’s neat and tidy in a “local church helper slays nine” kind of way but I imagine some kind of pampas grass effort is going on in his front garden where new neighbours are encouraged to enjoy his wife.  He’s perfectly polite so what he does in his own house is his business.

Directly next to me is a bank of five seats which are filled with the same blokes 80% of the time.  The other 20% of the time I get to share the game with some two-bob randomites.  It’s two minutes before kick-off and the seats next to me are empty.  This is the ultimate sign that a bunch of strokers will be sitting next to me at any moment.

Randomites tend to drink until the last minute…They also leave at half time to drink again and stay after the whistle to applaud, chant and sometimes boo.  To a randomite it’s a singular day out and they will relish it the max.  They take lots of selfies which prove they are in the ground and look around in shock when the regulars don’t involve themselves enough for their liking.

…Here they come…. Three of them… 19 years old and covered in colours…  Oafs… Not THE Oaf…he’s in the North Bank being Oafy….just random, everyday Oaffage…

Oaf #1 strides down the row.  Cocky, puny, wispy ‘not old enough yet’ beard, skinny jeans tucked into BK Knights high tops… He also has that massive hole earring in both ears.  The type you could get your finger in to gain his attention… this crosses my mind but I’m distracted by his mate…

Oaf #2 appears… he’s the least problematic at present.  Retro shirt from an era he wouldn’t remember, longish hair and once again the obligatory beard only this time it’s mostly neck orientated.  He’s wearing ‘no arse’ jeans and skater shoes…. He speaks in a ludicrously high pitched voice for a bearded individual… I’m thinking Barry Gibb so he will cause no significant issues.

…and then I see it… moving to the seat directly to next to mine… I sense John #1 behind me smile as he knows this will be a challenging 90 minutes for me…

Oaf #3 lumbers his way towards me.   He’s a good 17 stone and is wearing the latest shirt with ‘Alexis’ on the back.  He’s a big old unit but the sight of a thick bright orange mop of hair calms me as I never find that intimidating.  He’s a pale boy…almost translucent and sickly but freckly with ginger eyelashes and yellow teeth… He plonks himself down next to me but immediately stands up to applaud his heroes as they enter the arena.  I reckon there’ll be a lot of up/down action which generally gets up my snotbox.

I look at John #1… he’s smirking and then laughing… He’ll love this, he’s a dirty rotter.  I turn to the mature Art student.  He’s known me a good 28 years and he knows that this is my Hell… He loves my pain… Schadenfreude-tastic…..

We all settle in and the ref starts the match which seems to be the cue for this triumvirate of stupidity to stand and start a chant.  They are up at an alarming speed, arms extended in a V skyward. They sing something offensive about a team from Middlesex who don’t even count let alone deserve my ‘hate’.  They finish this standing rant and immediately sit as one…. It’s got practice written all over it.

I’m close to Oaf #3 so I sit back and study the subject.

He’s a big old lump for a boy.  Wide yet squidgy… I’d imagine after three pints of piss poor cider he’d be a handful. This kids head is big… a big ginger head.  He appears to be constantly smirking, slightly drooling and partially giggling under his breath.  I always find the hands say a lot.  He seems to be short a knuckle on his thumb… hmmm… this is a new one and is bound to cause a serious issue when engaged in using rudimentary tools.  He ain’t no brain surgeon so he could be in trouble.

I look down the wrist and see the sign of ultimate filth…The rotting festival bracelet.  This plum has six or seven of these festering on his tree trunk wrist.  I notice that they are frayed a bleached and state ‘Void if Removed’ an instruction that he has taken literally as if removal will mean death or even worse, dull normality.  At least he’s young.  These things on anyone over 17 should mean instant incarceration or a swift open hand slap to the cheek.

On the inside of his other arm he has a poor tattoo which says ‘Alexis’ surrounded by wonky stars.  It’s a weak tattoo with blurred edges rather than clean lines… There’s nothing wrong with tattoos but there is something pretty thick about having the name of a player forever cut into your arm when he’s unlikely to be around in 3 years and has only played 25 matches.  His only out of this faux pas is to track down a willing or sedated women with this name to spend the rest of his life with but judging by the drooling grin this seems a long shot.

We score.  Cue Oaf-Explosion… Oaf-Carnage…

Chaos engulfs me but I remain seated.  I haven’t forgotten the previous debacle and so will not join in with the celebrations at this point… The Oafs are overjoyed… They go crazy.  I check my phone to see if this game is in fact the World Cup final and not just another league game against substandard opposition.  It’s not the World Cup final… it’s nothing….

The game is over as a contest.  The opposition are broken and as expected crumble over the next 45 minutes.  The Oafs don’t crumble, they revel, go mental, and lose their tiny, tiny minds.

Number 3 screams at a player from our position in an upper tier a good 50 yards away.  It’s full of swearing and the crowd below look at me as if I’m with the prick.  He follows up the rant with another about bad throw in’s… he’s a lost cause… I switch off…. It’s over… This country is producing thicker Oafs on a yearly basis and they are seeking me out.

The game is over and we head back to the pub to watch a more cerebral, brutal sport…. Rugby… Ireland are on and the pub is crammed with red faces and thick necks…

I’m wedged at the bar next to a bloke in a heavy rain coat and a large trilby cocked at a jaunty angle… I can see the game on the TV through the necks and bald heads ahead of me. Hat man turns to me.  He’s surprisingly younger than the hat/coat combo would suggest but he has the look of a thousand Bushmills chasers…

“What’s that blue stuff?”… he points at a large rugby player on the screen in a white shirt with a blue smear on his arm….”Is that Woad?” he shouts in a thick Dublin accent…

“Woad?” says I, “Woad as in ‘Braveheart’?”… He sees that my face thinks he’s an idiot but he continues…

“Aye… Woad… have they put Woad on….for the battle?”

I explain to him that the blue is the dye from the RBS logo on the pitch, this isn’t a Tavern in the 11th Century and the shiny box with the little men running around isn’t some form of Alchemy….

“Jaysus” he says… “sorry about that….of course it is…I’m going feckin’ mad…”

I’ve always attracted the nut jobs, as my relationship in the mid to late 90’s proved… but that’s another story…

From the Archives: The Isle of Wight diaries

Last Summer I visited the magnificent 1950’s holiday island that is The Isle of Wight.  I love it there…. its a simple place that reminds me of my youth.
At the time I wrote a diary that I placed on my Facebook page and it was quite popular.  As I’m having a ‘blog block’ I decided to repost the diary in one long narrative for your amusement…. read at your leisure (it’s a bit epic…future blogs will be limited to a more comfortable 1500 words )…
I’m not laughing at the Island I’m laughing with it…..I recommend you visit this nugget in the Solent… it’s a great place to relax.
Day One: The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival
Live music is available at The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival.  This means old men on the stage, over nourished, non garlic eating patrons at the front and a mobility scooter in the mosh pit…..marvellous…It encapsulates the entire event.
We walk around. It was humorous in a superior middle England way, Ironic really that they gathering horde were celebrating a vegetable synonymous with the continent they all hate so much. I spot the UKIP tent  where I start taking photo’s as they have cut outs of Millibland and Camerobot.  While I’m doing this I’m approached by a UKIP member who could be a squaddie. He’s a smiley affable idiot but I aint interested as I’m actually taking the piss but he just hasn’t got that yet. He calls in the heavy artillery. A chinless comb-over fop bounces over in a cheap tweed jacket, jumper, shirt and knitted tie… he oozes everything they are about. He prods a leaflet at me and I politely tell him to “go fuck himself” and he laughs as does the pseudo squaddie…it’s a nervous laugh… Jen moves me on… The only foreigners on this island are the ones filling their pockets with filthy tourist wedge. so they should really wind their necks in.
I see a cider stand where they have “Suicider” that they only serve in halves to over 21’s. There’s a long line of Northerners there so I give it a miss and head for something in a soft bap… everything is in a soft bap clearly to cater for the 150 odd teeth present at the entire event. Inevitably it starts to piss down. This isn’t London rain this is biblical.
Jen directs us to a tent… it’s fairly empty which worries me.. We get in… sweet jeebus…. in the words of Admiral Ackbar “It’s a Trap!!”. This tent is for the 501st Legion of the Rebel Alliance… “The Vectus Remnant Squad”…. Star Wars freaks… The sound of mouth breathing is deafening…. To my left is a man dressed as Darth Maul… outside, comic book guy will take your photo with a life-size plastic Imperial stormtrooper if you give him a fiver so he can buy cheap porn he can hide from his Mum.
It’s the end for me… I look at Jen… her eyes are wide in a “save me” way… The rain wins… I’m not getting a “return entry stamp”… We don’t look back….

Day Two: Alum Bay

My family historically have a derogatory word for the patrons of this tourist “attraction”…. That word is “Lumpents”… It’s onomatopoeic. Lumbering, lumpy, tooth free, tattooed forearms, smokers….and then there’s the men… older, coach drivers in shirts who shout at their offspring in public.

The word itself is a derivative of the Marxist term “Lumpenproletariat” so we’re only as cruel as revolutionary socialist with a plot in Highgate Cemetery…. keep calm everyone… I’m not Lenin…. It’s banged out with Lumpents… all fighting over coloured sand… The kids, of course, love it… they are filling up the jars with layers and me and Jen are assisting… The rest of the assembled mob are involved…kids, Dad’s, Mum’s, Grandparents… why an adult would want a glass jar filled with sand is beyond me but hey, without them I’d have nothing to rip the piss out of right?

When you’ve filled the jar you take it to a counter where a spotty student will top it off for you… I say “student” but its more like a Dungeons and Dragons convention with tattoos and piercings. It’s our turn to meet the student.. We get Grendel… heavy eyebrows, whispy hair, crooked jaw with an underbite, snorting, nervous laugh…If I were Beowulf It would be my destiny to slay the beast while naked.. I’m toying with stripping down to nothing but remember I’m not Beowulf… I’m not even a cartoon Ray “CAAAANT””Winstone.

We do the chair lift (to the beach…not the gift shop) and mince about on the pebbles for a bit…. I feel slightly let down in reality…Is this really a tourist attraction? This country needs to take a look at itself when it comes to tourism… They are closing the place when we are in it… pulling down the shutters when you are still using the stuff… It’s truly pathetic..

Later we have an average one course meal in a pub for £70….”surf and turf” with such flavour I enjoyed the finger bowl more than the meal…cracking…it had lemon in it and everything… Luckily the kids are currently happy.

Day three: Shanklin….

A big town…. a hub of entertainment…. a cliff side lift..

We arrive, it could be any seaside town in England…lights, shit parking, passing trade, chips…chips everywhere… I’m sick of chips….”no chips kids” I say…surprisingly they wholeheartedly agree. Right… what to do here?…arcades, a beach and some kind of “fun” park containing crazy golf… Always a winner. We have a fun 40 minutes… I lose…. .. now the food issue.

I walk past a place near the fun park. It’s rammed with massive balloon people, gorging on fried potatoes and “pop” in a blur of tattooed ham hock forearms… I say “pop” as that’s what the general Northerner in attendance calls it… Londoners don’t do this.

We walk down the “promenade” or “pavement” as I like to call it. I see an old bloke walk towards me… super tanned, wrap arounds, magnificent bowl on him, shirt off…. oh dear… he’s in possession of a large growth to his upper chest… like a angry cricket ball sized blister… horrible…people duck for cover as it’s angry enough to “go up” at any moment….has it come to this?.. We move on and head to a hotel which appears to have sandwiches with salad on the menu….. naturally it’s empty. I fancy a Prawn Baguette as I’m international…I can fit in everywhere… I’m an very interesting man… Jen heads off to the bar to order and me and the kids sit under a parasol freezing our cobblers off but refusing to be beaten by the drizzle and chill.. Jen returns… something ain’t right…. she looks serious… I ask her what’s wrong and she tells me that she’s had a row with the bloke taking the order. Now, If you know Jen you would realise that this is almost impossible… she don’t do this…. I do this for us… It’s my job… it’s what I do… I’m a the trappy fucker, she is the calm, logical one, the Brains of the operation… I’m only wheeled out for the problems… the destruction.

She tells me that during the mundane task of ordering three sandwiches and a Cream Tea she was informed that it was not possible to deliver the items together just like the massive ponceitude of Wagamama but without the banged out restaurant. The jub taking the order says that en masse delivery “wasn’t possible”. She asks why and is told “That’s how we do it”… She suggests that maybe they don’t have to do it like that and that it is possible and is told “That’s how we do it”….she makes it clear that she ain’t happy to a deadpan acne face taking food orders in an empty hotel lobby…. nothing…. no response.. just the sound of hormones gushing out of the oily pores on his face.

I suggest some old school Dad intervention where I deliver the “Bad News” to Biactol Boy but she wants me to leave it… The brain has spoken… I fully expect my classy prawn baguette to include a flob or some other stringy emission related with the creamy fishy delight within.

I look at my pint…. “Shanklin Bitter”… not so much a drink as a state of mind. ..The sandwiches arrive and less than a minute later a tea pot and a scone as big as a babies head is brought in making the whole scenario of pissing off the punters irrelevant and merely a power trip on behalf of the fucker taking the order. We eat up and leave… I toy with telling the bloke that it’s not possible to leave a tip as “that’s not how I do it” but don’t bother… The kids head to the beach for a run around and Jen and I sit on the sea front and watch them… righty they don’t give a toss…they are the innocent..

“…abroad next year Darling?” says I…. she raises an eyebrow…no words are required…. Shanklin…a big town….a hub of entertainment….a cliff side lift…. a shithole.

Day Four: Freshwater Bay Beach

Sand…I hate sand…bad to sit on… bad for the camera…bad mixed with suncream, crisps, drinks, ipods and it makes sandwiches crunchy… This is a particularly bad moment for me but the kids want to go so I bite my lip.

It’s a nice beach and the sun is hot when it appears however most of the time I’m wearing a fleece which can’t be right…generally if you are clothed on a beach you are storming a machine gun turret. I sit there for three hours listening to a book about Columbian drug trafficking but intersperse this with “rock pooling” where the kids capture a terrified shrimp and some shells.

Freshwater and Yarmouth must be where the upper end of the island live… lots of healthy looking kids called “Ambrose”, “Amelia” and “Josh” all in little kid wetsuits and those waterproof shoes. They all have energetic dogs that endlessly run into the sea retrieving drift wood. All the Dads have jaunty Jack Johnson wicker hats that look too small and the Mums wear Fat Face beach fleeces… It’s idyllic bollocks. 

I’m sitting minding my own business with a pair of over the ear headphones on (I hate them…but left mine in the house) listening to a story about a drug Cartel enforcer literally forcing a .38 snub nose down the throat of a competitor when I feel something at my feet. I look down and find two kids building a sandcastle. There’s about eight people on this beach and they decide to do it on me. I look at the owner of these brats… she smiles and waves. Standby Love… I’m from London… this ain’t normal… remove your 1000 yard stare kids. I engage my “fuck off” face and they are extracted to the feet of some other mug in a kind of “don’t look back at the scary man darlings” way.  

We go back to the house where I down a large bottle of Hoegaarden and Jen does two large rouge before we head off to an independent bistro/cafe for dinner. Its “highly rated”… hmmm. I walk in resplendent in liberating burgundy trousers. I’m oozing trouser power. To my left are two pissed middle aged Yarmouthites… clearly been drinking all day and are preparing for a lazy, out of time early evening shag imminently… don’t ask… I can tell… I’ve been there.

We get a table…it’s wobbly…. it’s sticky… this is rectified by a teenager of such magnitude that I thought he was holding a giant ball of sausage meat and some chipolatas. It turns out this was his hand. He loosely “cleans” the table.  I remain calm.. My daughter looks at me…she puts her hand on my shoulder and in her American accent she says “..I’m with you man!!”… she gets it…she can spot it.

I’m facing into the restaurant directly looking at a man who puts the salt into “salty seadog”. He looks uncannily like Marvel comics creator Stan Lee and is writing into a note book. His dinner arrives…Sea Bream and sautéed potatoes… it looks great… classy… proper… he devours it in about 80 seconds with a spoon. He shovels it in after covering it in tartar sauce…peasant… eating fish with a spoon…says it all. A bloke then walks in on a mobile to his left ear… too specific? He has no right ear, just a hole and a flap of skin…bad hair and a limp… “Highly rated”….roger rog…it was “alright”…I mean can you really fuck up a scampi?

We leave and find a shop to buy some milk. Outside there are teenage Amelia’s, Josh’s and Ambrose’s. One of them drops his iPhone and smashes it… “Fucking Hell…fuckididumdum…” I inform his that if he swears in front of my kids again it will be a bad move resulting in extreme violence... “but I’ve broke my phone” he says…”good”, I reply…Jen whisks me away.

Tomorrows plan is to drive around the island at full speed… when we reach the necessary velocity I will direct Jen to a jetty and hope that we have gathered enough momentum to Evel Knievel our way across the Solent to safety…. That’s my plan…the kids want to go to Robin Hill adventure park… I’m sure that will be our destination..

Day Five: Robin Hill Adventure Park

The Village of the Damned. We have a late start to the day as part of the Robin Hill experience is at night. I assume this is due to the trolls that will inevitably make up the patrons wishing to avoid sunlight.

Prior to departure we go to a Yarmouth hot spot on the pier. It appears that standard yet acceptably tasty stuff is available at ludicrous prices. Jen’s seafood “chowder” or “thick soup” for the intelligentsia was a £9.00 with a partial baguette.

Piss takers…. but we have to eat.

The two waitresses are sisters, 25 ish with spots and badly dyed hair and thick black gloopy eyeliner. They look “scrutty” and I’m betting a thumb will be in the soup upon delivery. The blond one of the sisters has a lisp. Tragically I always find a lisp amusing. When you enter you order and take a number and wait for your number to be shouted out by the waitress. I’m disappointed to receive ’58’ on my ticket as I was hoping for ’76’.. but fear not we’ve ordered the soup, sandwiches, drinks with straws, extra sugar for the tea and salt.

The place is filled with old people gnawing and sucking on crusty breaded items… its a horrible sight…reminiscent of a babies and rusks. We take out a bridging loan, pay the bill and leave… The Robin Hill ‘Adventure’ awaits…

We arrive at out destination venue….. It’s eerily quiet. It’s £70 for a family of four…comedy gold. It’s Legoland lite. They’ve copied the idea and tweaked it to farming setting which is some feat. I look around and realise that I could live and work on the Isle of Wight as all I need is a Scholl sandal and walking stick or crutch factory… not crutches.. crutch, singular. There is a future here Jen…. I can sense it. Everywhere I look I see the Challenged Limping about. They are cottage loaf people with lank hair mostly walking using the single crutch for stability as the other hand is holding a Rothmans.. It reminds me of the work canteen. The Horse and I once counted the crutches in there… we saw five shared out amongst four overly nourished staff who can move pretty sharpish when the jam sponge and custard appears. Crutches used to mean ‘broken leg’ not ‘density’.

We look around and try to marry up the fun map with the delights on offer… no fuckin chance. There’s a Maze made out of garden fences, a swinging Galleon (second hand from elsewhere), ‘Carp Quay’ which is a fish pond although it does lead to ‘Troll Island’ which is a jetty. There’s a ‘Gypsy Camp’ which I think is a thing as I can find no oil barrels and broken cars.. The kids spot ‘Hillbilly Slide’ and go for a ride… it’s a big slide next to the main event… ‘Toboggan Mountain’… I monitor this ride as I know I’ll have to go on it with my daughter.  It appears to involve sitting on a plastic tray and being dragged up an incline before being released down a metal track reminiscent of a tobogganing…. As expected Hillbilly Slide fails to hold the interest and I find myself queuing for the Toboggan effort. In front of me is a woman….I think its a woman. It’s small and in a dress so I’ll go with woman. She looks up at me over her glasses and eyebrows, I see a tooth look out like a prisoner poking out a cell window during a riot…. she’s about to speak… I don’t want this… I’m queuing… just because we are thrown together doesn’t mean we must interact… her hair is a fairly decently cut bob but it’s not washed well. She has that thing I hate on a woman with a bob… a poking out ear breaking the symmetry of the cut…. It’s the female equivalent of men who pull down a cap too far to bend an ear… I want to poke it in and, let me tell you, this isn’t a sentence I ever thought I would think about when confronted with this woman.

It speaks;  “..see that bangle?..” she says pointing at her kids. The daughter wears the bangle, the boy talks in whirs and clicks like Clunk from ‘Stop the Pigeon’ … I nod…”great value”… she speaks quick… “really?” I say but I’m thinking “fuck off and try not to drool so much”. She informs me that it’s a tenner a bangle and you get unlimited rides. Her daughter has done the ride 24 times which explains the twitch and the random pawing of the ear. “Great news”  I say, “perhaps if there was something else to do here she wouldn’t need to have been on it so often”….. there’s an uncomfortably long silence before she bursts out laughing……teeth like a burnt down fence as expected… Friends for life…

The ride is shocking… a 35 second descent at luke warm speed…. thrilling…

We take a ride on “Big Green”… basically a tractor pulling a carriage which takes four minutes and goes in a circle…. no words are exchanged with the driver who looks like Kenny Noye. I make a note in case he’s escaped and is lying low.

We kill time by walking round the gardens which are lit with coloured lights They are genuinely beautiful and remind me of my first visit to this island as a 5 year old. Fantastic stuff and it makes me realise why I like it.. it’s tranquil and unfettered by modern life.  However this brings me on to the African themed playground. It has a BBQ in the middle run by the only non white employee I’ve seen since I got here….It’s like a wind up….a sad, 1970’s “Love they Neighbour” wind up….the assembled punters don’t give a fuck and to be fair the bloke behind the ramp seems to be enjoying himself but I feel it’s wrong… 1950’s England is seen in my 2014 London eyes.

The main attraction looms….. “Owls by Twilight”… Because of kids you tend to see a lot of Falconry. Every castle you go to has it like its still used. It’s essentially dull but this is supposed to be “stunning”. I’ll say that again……”Stunning”. The Arena is packed. Crutches litter the stairways, excitement builds as there’s a rumour that this display, at night and with lights may also contain music….sweetfuckinjeebus!! I’m out of my excitement zone here… The music starts….

Panpipes… panpipes….noseflutes… owls by noseflute… don’t get me wrong I like Owls…I know a few cracking Owl sanctuaries but this isn’t difficult… Owls fly at night… they hunt at night… Rush’s 1975 album “Fly by Night” has an Owl on the cover. What more proof do you need?.

The owls fly about and the Jock in charge tells us that it’s hoped in 4-5 years they may have four owls flying at the same time…The lumpents clap at this revelation…. I don’t….I weep internally… my life is ebbing away…ebbing away at a falconry display. The only upside was the bird landing on a punters head and getting caught in her hair….flapping around, causing mayhem and not even an apology from the geezer with the glove… We head to the car…. “Nothing to do there Dad” says the boy and do you know… he was right.

Back at the house I stair at the Chianti bottle…. Have I also lost the will to drink? No… No I haven’t…

Day Six: The Last Supper

The major plan for this trip was to take the bikes away for a family cycle. This plan was scuppered early on by my daughter’s refusal to move on anything other than a smooth surface…Great…. she broke the holiday….she’s 8… it’s not her fault.

The final day was for chillin’… The plan was to have a drive to see the things we hadn’t so far and get some gifts to bring back… It’s a well known fact that if you return from holiday in to my office without some kind of tribute to the God of Tea then your career is pretty much over…. Fear not… I have the necessary heart stopping, clotted cream shortbread.

The Isle of Wight is a lovely place…. quiet…. calm….I’ve had a great time regardless of my ranting and I was with my tribe for a week which is the point. Jen is close to tears as she wants to live here however I’ve explained that as there seems to be no crime which limits my employment potential.  We take a walk along the coast from Yarmouth… this should be easy, it’s a straight line and I can see our destination.

We wander along and it’s windy…bone chillingly windy. It’s also a bit of a shithole…burnt out BBQ’s, in some cases complete with uneaten kebabs are spotted as are the evidence of low end high alcohol boozing… standard seaside fare… I spot a couple of locals sitting by the sea.  He looks like the brother Boris Johnson had locked in the loft who was fed with fish heads from a bucket. The woman is similar so I’m guessing it’s a brother/sister love in and they are drinking ‘K’ cider which explains everything.

Just before we reach the end of the walk I look up at a balcony of a big house overlooking the sea and see a huge stone cock….. This ain’t no Rooster man!… this is anatomical…sculptural… I draw Jen’s attention to it and she gathers up the kids to view a boat far away on the horizon… Perhaps this is the real Isle of Wight…..

We amble back into town to book a table for dinner only to find that everywhere is booked up. Fuck this…. I end up phoning the main Hotel which seems to have space. I put on the burgundies and we head for the Last Supper…

The Hotel is a  big gaff near the Yachting Club which is a club of such poncitude that it should have a sign which says “fuck off if you don’t own a boat” on the entrance.

“Hello Sir” says the receptionist with the cheap powdery make-up. I explain I’ve booked a table and she asks if I want the Conservatory restaurant or the a’la Carte?.. I say nothing but look at the kids and then look back at her in a kind of ‘are you mental?’ way…. she directs me to the Conservatory…. We sit down….hmmm… this ain’t going to be cheap  Three staff swoop in…all teeth and tits. The servitude is overpowering.  I’ve never liked that, wine glasses filled up after ever sip…gets up my nose. I take control and the waiter withdraws in what can only be described as a bow.

As usual I’ve seamlessly fitted in, I’m a a very eclectic human….I’ve done this before… The boy peruses the menu and decides on chicken main course with a crudité and lemon mayonnaise starter…. what a ponce. My daughter has the Chicken and gets some “Crayons” to colour in the menu. They are called “Crayons” as they assume I’m North London scum They are in fact Caran D’ache watercolour pencils such is the ponceitude. I feel like asking for some oils and a easel…

The meal is acceptable in a “it’s just a steak” way… too small and precious.. Jen had he smallest Lobster in the Ocean… almost a large prawn but it was tasty enough. I look around and see the brains of the island…. the glitterati…Old, yet they think they are trendy in that aging rich hippy way. Glittery eyeliner on old eyes, earrings on men in lounge jackets, paisley cravats and comedy sailor socks….In the words of Mr Franklin it’s a “Cunts banquet”…It’s all a bluff….London would devour these idiots and spit them out.  I look at the kids and it hardens my resolve that they live in London till they wish to leave it. London makes a person, nothing phases you after London…Greatest City in the world…

We pay up… £120…Jen don’t look happy. We return home to continue the UNO world championships and finish the remaining booze…. No Londoner would leave a drink for the next family and I keep up the tradition…. Give them nothing, take everything… I can smell the ferry…. I can sniff the Capital…. Onwards…..

The Tracks of my Years….

Something different from my usual rants. I currently have little ammunition due to not being on the train for a week, so I thought I’d try something less ranty and more specific to the me….

A few years back the Horse and I had to take a road trip to Manchester in the name of Justice. We are great mates and rarely struggle to fill time like this but on this occasion he had the great idea of each of us creating a CD of our indispensable songs. I didn’t find this too difficult as over the years I have honed down a vast collection of music into tracks that actually mean something to me…tracks that mean a moment or a time or are just truly magnificent.

This blog will explain “The Tracks of my Years”

They are in no particular order and no one track is rated better than the rest… well… maybe one of them is the greatest track in the history of music but you’ll spot that anyway…. Enjoy this insight into my musical brain…. You won’t all like them, The Horse didn’t…I care not a jot….OK…let’s start…

“Mean Street” by Van Halen – “Fair Warning”, 1981

In reality I shouldn’t like Van Halen as I’m an Englishman. They are an American , spandex wearing, ‘Cock Rock’ Hair metal band. Jen reckons they are rubbish and cannot believe that I could possibly like anything about them….she’s wrong. Van Halen contains one of the finest exponents of rock guitar ever to walk the earth. Eddie Van Halen is a true legend who reinvented the rock guitar in the late 70’s with no formal training. He is the King of “tapping” regardless of who invented it…Eddie brought this aspect to the forefront and a million fuzzball pretenders followed.

To me Van Halen was and is all about one man and so it was with great geeky joy that I discovered on ‘You Tube’ isolated guitar tracks for most Van Halen songs which means I don’t have to listen to the screaming Dave Lee Roth or the mostly flat, badly produced drums of Alex Van Halen.

This track epitomises Van Halen at their 80’s best. It’s from a time when the band hated each other and the Roth wheels were starting to work themselves loose. However this track has the lot. A blistering opening salvo followed by a deep, heavy driving riff, outstanding rhythm guitar and a flawless solo. You’ll also find a goose bump inducing pick slide at 3:49 seconds in. If I was forced to pick one Van Halen track to play for eternity this would be it.  I had the misfortune of seeing Van Halen in the 90’s when they were fronted by a squealing puffball Californian called Sammy… I didn’t wholly care as my gaze never left Eddie.

This is top drawer, thrusting groin level rock which set my standard and put me on the road to decades of Heavy Metal Heaven….

“Dog Eat Dog” by Adam and the Ants – “Kings of the Wild Frontier”, 1980

In the early 80’s it would be fair to say that I loved Adam Ant. I was a child but I was obsessed with him like a schoolgirl obsessed with a girl band. In hindsight there was something slightly creepy about Adam and the Ants. The demographic was 12 year olds but the songs were post punk sex tracks that few people cottoned on to. Fear not dear reader this phase lasted about 18 months and basically ended at the Dominion theatre where I witnessed “The Prince Charming Revue”, live before my naked steaming eyes.

I went to the gig in full make up. My Mum had created the Ant look from whatever she had in the house. I was wearing cut down wellies with added tassels, a pair of tights and a black silk shirt. I looked magnificent. We acquired the tickets from a friend of my parents who worked for CBS records….the tickets were an apology for providing me with a clearly fake ‘signed’ Adam Ant photo.. yep she was basically a typist scumbag who wanted to impress my Mum…she failed as my mum is a sharp cookie..

That gig was the greatest moment of my life at that point. I still remember walking into the lobby of the Dominion, looking about and feeling that I was underdressed. Freaks everywhere. The gig itself was excellent and the Ant band could really play. At the end of the gig my Mum blagged her way in and got us backstage but there was no sign of the main Ant and all I got was a handshake with the mostly ignored and overly nourished Marco Pirroni as he left the venue sweating like some kind of animal.

Within a year I was pretending to be a “Mod”, the Ants had split and Stuart was singing about Pussy Cats with Phil Collins on drums. The mad world of 80’s pop…. This was the best of Adam Ant… and it still stands up as a time capsule of classic pop.

‘The Butterfly Collector’ by The Jam, 1979

Everyone in North London in the late 70’s and early 80’s loved The Jam. They were the ultimate band who remained cool while delivering top drawer singles and albums. Of course all the glory was sucked up by charisma vacuum Paul Weller but the driving force was the rhythm section of Foxton and Buckler. Nothing in the name of Weller since has hit the heights of The Jam and no amount of Primrose Hillbilly Bullshit will convince me otherwise.

The Jam were almost untouchable at times. They could play anything from the explosive in your face punk/rock to the delicate acoustic ballad. I could have picked any number of songs in reality as there was barely a duff track but this song stands out for me. It’s a haunting ballad with just about the right amount of anger within it to maintain the Jam energy.

I never saw The Jam live… I was too young. I don’t want to see a reunion as it would be sad. The Jam were about energy and anger not brass sections with old men going through the motions for the big payday. The Police tried this a few years ago and it was mostly a disaster.

I have seen Weller over the years. I saw him right up to his tragic death following the completion of the ‘Wild Wood’ Tour. After that tour someone purporting to be the man who successfully resurrected a career after a mental breakdown in the form of ‘The Style Council’ started releasing substandard Starbucks muzak under the name of Paul Weller. It was all very, very sad. Luckily I still have the memory of The Jam and my years of wandering around the park in an over large fishtail parka and painful shoes from Shelleys. I have never been cool.

‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Sex Pistols – “Never mind the Bollocks”, 1977

This is not a Punk album….. it’s a Rock album and one of the greatest Rock albums of all time.

I could easily have picked ‘Submission’ as the best track but the riff to ‘Pretty Vacant’ is so superb that it needs multiple plays on a loop. You can’t really mess this track up as it’s so well constructed.
I remember when the Pistols unashamedly reformed for the money in the mid 90’s. They played Finsbury Park and released the gig as an album. I always thought they couldn’t really play but hearing reviews at the time and then the CD itself its clear that they could…. Not Vicious obviously… he was useless musically. The opening riff to ‘Pretty Vacant’ on the live album is majestic. The riff oozes power and epitomises the Pistols as a rock band and not a punk band.  Prior to the first line of this song on the live version Lydon shouts “LET’S GO TO WAR!!”… you could go to war to this riff….

I went through a phase of listening to the Pistols a lot. At one point I found myself in the kitchen of my parents house playing ‘ Friggin’ in the Riggin’’ to my Nan to much hilarity. That song isn’t really a Pistols track it’s a comedy album filler but I wasn’t keen to play my Nan ‘Bodies’ in order to make her laugh. The only real Pistols album is ‘Bollocks’.

There will never be another Sex Pistols in the history of music. A manufactured band before Simon Cowell that could produce a classic album filled with hate and bile which stands the test of time…. Truly brilliant…

‘Rock Bottom’ by UFO – ‘Phenomenom’, 1974

When the lead singer is from Wood Green, the drinking machine bass player is from Enfield and the Thunderbastard drummer is from Cheshunt you really have to take notice.

UFO are one of this country’s lost bands. A bit like Thin Lizzy in the underated stakes although I think they probably have a better back catalogue. Lizzy were like Queen, a brilliant live experience, outstanding greatest hits but a lot of unnecessary filler on the albums. UFO had all those attributes but the albums had great songs throughout.

UFO were a party band…an honest band. They were destined to never really make it stella as they enjoyed being Rock Stars too much. Lots of drink and drugs, lots of lost opportunities, lots of band changes… it was never destined to work out that well. .

The one constant in UFO is the singer Phil Mogg. I’m not too interested who is on guitar which seems to rile a lot of UFO fans. Mogg is UFO and always will be… without him it’s nothing.

My brother, The Eternal Champion, took me to my first UFO gig. It was in the mid 80’s at the greatest of all London venues, The Hammersmith Odeon. He had done his ground work by providing me with a copy of UFO’s greatest hits album ‘Headstone’ which had a live set on the fourth side. This is still one of my favourite live records.

The line up at that time consisted of only two real members of UFO, Mogg and Paul Raymond and the album they were touring with was possibly their weakest. None of this mattered as I was hooked. I remember the power of the band and the presence of Mogg the front man. I also remember the topless cowgirl dancing at the back of the stage and the biker punch up in the bar.

I left that gig hooked on UFO and Mogg in particular. I ended up at some biker/hippy party that night with my Bruv… I was all shiny and new amongst the grit… Glory days..

Years later I would see UFO a number of times and Mogg was still the great front man but an older version with a less powerful voice. At one gig at the Kentish Town Forum during a break between songs Mogg pointed at a bloke in the crowd and said:

‘ If you do not desist in requesting that song I will be forced to come into the crowd to deal with you’

This is what we need from our rock stars… total domination of the fandom.

‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones – ‘Let it Bleed’ , 1969

I have never been the world’s greatest Rolling Stones fan. They mostly leave me cold. I can’t quite pin it down but it might be the media assertion that they are the world’s greatest Rock ‘n ‘ Roll band….. They aren’t… There are many bands better than them… Zeppelin, The Who, The Beatles to name a few.

I also don’t think much of Keith Richards as a guitarist. I rate Ronnie Wood and Mick Taylor could clearly play but Richards seems to be mostly a mess wrapped up in a bandana.

All this being said it should be noted that ‘Gimme Shelter’ is a stroke of genius.

If you wanted to encapsulate the laziness of the Stones into one song this would be it. It sounds like an improvisation rather than a structured song. I always get the impression that they just stumbled across it and recorded it straight off the bat. Clearly that isn’t what happened but they captured the essence of the moment in the recording and I’m happy to believe my idea over a torturous, drug fuelled, laborious writing process in a hired out French Chateaux.

I saw the “Budweiser” Stones at Wembley Stadium in the 90’s. Corporate whoredom at its greatest but they knock out a decent greatest hits package and the crowd were happy enough albeit a lot skinter than when they arrived

I watched their Glastonbury set a few years ago and thought they were terrible. Jagger looked ludicrously spindly and the twin guitar assault of Wood and Richards was weak and tuneless. I’d actually put money on the fact that Richards guitar wasn’t plugged in and Charlie Watts is an animatronic.

The Stones are no longer a Rock Band… they are a logo that makes money through various means including the odd new song crow barred into a revisited greatest hits album… How much money do you want Mick?… all of it or just most of it?

‘White lines (Don’t do it) by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, 1983

When this track came on in the car during our trip to Manchester The Horse nearly crashed the motor. He has only ever known me as a ‘rocker’ and he claimed to have never even heard this track. For a grown man in his 40’s not to have heard this song is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

This song will forever remind me of roaming the streets of Hornsey with my cousin in the mid 80’s. We used to leave the house in the early evening and just loiter about carrying an overlarge cassette recorder playing the Electro albums which were popular at the time… I felt ‘street’…Clearly I wasn’t… I have never been cool.

This track was a mob favourite…. This and ‘Rockit’ by Herbie Hancock. We used to roam about playing these songs while we terrorised the locals. When I say ‘terrorised’ I hope you realise that I mean it in the 80’s way and not the current ASBO way. No alley was safe from a criss cross of cotton placed there by the mob…. A simple trick with an hilarious outcome always made funnier if the trapped punter was riding a bike through the alley rather than walking at a slow pace.

Another memory from this time was the firework battles. Rockets propelled at each other from discarded sections of plumbing acting as homemade bazooka’s. No one cared if you were injured… your parents simply dusted you down and sent you out there again…. That was the score.

‘White Lines’ the song is a timeless classic. A tremendous bass line and outstanding lyrics… with a 7 minute running time it lasts long enough to be epic… twas the Soundtrack of my Youth through the mid 80’s summers…

‘Magic Bus’ by The Who – ‘Live at Leeds’, 1970

In the years between 1970 and 1974 The Who were the greatest rock band on the planet. This album is possibly the greatest live album ever recorded. A band at the start of their peak and in tune with each other.

My Dad bought me this album on a double play cassette with ‘Who are You’… I played it to death. I’m not sure why he bought it for me but I’m eternally grateful that he did… it could be the best thing he ever bought me. Let’s face it if your old man is going to unknowingly introduce you to The Who what better album to do it with…

No band at the time could match the power of The Who…perhaps Zeppelin but certainly not The languid Stones. There are parts of this album that border of hard rock and almost heavy metal, it’s a master class in live rock music. The version of ‘Magic Bus’ is the definitive version and the only one that should be heard.

Like all bands, The Who produced a lot of sub standard rubbish due to Townsends own peculiar vision of what the fans need. Even revered albums like “Who’s Next” have duff tracks most notably ‘Going Mobile’ which needs smashing.

This album has no bad tracks. Even the extended version of this album has no bad tracks. The performances by the four members of the band are flawless. Moon is a powerhouse, Entwhistle proves that the bass need not be boring, Rog was at his vocal peak and Pete proved that you don’t need a widdly widdly guitar solo to be a one of the best.

If you have never heard ‘Live at Leeds’ then you need to…. peerless….

‘Night Prowler’ by AC/DC – ‘Highway to Hell’, 1979

Believe it or not but there was a time when AC/DC were unfashionable.

In the mid 80’s when I first saw them you could almost walk up to the box office at Wembley Arena and get a ticket as no one really cared. The Eternal Champion took me to my first AC/DC gig, January 1987. It was the first time I’d seen a global rock band and I still remember every moment of it from the opening power chord, through the Angus on stage strip right through to the booming cannons (I’ll revisit these in a moment) at the end. It was a spiritual experience and made me feel that I was part of the entire genre no matter how derided it was.

A few years later I went to see them with my mates, again at Wembley Arena. In our company was the stunningly cool Googan…Collegiate cool but still at school, all pink socks, college scarves and babyfaced girl bait. He remains one of my best mates so I feel able to describe him in these terms. For the life of me I cannot recall why he came to the gig… He was into the Smiths and all that other insipid stuff. Anyway he was in the room and so I thought I’d share my extensive metal experience with him.

Throughout the gig I had informed him that he wouldn’t believe the sound of the cannons that get set off during ‘For those about to Rock (we salute you)’ which was the final song. “prepare yourself mate…you may wish to cover your ears and remove your glasses..”. We were moments away from a 21 gun salute and as I’d seen it I thought I’d watch Googans reaction to the cacophony..

Here they come…’pop’….a low level, lowercase ‘pop’ at that… I looked at Googan, he turned to me and pissed himself laughing. Who could blame him, my humiliation was total. I’d been let down by low level special effects and a bad memory. The next gig we attended together was Madonna where I was merely in the stadium to pull someone.. It was July and he brought an umbrella.

AC/DC did exist before ‘Back in Black’. They existed before the gigs were filled with Dad’s in tweed jackets who watch ‘Top Gear’ and like bitter and England. They existed before their logo was available on baby clothes in Top Shop. They existed in a better formation with a better singer and greater songs which weren’t all about rock and cock.

This is classic Bon Scott AC/DC and the final track on his final album. It epitomises that great AC/DC. It has great lyrics and a clean guitar sound. It also features great backing vocals where you can actually hear the other members of the band… there’s nothing worse than an overdubbed lead singer backing vocal which is like cheating to me. AC/DC were always better with Scott singing and playing at this pace as they are essentially a blues rock band and not a fist pumping stadium metal band… Similar to early ZZ Top.

Scott died after this album…choked on his own drink filled vomit. A terrible end to a legendary rocker and the middle death of three legends in 2 years. Moon, Scott and Bonham all died in a two year period… it’s at this point that I need to point out that Keith Richards still lives and makes money. Suck that up next time you see the tongue logo on a bag of crisps or a soft drink..

Scott’s last words on this song were “shazbot…nanu nanu..”… The genius of AC/DC in one track.

…and finally…

‘I heard it through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye, 1968

Quite simply the greatest song in the history of modern music.

Motown is my secret pleasure. It’s almost a flawless genre. Simple yet complex songs across the board with this at the top of the tree. Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding were the kings of Motown.

Lyrically I cannot find a song better than this. It’s almost a poem. The simplicity of the song arrangement is also brilliant. Strings, organ and some drums…however instruments are almost irrelevant as the lyrics and the voice drive it forward.

There’s not much more that can be said other than if I went deaf I would weep at not being able to hear this song again.

..And so there you have it… a long blog about the greatest songs of my life.

Of course there are other great songs. ‘Hooker with a Penis’ by Tool is a drumming masterpiece as is ‘Trampled under foot’ by Zeppelin but I needn’t hear them…they are not indispensable.

Lots of other music stirs my emotions. INXS will forever remind me of my first real girlfriend who now resides on the other side of the globe (insert joke here), Van Morrison reminds me of another woman… a mad one currently living on the other side of the country…’The whole of the Moon’ reminds me of another… Yes, I do know where they all live as generally they are still mates of mine and as you can’t really wipe memories good or bad you need to come to terms with the past.

It’s hard to see anything breaking into my top 10 as the most recent track is a hip hop song from 1983… They just don’t make them like they used to…

I am not cool and I am getting old…. but to paraphrase Lydon ‘I don’t care..’…

“..The Certainty of Stupidity…”

Miserable weather. Magnificently matching my mood…cold and grey.

The gloom of January. The general post festive scenario following the joyous month of Christmas where thirsts were slaked in the name of capitalism. I felt I was ready for the onslaught where I manage to drink with everyone I love. It is my failing and my strength. Without my liver idiocy friendships would wane.  Jen reckons I’m a mug,  perhaps I am but I tell her;

 “It’s not about me…. it’s about ‘them’….’the others’…”.

I’m all about the charity… and the laugh.  So remember mates, If you didn’t see me during Christmas it’s because you couldn’t make it.. I’m was blameless. I was out there in the Guinness and Rouge. The magnitude of this selfless act resulted in three days of paranoia where I found myself believing I was being followed.  I’m too old for it…It needs to be controlled…

…0757 hours…. The Freak Box…

The tube is unforgiving in cold weather. Brutal heat meets heavy coats creating a damp, pungency. We trundle along and I’m wearing a fleece and a gilet (body warmer to anyone brought up in the ’70’s)… I’m sweating like a pregnant nun but I’m maintaining a steady calm as ever…

Up trots a massive bloke to head towards a seat next to me. He’s a right old lump. A good two metres tall and in a polyester puffer jacket.  He sits quicker than I anticipate and so my arm is crushed by his truly epic arse. We exchange a manly nod as neither of us want the other to think that this interaction may have been deliberate.  He’s a big bloke and I feel myself crunching inwards like a page three girl showing off the goods…

A small girl with a nice smell to my left (almonds if you were wondering) who has sat next to me since the off alights. At the doors bustling on I see the troll from the toilets in Hogwarts.  It’s heading my way.  I have no wand.

He’s wearing the classic Clarkson costume of tweed jacket, open neck shirt, jeans and loafers. He’s not worried about the cold as he’s UKIP rich, proudly ‘British’ and into ‘Torque’, ‘fuel capacity’ and bitter in a jug… he’s a top level chinless, mouth breather and is probably only on public transport due to a night on the Bolly at a fundraiser for the ‘little people’…

He hits the seat in a “Boom!!” kind of way at which point I realise I’m trapped between a puffer jacket and heavy, itchy tweed when I’m kitted out for a nuclear winter. This could be bad…his arm is touching mine, it’s hotter than the sun and I have 25 minutes of this to endure. It must look hilarious from the opposite seats. I must look like the ‘fresh meat’ in the Wormwood Scrubs Shower block, all small and scared being escorted by monsters to a crippling fate before being hurled in the corner like a discarded pair of pants. I accept my fate…death by hot arm and leg.

I reach my stop and I’m able to squeeze out from between these two behemoths like an over large baby bursting out of a damp tweed and polyester womb… I feel dirty. I wind my way up to the street where en route I see two women have a verbal fight on an escalator. A good Samaritan intervenes and becomes the focus of both women’s hate. Mug. Let them fight, we all want to see it…blood, snot, teeth, hair, bloodied lips… he deserves the hate.

I reach the lobby of the station and walk past the in-house dry cleaners with the sign that says ‘Shirt service’ where some wag has removed the ‘r’ in ‘shirt’… always makes me smile.

Outside is the soft shoed God Squaddette. She’s from the same tribe troupe as the one at my home station and is holding a paper with the headline ‘Is Satan Real?’…Hmmm…. it’s a tough one.  I take the paper and head to the office where I’ll add it to the pile of similar periodicals rotting under my desk.

I take the lift up the tower block to my floor. At the entrance to the office I pause… I always pause as I can’t believe I have to walk in again.  As life requires money I open the door and head to my desk.

I work in a specialist environment. I’m not going to be specific as that would be unprofessional.  I was called unprofessional once by the worlds most stupid employee. I was so angry at the accusation that I just went home on the spot. If I didn’t leave at that moment I may have been sacked as I was a second away from dropping the C Bomb. I’ve been angry a lot in my life but that was the apex of rage.. …Anyway I digress.

The staff where I work as almost exclusively split down the middle in ability and likability.

On one side you have the workers.  Solid, dependable, funny and a joy to work with. On the other you have the management who appear to be there as part of some kind of ‘woke up in an office’ experiment.  They tend to be the old guard and the type of people who get to this level through time rather than capability. They talk with a certainty of stupidity.

We’ve all had bosses like them. The bosses that listen to your ideas, think about what you’ve said and then come up with your idea as if it’s their own. They are the type of people that, when corrected on an issue say ‘That’s what I meant’ or even better ‘That’s what I said’ which are the ultimate, cornered, out of your depth bluffs.  Of course it never used to be like this.

When I started here there were proper leaders, people you would aspire to be and follow to the end. Now I look at the management with a level of contempt which screams P45. They don’t lead and they don’t manage. They merely exist in a world of paralysing, decision making fear.

There are only two ways to do things, The right way and the wrong way. If you make the wrong decision you simply change that decision to make it right… it’s easy. Modern management won’t make the decision in the first place. They hesitate and delay in the hope that the problem will go away rather than address it head on. My work heroes have always acted swiftly and correctly. They also knew more than I did. You can’t lead, in my view, if you are lacking wisdom. Too many bosses in my place ‘wing it’ which is always a recipe for disaster in the long term.

Modern management is hopeless, a lost cause, broken and the main reason why I need to go as I feel that I’d like to be inspired by someone rather being left constantly disappointed.

The other factor that I have noticed in very poor management is Coffee. For some reason the general, useless manager seems to feel the need to leave the building on a regular basis to ingest large amounts of overpriced coffee in a cup with their name on, in order to not make a decision. It is the fuel of the bullshitter.

I do my bit, I humour the useless, do the requisite hourage and leave. I head to the station and the joy of the journey back to my lovely tribe.

The journey home is always a pleasure. The train is generally quiet and I usually choose to stand as I’ve been sitting all day at a desk. I’m standing in the middle section by the doors when a man in his fifties gets on. He looks tired. He’s wearing clothes which are too young for him… clearly he’s a morning Vampire with no mirrors in his house.  Tatty edged hems, skater shoes, some form of military jacket, a Watford scarf and the crowning turd in the waterpipe, a Marvel superheroes messenger bag which is very low slung… Is he cool? is he?….IS HE?? No…. no he’s not…

I close my eyes and hang on to the upright rail. After about 5 minutes I notice my gripping hand and more specifically my knuckles appear to be in contact with some flesh. No one likes to touch a stranger on a train for fear of a Frottage arrest so I slightly panic. I open my eyes and a young girl (19 or 20) is standing quite close to me,  leaning up against the hand rail I’m gripping. Her bare midriff is pushed against my gripping fist…This is awkward.

I close my eyes in ostrich fashion while I come up with a plan. What do you do? open your hand and poke her in the stomach? move your hand up or down? not advisable. I figure that the stomach is the lesser of three evils so I leave it there momentarily while I deal with the image in my head of the interview with British Transport Police and the subsequent disciplinary proceedings.

I need to do something sharpish before my hand is there too long for it to be an accident.   I know, I’ll roll my knuckles as if I’m steadying my grip. She jumps back like a startled squirrel. I open my eyes in fake shock and she looks at me apologetically. We are both relieved…

A close shave which means tomorrow I will once more stand at the door to the office taking a deep breath having avoided getting, ‘Arrestified’, ‘Handcuffdicated’ and chucked in the dingly for the mattress treatment.

…Maybe I need a Coffee….hmmm…. I can’t decide….

“…Tell Gwenyth I Love Her…”

It’s been a funny week.  A sad week. A defining week…

The end of an era… and maybe the start of something new. More of the new another time hopefully but not on this occasion. This week I gave up something I’ve been doing for about 28 years….. no, not that…That can never be given up, it’s essential.

This week I resigned from the committee of an Amateur football club. The reasons are mostly irrelevant on here so I won’t bore you as I’ve bored the long suffering Jen. All I’ll say is it’s a generational issue and I’m too long in the tooth to be told that rules don’t matter. I’m a purist.. old school.. do the right thing or get the fuck out. I’m sad about it but I have principles, maybe too many principles.  Anyway, during my sulking this week I started to think about the good times playing football before all the strokers appeared.  Glory days indeed… proper matches with proper battles and proper personalities, less piss takers and dimwits.

1985 – 1995: Self inflicted football violence…

I played my first game for the club in 1985. I was 16 and a bit scared to be honest…Inevitably I scored and was a hero.  It from a cross delivered from the boot of a man whose daughter would later marry one of my best mates. I remember every moment of that goal to this day, the cross, the scrape off my laces, the flop into the bottom corner and the utter joy…I was hooked at that moment.

Over the next few years I became a captain of a team. I managed to assemble a team of like minded animals who were committed to the cause. Very few oppositions could deal with the onslaught of verbal and physical aggression and we were quite successful as a result. It was the glory time, lifelong friendships were cemented and I can’t recall laughing so much on a football pitch since.

It was the time of the ‘Kharzi assassin’ when retribution for a flailing elbow was sought in the showers. I recall the scene… reminiscent of a Oliver Read wrestling Alan Bates by the fire in ‘Women in Love’. Not really something you wish to witness when you are washing your hair under a dribbling, cold shower in Gunnersbury Park…. how do you stop it? everyone is shiny and wet… what do you grab?.. who are you grabbing?… what are you grabbing?

It was a time of impact injury. No one strained a muscle so the only way you really got hurt was by hitting something similarly human shaped.

My partner in crime up front was a tough North London nut with a pretty boy face. He was, and remains, obsessed with his own beauty and regularly used ‘strawberry pip’ shower gel to exfoliate after matches. One cold January afternoon he decided to jump for a header a fraction too late which resulted in the forehead of the opposition player connected with the bridge of his nose. He hit the deck holding his face but when he removed his hands the lack of blood was noticeable…. I saw this as worrying and a bit like a razor cut that doesn’t initially bleed. We were an advanced team and owned a bucket of water and a sponge.  We took the sponge and placed it hard on the nose of our mate. No one knew why but we thought it would be a good idea. upon removing the sponge, a edge of it snagged the U-shaped red line on the bridge of his nose made by the impact and pulled the skin like when you peel a banana. This flap of skin was now incapable of going back in place no matter how many times we pushed the sponge back on it. “is it bad?” says pretty boy…”Hmm”.. says I, noticing the exposed cartilage of his nose, “I won’t lie to you Franco…. it’s fuckin’ rotten. “. We send Francis to Hospital, finish the match and adjourn to the pub.

Some hours later he arrives at the pub battered and stitched up across the bridge of the nose… it looks angry and I notice that he is slightly cross eyed. We quickly establish through the swearing that he is staring at two pieces of surgical cord that the nurse has failed to trim. In essence he has two small antenna on the top of his nose that he can’t ignore. His best mate, lets call him ‘Gary’, volunteers himself to trim the offending antenna there and then in the pub in order to avoid a second trip to the Hospital, so he borrows some blunt scissors from the barmaid. After much panic and twitching Gary manages to do the job and so we can happily continue our celebratory night out.

A couple of years later I decided to get involved in some of my own head trauma. It’s a cup game at home against a bank and for some reason I decide to attack a ball from a corner on the off chance that it will hit me in the face and fly in the net. I had this all planned in my head but forgot that my sight without glasses is like being underwater.

The corner comes in and I jump to head the ball.  The defender, who it turns out is equally as myopic as me does likewise and we are simaltneously airborne as the ball passes between us. Unfortunately there is no stopping us and we head each others faces at full tilt.

I land on my feet and wobble but, like a weeble, don’t fall down. I look at the floor and see what I feel is the contents of my head pour out at my feet. It’s clearly bad and needs more than a sponge and a plaster. I look up and see a lot of distressed faces. It’s suggested that I go to the hospital and so I set off on foot. This isn’t as fantastical as it seems as it was about 100 yards away.

I walk into casualty and there is only three people present. It’s amazing how packed A&E can become in 20 years but on this particular Saturday back then it was empty. I’m greeted by a nurse who ushers me into a side room and has me lie on bed. I’m Lying there for what seems like an age and as the bleeding has stopped so I sit up and notice that in the corner a Doctor is preparing a needle. He walks over and informs me that I’m going to need 8 stitches just above my eyebrow. I’ll also need some x-rays on Monday (turned out I’d broken my nose and fractured my eye socket and cheek in the impact). The Doctor tells me to relax and starts to insert the needle. It was at that point that the nurse arrived with the anaesthetic which was yet to be administered.  The needle is in my eyebrow from the bottom up and I can see it at close quarters while the Doctor and the nurse have a frantic, whispered conversational argument. The doctor turns to me, apologises, whips out the needle, leaves the room and lets the nurse inject my face before she stitches me up…. she was a good seamstress.

The first 10 years of my football ‘career’ were brilliant… violent, hilarious and successful. Trophies were won, teams were battered, people were battered. It moulded and bonded me to the place and I felt it was important to get involved with the hierarchy and maybe even take control of it. And so that is what Bunny and I planned to do…

As I’m coming to the end of my self imposed blog limit and I want to leave on some drama I’ll continue this cobblers in a later blog just to see if you are really following me or just placating my ego..

…1642 hours….. The Freak Box….

I leave work and head in the rain to the station. This is a deep central London station with lifts that are insufficient so everyday I use the stairs instead.  If you time it right you can really pick up some pace on these stairs as the wind downwards.

I have that headphones on and am listening to something suitable heavy but the stairs are packed with meandering tourists who tentatively walk down. Annoying but lets keep it realistic.. it’s not a big deal.

As we get near the bottom I sense a problem. The tourists speed up slightly… I turn the final bend and see the issue.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs is a young Muslim man. He has a long beard, traditional Afghan male garb, the classic Osama Bin Laden hat and a large rucksack on his back…He is also talking while seemingly pointing to the heavens with an outstretched finger…I can’t hear him due to the UFO Live album I’m soaking up on the ‘phones..

This is it….

‘This is the end…my only friend…The End..’

UFO are replaced by the words of a fat, drunk, dead bloke … What do I do?.. I’m eight steps up on him and so if I leap, the force of me (sponsored by Guinness) will really do him some damage…

This is the VC moment…I nearly shout ‘Tell Gwenyth I Love her’ as it could be my final words and I want that as a subheading on the front of The Times when it reports “Bomber dispatched by the greatest hero in the history of humanity”.  I picture Paltrow weeping at my grave while dropping a single black rose into the hole and whispering “You beautiful, sweet, funny man…Why?’…

I hestitate… I change tact. I slowly walk up to him…I’ve dealt with people… I can do this… I notice he’s stopped talking… I take a breath and remove my headphones and stare into the face of my destiny…he starts to speak…

“…’ere mate… how many fucking steps are there going up?…I can’t get any of those tourists to tell me….”

Looks can be deceiving….

The Clown, The Waiter and the Monkey Sanctuary…..

Firstly, I didn’t get the job…. This isn’t a surprise but the reason was. Apparently I had all the skills and experience but didn’t show the necessary enthusiasm to work for the firm in question….. nice…. No matter…. we move on….other opportunities will arise and so I need to regain the lost enthusiasm and focus on my current employer for a bit.

Back to work….

I head to the station and realise that I haven’t seen The God Squadder for weeks. The area by the back entrance has been vacant, religion free. There has been no manhandling of the weak, no thrusting of pamphlets, no damp smell of urine and digestives. 

I turn the corner and see that he has returned however he’s different.  He has a new hat (flat) and appears to be sporting the moustache of an Austrian house painter.  It’s the clincher.. this should have the crowds rolling in… I give him my most contemptible glance and head to the Jesus free platform.

…0815 hours…. The Freak Box…..

Its the wrong time to get this train so I position myself by the door I will eventually alight from perching on that useless half seat.  I figure it’s going to get banged out and so it’s best to make the exit easier by being in position early doors.  This strategy is 99% effective but can backfire. 

A few months back I was minding my own business in this spot when I realised we had been in the station for a long time.  I also noticed a commotion to my left. I care little for the Freaks of the Box but I was intrigued and so disconnected from the joys of early Van Halen to see what was happening

It appeared that some real negative vibe merchant had decided to pass out half on and half off the carriage.  This wasn’t good.  I was supposed to be getting a bacon roll at this point but I’m stuck looking at the helpful…the interfering and helpful, the worst of all combo’s.  There appears to be a lot of fussing with no decision making.  I’m about to suggest a vote amongst the conscious within the carriage along the lines of ‘drag her on or roll her off’ when I’m poked by an older women who wants me to pull the chord and speak to bloke in charge of propelling this tube.  I can’t call them ‘drivers’ as that indicates a level of skill above the dead mans handle this plum controls.  I’ve never pulled the chord and so willingly oblige.

“. Can someone tell me what is happening to block the doorway in your carriage?..” says a voice free from politeness…

“..hello Freak… the door is being blocked by someone’s hips…They are prone…” says I.

“..Eh?..” he grunts… Clearly he’s incapable of moving from his pod at the front to see what’s happening due to the inevitable health and safety issues so I just part the crowd, step over the body and walk from the station I’m at… I didn’t look back, bacon has triumphed over Schadenfreude….

As I said earlier my door strategy is 99% effective and a quick scan of the carriage reveals no potential fainters so I relax.

This train is surprisingly empty but when we reach the next stop there’s a rush for seats from a packed station. Bursting through the doors I see it. It’s a treat that I’ve heard of but never witnessed…

The Clown….

It’s big, overly nourished with ham hock arms and tiny, tiny feet that defy physics…This ain’t no Charlie Cairoli turnout but the make up is similar. She gets the last seat as no one is big enough or brave enough to stop her and sits down with such force that the two punters either side involuntarily rise up. From my position I can see the caked on make up. It’s cheap…and like the shoddy work of a cockney plasterer it needs several coats to be sufficient. I’m hoping she smiles as the cracking will be magnificent and flaky like a puff pastry mince pie.

She goes for her bag.. I’m expecting toffees or a pie but she brings out an immense make up bag in order to apply more gunk and gloop to the eyes. She’s at that point that only Da Vinci could understand after trying to perfect the Mona Lisa smirk… The more she slaps on the more she takes off. Less should be more but I imagine that’s an alien concept in this case. I study her face from my vantage point. There is so much make up that it’s impossible to age her unless you look at the hands. She is the spitting image of the daughter of that funny Jewish family on “Gogglebox”… as I think they are hilarious I move my attention to another carriage dweller to her right….

A young Asian guy is squeezed in next to her. He’s wearing an oversized beaney hat which I have always seen as a sign of mental illness. The collar of his jacket is up and his hair pokes out from under the hat… He looks like “ensemble cast” from Les Miserable. He’s motionless. He hasn’t moved since he was propelled in the air by The Clown. Standby…. we have movement.

He reaches into his coat pocket and produces a small silver tray reminiscent of the kind of thing you get your bill on in an expensive restaurant from an aloof waiter. He looks at the tray. I’m waiting for him to deposit some form of chocolate stack on the tray before offering it up to truffle monster beside him when I realise it’s an iPhone 6…the big one. It’s a ludicrous size. He’s clearly making some kind of statement with a phone that big….I reckon that statement is “Please mug me..I have a £700 device”…

I work with a bloke who has a large phone… He’s a small bloke and so the phone looks like an iPad in the hands of a 10 year old. When he receives a call you can’t see his head side on. When you’re buying a new coat in order to store your phone then you have the wrong phone… it’s basic…

We trundle along and I go to work with the usual enthusiasm…. It’s over for me… but Half term is imminent and I’m off for a week so I fight on..

As a man I find half term, looking after kids utter drudgery. I know I’m supposed to cherish these moments with the kids but as usual I’m tasked with washing, cleaning, cooking and dealing with tradesmen…. It’s a shit business..

This half term is different. We head to the North to visit the in-laws, and one in particular, Jen’s grandmother who is a fantastic women clocking in at 102 years old, sharp as a tack and worthy of another 100 years. Strangely, and for all my piss taking about Northern Monkeys, I like the North… It’s simple…like the people..(did you see what I did there?). I jest. It’s friendly with less stress than London with more character.

Jen is the Queen of research and so she finds us a magnificent independent hotel to stay for a couple of nights.

We arrive and check in and my first impressions are great. It has a buzzing, welcoming bar and I can spot the Guinness tap. I’m sorted and care little for anyone else, I mean let’s face it… You can’t fuck up a coke can you?

We head off to visit grandma for a couple of hours and upon our return I’m keen to visit the bar and feed the kids who love being out at night… it’s an adventure for them.

After a brief freshen up we head down the sweeping staircase to the bar where I see some cones marked “caution! wet floor”. I look and then look again. Cordoned off with the cones is a trail of vomit about 20 feet long with a larger deposit every 2-3 feet. It’s a magnificent effort… real piss head quality with fantastic distance, lots of bile and pink to boot. I’m thinking ‘stomach lining’ after an afternoon of Cider…

“Excuse me Northern Monkey” I say to our host, “Is that vomit?”

“Aye”…he grunts deciding not to offer any other information. I stare at him and he informs me that a child has spewed and his staff are dealing with it.. This is excellent news and I expect no less from an establishment of this quality.

Years ago I was in a curry house in North London where an refreshed young man chundered on the table and merely covered it with a napkin before continuing to scoop in large mouthfuls of Aloo Gobi… Nobody in there cared to position a cone as a warning… Halcyon days…

We have some bar food in the presence of the sick and the kids find it hilarious… Then we retire to the room for a restless night on a wooden bed so hard that I wake as those my internal organs are being pushed out of my mouth…

The next morning, after reassembling my body, we head for breakfast where against all the Gods of Ecky Thump I’m presented with a continental breakfast…

… Fuck that….

I expect meat so I decide to move outside the parameters of ‘included in the price’ and go for a marvellously described meat fest…

… The plate arrives and it looks suitably Northern so I tuck in. I stare at the hash brown and re read the menu in an attempt to link it to the items on the listed. I hate to bring this to the attention of the residents of Yorkshire but an Iceland Frozen Hash Brown isn’t the ‘crispy bubble and squeak cake’ described in italic font on the menu…. I am undeterred and anyway the sausages made up for it.

We swan off and enjoy the countryside and the open spaces of Yorkshire. It truly is a fantastic place and deserves more recognition from my Soft Southern heart….

Things seem easier here… I’m a bit sick of London and the grief but what could I do here? Farm? Run a pub? Maybe…. How about Armed Robbery?

This moment will pass, when upon our return I see a sign that says ‘London 101’… That’s all it took… I’m an expert in London…

Greatest City in the world….if you ain’t in it you should be…

Tell me about a time when you underperformed…..

1312 hours….. The Freak Box….

As you’d expect the train is empty…. It’s the middle of the day….

I’ve been up since 0642 hours.  I’ve been pacing around like an expectant father desperately trying to recall what you have to do in an interview…That’s right…. an interview.  Not the normal interviews I’m used to where big lumpy Oaf’s refuse to say anything but an interview where I am under the microscope… a job is at stake…a good job..and I want it…

I’m rarely glad to be on a train but today is different as I’ve been in a right mess all morning…I’ve felt sick with worry. For a man with a massive mouth I lack a certain focused confidence and today is my nightmare..  I have to sell myself.

I look in the mirror and remember the words of a trusted associate who suggested the Gareth Cheeseman approach where, when under pressure, he shouts ‘YOU’RE A TIGER!!’ into the mirror at himself before knocking one out for a treat….

…I’m not going to do that….I’m too nervous… instead I sit down and watch ‘Boardwalk Empire’ in my pants as I’m home alone.  I’m a professional…I’ve locked the door…I’ve closed the blinds… I cannot be caught….

The joy of Al Capone killing someone with a statue of the Empire State Building quickly subsides and I’m back in full panic mode where my only friend is the toilet…. It’s pathetic… I’m in my mid 40’s and I’ve turned into a frightened child. I revise what I think I should know but at the back of my head are the words of my father who recently told me..

‘I didn’t bother about your education as it was clear early on that you weren’t up to much’…

..inspiring stuff eh?   Think about that for a minute. Who wants to hear that?  Who deserves that?…maybe someone, somewhere, some scumbag perhaps but not me.

I realise I cant rely on my education to dig me out and so I focus on my bolshiness which may win the day. I manage to regain some semblance of control, I get ready, calm down and leave during a thunderstorm which seems like a sign not to go… alas Canary Wharf awaits..

The journey is under an hour. Revision at this stage is futile so I resign myself to the fact that the CV, the experience and my mouth are the only options…. I start to sweat.  My mouth can be the problem.  My mouth has always been the problem…my mouth will be the problem…

I get to the Wharf via the DLR. It’s magnificent, the future of train travel. It’s completely empty, with no driver which coincidently is weirdly reminiscent of the inside of my head at this moment in time.

I’m a bit early so I calm myself by walking around the shops in the vicinity. This proves to be another bad idea.  There is no place for people like me in any of these shops.  I don’t have the body or the feet for such sharp apparel.  I’m built for comfort not speed.  If I were a vegetable I’d be a turnip…dense, misshapen and earthy… these garments are made for the Asparagus people… sharp, thin, long and tasty.  I’m built for harsh winters not Zinfandel summers and so I apologetically slope out….

My best option is to stand still and observes the punters milling about. I need to relax and perhaps rip the piss out of the mob.  If that was the job I’d be a shoe-in. I’ve got 27 minutes to kill before I am killed in front two people I don’t know after being slowly dissected. I’m not used to this concept but I’ll go with it as it would be unprofessional to walk away at this point.

I decide to position myself by a set of down escalators and watch….

An initial assessment reveals fitted shirts and pointy shoes to be the order of the day. This was expected but I’m shocked at the number of people in this get up given the fact that it’s absolutely pissing down and windy.  I’m suited and booted with additional rain coat…. Obviously I’m sweating like a pregnant nun but I’m expected to look the part for the impending arsehole-ripping I’m about to get… its all about the confidence right?

I look around and see fantastically expensive sandwich shops with queues out the doors. Everyone is involved in the Avocado and crispy bacon on Rye bread with mayo and Swiss cheese mega wrap game and they are happy to let you know it by carrying it about in a bespoke bag made by a cottage industry free trade peasant from a third world country.  I’m starving but just know that if I buy something it will explode all over me and destroy my pristineness and that’s all I’ve got at the minute.

I toy with going to a bar to have a stiff drink…’Dutch Courage’ as it were. The problem with that is that the only odourless drink I can think of is Vodka and my luck would dictate that at the point of ordering I’d be spotted by any imminent interviewer and would be perceived as a pisshead.  It’s too risky so I give it a miss and anyway that’s a slippery slope even this plastic paddy refuses to head down

I continue to stand and watch…. The clock ticks slowly…. 10 minutes before I need to arrive at an early enough time to seem professional  and up for it…. I feel sick…. It’s been 12 years since my last interview to this level with a future employer and it’s clear to me that experience in my job means fuck all…

I scan the crowd and note the preening and the posturing….Is this really me? The Wharf?

It couldn’t be further removed from my life of employment and in particular my current job.  We have Windows XP,  a canteen that sells ‘Buck Rabbit’ and a sign on the gents toilet that says ‘The Shitter’s full’… It’s gritty, harsh and hilarious for a reason whereas this is sparkly, sterile and sleek for show…

The clock ticks on and I decide the time has come…. There is no turning back… I get into character and head to the place of sacrifice where I announce myself to the concierge, or ‘bloke at the counter’ as I would normal refer to him as. Unbelievably he’s never heard of me and so I’m given a visitors pass and am directed to ‘waiting area A’ where I sit and wait to be ‘collected’.

…2 minutes click by….. there’s marble everywhere…. marble and glass and a sweeping staircase.  I’ve been here before in my current job and so at least I’m familiar with my surroundings.

Two me approach me.. one older than the other.  The younger one walks off on his own to prepare the altar and the older one introduces himself to me by calling me by my full Christian name… only my mother does this.  He’s not my mother.

We head up the stairs and bizarrely I spot someone I know who works there in a boardroom we pass….I didn’t wave or bang on the window but feel the need to mention it as I’m getting the hint from his lack of warmth that I’m struggling to impress him in the four sentences we’ve shared….I need a chink of light in the gloom..

We get to the chamber and I’m introduced to torturer number two…. it’s a flaccid, damp, no eye contact handshake…. the worst kind possible but he seems like a nice enough human.  I’m looking for positives and I see it in the form of a bottle of sparkling water…. the bottle has a lovely stopper at the top. As you can tell I have a problem with focus…

I take a deep breath…. sit down….pour a glass of water… and face up to the onslaught… I am Leonidas before the Persians refusing to kneel….

“..Tell me about a specific time when…….”

…and there it is…. the worst possible question to ask me at any time let alone crammed into a room with two blokes who need entertainment….I could be finished before I’ve uttered a syllable….I’m on the rack…

I’m in there an hour and I’ve answered most questions with what I believe to be feeble responses to multi layered, complex,  competency based questions.  By the end I’m feeling fairly dejected and almost apologise for the performance which as Jen tells me later would have been a mistake as I don’t know how bad the other candidates may have been.  She’s the master of turning a negative into a positive…

I leave the chamber and receive the same limp handshakes… there’s no joy here…. I head for the DLR and I don’t look back I’m not keen on the idea of seeing two strangers watch me cross the road with shaking heads and pity.

I scurry away from The Wharf’s slickness to the grit and grime I’m used to….I’m happier in the dirt for now because as you now know I’m not really up to much…..

…we’ll see Pater…..we’ll see….

Traders of the Lost Ark…

Autumnal…. a slight chill in the air and the sun streams down, creating a morning haze.

Perfect. It’s my favourite time of year as it reminds me of roaring fires, bad weather crashing on the window and wearing a fleece…I’m only really happy when I’m in a fleece as I’m a winter person.

I’m striding along listening to some tunes when I see him.  The human embodiment of Canary Wharf, all rosy cheeked with too much product in his hair as it’s essential you look the part on the trading floor when you’re on the phone…

He’s solid…. Lunchtime gym solid….Boxercise solid…. Clearly he’s a man fully capable of the ‘Maximuscle shake’… He’s moving quickly which is quite a feat in brown brogue winkle pickers and a skinny sliver grey suit.  He looks sharp… no tie but he’s travelling so I’ll let it go. I’m thankful that the tie isn’t loosely hanging round the neck in the ‘just left the casino’ way.  At least he hasn’t gone the v-necked jumper, shirt and scarf route which is classic city boy and wholly impractical…

This whole images decays before my very eyes when I spot the big headphones…. why do they exist?  They rarely look good and require a separate bag for transportation purposes.

I work with a bloke who can pull the big headphone look off…I work with others who can’t.  When you wear them with a bald head you look like the bloke in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ who controls Cloud City for Lando Calrissian. When you wear them with hair you just look like you can’t afford decent smaller headphones. I’m sure they sound great but why do they have to be so big?  They draw the eye like a low cut top on an old lady.

As if to take the dairy of the ludicrous ‘phones I then notice his man-bag.  Naturally it’s brown antique leather and he has it strapped across the body like Indiana Jones….I wonder what antiquities lie within? The Golden idol of the Hovito?  The headpiece to the Staff of Ra?  No. Most likely an Iphone 6 and a copy of Men’s Health… any month will do as It’s the same magazine every month.  He’s off at speed, round a corner and gone… we’ll never meet again… it’s a tragedy..

I get to the station and see the all the normal freaks in position.

At the side entrance is the simpering God Squadder.  He’s grasping the hand of an unwilling victim and he seems reluctant to release his grip. He sickens me.  He inflicts himself on people which is unnecessary. If you want religion you will find it without his or anyone’s assistance…it’s a personal choice.  I take the thrusting of God on people quite badly.  I like early Van Halen but if you don’t that’s you’re problem not mine… you’re missing out …It’s a matter for you…

This is a weird station. It seems to be controlled by a whoop (to be fair I’m guessing at the collective noun) of 1970’s rock fans who hang around the ticket office in underground uniform.  Like most worshippers of The late Crow they serve little purpose but ooze self importance, roll ups and Carling Black Label.  They sport mullets and lank pony tails and large dark framed glasses.  It’s how I imagine Uriah Heap looking after the glory days had ended and they needed work, or that ‘League of Gentleman’ character who was in the rock band ‘Crème Brulee’.  A motley band of saddo’s longingly waiting for a return to the good old days….It’s a shit business guys….

I get on the train which is deader than a dead thing…

0738 Hours….. The Freak Box…..

A few waifs appear in the carriage and we prepare for take off…

Two stops in and I find my self sitting opposite a student type girl wearing a pair of leggings and a silver biker jacket. In its self this is not wholly unusual, she’s a student intent on making her mark on this train and I’m always pleased to see the unusual….It’s a happy arrangement…everyone smiles internally…

The jacket appears to be spray painted silver. This reminds me of a story my Bruv told me once of his fashion faux pas in the 70’s when he purchased some Doc Martens to spray silver a’la ‘Space Rock Rebel’.  He buys the boots, gets home, unpacks the boots…removes the laces and sprays them silver.  He re-laces them and puts them on….. Ahhhh…. Two left feet…. Flat spin panic takes over… What would you do?  He knows what to do…He was trained by the best.  He drops them in some white spirit to remove the paint and then sheepishly tries to return them.  At the shop he gets all ‘I’d like a refund…I’ve changed my mind’ and nearly gets away with it until the assistant notices the famous Doc Marten stitching is silver…. Rumbled..

There are no such issues with the jacket before me… it’s a professional job. The leggings she’s wearing are freaking me out though as they are designed to look like leg bones with attached pelvis. It’s disturbing and really taking my attention away from her magnificent ‘Flock of Seagulls’ haircut.  She looks different which is what it’s all about when you are young.

Before her sits me…. Mr North Face…bland and uninteresting but warm and ready for any weather that may come my way on a tube train.  In the event of a new ice age starting at street level I’ll be ready… Who’ll be laughing then?

Mrs Mothballs gets on and sits next to me….The classic smell of your Nan’s house. Surely she can smell herself? It’s a bit like Damp Clothes guy, Garlic man and Musty Crotch Tramp… Deep down they all know and should apologise to their fellow travellers in writing….it’s unnecessary.

The train is nicely busy now and as we pull into a station I notice a man wearing two pairs of glasses reading a book. Not a pair on his head and another on his eyes, he’s wearing two pairs while reading a book.  This is a first for me. His eyes are so bad Specsavers were unable to fashion the necessary and so special measures were initiated.  I’m side on to him and so can see pair number one are close to the eye sockets, while pair number two are on the furthest possible part of the bridge of the nose… I’d love to see him head-on all wide eyed and mental…

I alight at my station and take a pamphlet and a nicely bound religious tome from the sensible shoed woman at the exit of my station. They must think that I’m well into their beliefs as I try to get one at lease twice a week… Little do they know that my actual plan is to put them out of business by hoarding the books under my desk at work… It could take a while but I’m in for the long haul, I’m a professional dismantler….

I do some stuff at work which breaks the monotony of drinking tea and moaning about the lack of biscuits and decide that after the requisite minimum hourage I can leave. No one stops me.  No one ever stops me. It’s too easy and I need a change of employer as this isn’t good for me or them.  Plans are afoot…

I sit on an empty train home. There are four people in my segment and we are all split by a spare seat signifying we want nothing to do with each other.  It’s the tube equivalent of Gentleman’s urinal etiquette.

A young woman gets on. She’s carrying a rucksack and starts to walk through the carriage.  As she gets closer I notice that she’s carrying something. It doesn’t appear to be a big red button marked ‘detonate’ so I relax, uncurl myself from the ball I have put myself in and carry on reading the paper.

She gets to our segment and deposits what she is holding on every empty seat available.  After this drop-off she stands at the end of the carriage and waits.  I look down to see what is on the seat next to me and see that it’s a packet of tissues covered with a typed note pleading for monetary assistance as she’s young mother in need of cash… there’s a mention of God in the narrative so I engage my disgusted face.

The note says she has a one year old child and would be grateful for a few pennies for the tissues to assist in her quest to become a tissue saleswoman… I don’t need tissues… I don’t need God.

It’s a sad scenario and indicative of the state of the nation but essentially it’s a load of cobblers… I mean, where is the kid? how much is she paying the babysitter? How did she buy the tissues? How much credit is on her Oyster card? How did she print out the note?  What computer did you use to type it on? How much was that North Face ‘Jester’ 20 litre rucksack?… It doesn’t wash with me… I toy with asking these questions but she realises that this carriage doesn’t need tissues and so she snaffles the parcels up and moves on,  she may have none of my loose change but she has nice tissues and a quality rucksack….

Yeah, I know…. I’m a cold hearted animal… unfortunately I was made that way by life and my employers.  Be thankful… I say this stuff so you don’t have to.  It’s my job.  It’s what I do.  I’m a idiot.

If it’s any consolation I now have a throat infection and a cold and so could really do with those tissues…maybe there is a God…

Carry on Citizens….