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Sunday, October 30, 2011


i know i shoulnd't take adverts seriously but every now and then i find myself despising them.
luckily i don't watch much tv so i don't get to see that many of them.

any street cred iggy pop ever had went out the window with his adverts selling insurance. he has gone beyond irritating. i just want to hear that he has crashed and his insurance company isn't paying out.

what has really gotten my goat recently is all the american ads that appear with a british voice over telling us how we need to buy this or that because it is essential to our daily lives and that if we buy the this or that we will be just like the people in the ads.
no we won't they are american and we aren't.
i don't want to be american.
never have done, never will do.
sure i would like to go back to new york again - but that is it.
if you have to sell me something aspirational then at least make it so it is aspirational and in the uk.

while i agree that my life does need sprucing up, that i do need a little excitement injected into it i do not for one minute think that by having a smart phone of any make it will happen. i don't think that beause i can look at a colour screen and use my finger to move that screen out of the way so another screen shows is going to turn me from billy-no-mates in the the life and soul of the party.
perhaps that is why there are so many wankers who walk down the street staring into their phones and not paying a blind bit of attention to where they are going - they all waiting for the next event to happen to them rather than concentrating on what is before them.

i kinda hope they get run over in some aspiratinonal style car.

now that would make an advertising campaign.

Friday, October 28, 2011


on my day of days i just want to wish everyone well.
to friends past and present.
right now i am off to have a celebratory cup of coffee.

normal snidey snarky service will be resumed shortly.


i remember the first date.
i have been in lust pretty much every day of my adult life.
love? been in love once.
i met annemarie in college we were both doing the same degree. she hung around with a different group and we only really chatted because a mutual pal was into comics. i concentrated on my studies (i was good that way) and didn’t notice that she had dropped out of college.
the next time i saw her she was working in forbidden planet as a till jockey. we chatted. i got my comics that day at a greatly reduced price. from that point i saw her quite regularly. i spent more time chatting to her while she was at the till, it seemed only polite as i was getting my comics cheap.
we went out for a christmas drink. she was wearing a red jumper and red tartan trousers.
i did some babysitting for her, while she started back doing her degree on an evening course.
i finished my degree. got a place at the london school of economics.
annemarie turned up at my parents place one evening just as i was recovering from a run. i was a less than pretty sight. in fact a total sweat monster. fortunately i had stopped the huffing and puffing. as ever mum did the tea and sandwiches thing. annemarie was wearing a paddington bear style duffel coat, jeans, dunlop green flash, brown combat socks (true they could have been green) a brown jumper, and blue glasses.
i walked her to the station and took the tube from south harrow to holloway to make sure she got home. i came back.
christmas was coming on fast.
she invited me over one night, she had some canadians staying: two loud women who just ‘loved england’. when it was time for me to go one of them told me not to go and stay. i did. the canadians went to sleep in annemarie’s room. annemarie and i stayed up chatting, for quite a lot of the night. for some odd reason we also wrestled. i was a gentleman and i let her win. i spent the night on a camp bed that felt like it was going to break at any moment. this wasn’t helped by the cat who wanted to attack my sheets.
i didn’t get much sleep.
a few nights later i slept over again. we chatted and chatted.
i spent christmas at home with mum and dad.
i decided to ask annemarie if she wanted to go see a movie. i was asking her out on a date. she said yes.
we were going to see ‘back to the future’ at screen on the green. it would be a brisk walk to the cinema and back.
i got there in a timely fashion, unusual for me. it was a chilly night. i was wearing a nice cashmere overcoat that my dad had liberated from the club he was working in.
i knocked. no answer.
i knocked again. no answer.
i laughed to myself i was being stood up.
i knocked one more time.
eventually annemarie’s flatmate came and let me.
i sat in the front room with the flatmate (who had only just moved in because annemarie needed money), she was from africa and was busy laughing at a carry on movie (up the khyber), it was the first time she had seen them. i have to say i laughed too.
annemarie appeared and we made our way to the cinema. we both enjoyed the movie. we both enjoyed the chocolate brownies that they served there. it was a good night.
i stayed over that night. we chatted and ate cheese on toast.
that was our first date.
shortly after that night annemarie decided that i was too dense to know what was going on, she was right. she made the first move. i was no longer free and single – now i was involved and a stepdad.
funny how love goes.
because i never got to take annemarie to see back to the future 2, i have never watched the sequels. i have never watched the whole of the first one since then,
i have been in love the once.
once was enough.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


i remember buying a pvc shirt
back in the day i liked to go to fetish clubs (who are you calling a pervert… oh me, probably right). ah the simple pleasure of the fetish clubs lovely ladies in rubber, pvc and leather – what is there not to like? well there are a few things wrong with them – generally the music played by the djs is shit, they are always far too hot and the dress code applies to all – which meant that i had to dress in something suitable.
i may not have told you this but i am a sweat monster – even the mildest summer has me dripping. so you can imagine what i was like.
my chosen outfit was a simple ensemble of rubber shorts and rubber t-shirt, i looked like a kinky version of the staypuff marshmallow man (who ya gonna call?) and i sweated as if i were in a sauna. not nice.
i hit upon a clever idea of getting myself a pvc shirt. i was pretty sure i could get one in extra large and with pockets. that would solve all my problems. i was a genius.
such a simple idea.
how could it go wrong?

first port of call was a shop called honour – they had exactly what i wanted. i made my way there. i was giddy with excitement. i found the top i wanted. i found the size i wanted: extra large. i am not a particularly big man, though i am carrying a few more pounds than i should. so i carry the shirt into a changing room. i strip off to the waist and i put the shirt on.
i should say: i try to put the shirt on.

i get my left arm in. i try to put my right arm in and i get it about half way into the sleeve and then i am stuck. i am trapped half in and half out of this pvc shirt. i feel a sense of dread beginning. i can’t get my right arm any further into the sleeve, but i can’t seem to extract it either. i feel nervous sweat break out. now i have the worry of ripping a shirt that i don’t want to buy because it is too small.
extra fucking large my fucking sweaty arsehole.
do i cry out for help? what do i do? i am stuck like a kinky houdini. i wriggle. i shake. i squirm. i am trying to escape from the pvc trap and i am having no luck.
don’t panic mr. pat.
somehow i begin to feel my right arm come out from the sleeve; inch by inch i free myself from it.
at last i get it off.
i couldn’t even get it over my shoulders, let alone try to button it up.
extra fucking large my fucking musky ball sack.

i am not one to give up. there are other places to try.

i next try a shop called rob. they didn’t have the type of shirt i wanted. the sales assistant decided that he would show me some alternatives. hey i’m game. first problem is that they have little that is extra large. he finds a leather waistcoat type thing. i give it ago. no problems with the arms and shoulders. so this time we are ahead of the game. ah the rotund belly is an issue. the assistant is giving up. he huffs and puffs and somehow manages to squeeze me into it and zip it up. i wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending an evening in something that was a cross between a corset and straightjacket. i declined the garment.
he suggested that i get something made to measure.
i wanted to suggest that they learn the definition of extra large.

i thought i would have more luck in expectations. it is a basement store that caters for a very active hardcore gay customer base. there is the heady smell of rubber and leather hanging over the place.
i find a heavy rubber hoodie. it might have fitted and it might have been nice – but it would have been my own personal sauna. they have a number of shirts in leather and rubber, but nothing in my size. i find a rubber vest. perhaps i will just go with the vest. yeah i know it isn’t what i wanted but it would be cooler than the t-shirt.
i’ll try it on. i’ll leave my t-shirt on. i get my head through the top; i get both arms in and then start pulling it down over my chest. it gets stuck. what the fuck. it hasn’t even gotten below my shoulders. c’mon. this is just taking the piss. hold on a moment i can’t get it back up either. so here i am in a basement surrounded by leather and rubber clothes and i am tangled up in a rubber vest. i am struggling to get the darned thing off. it seems to be getting tighter – i have an anaconda of a rubber vest on me. this is wrong.
oh fuck someone is coming. a couple of blokes are looking around. phew they don’t want clothes they want the toys.
need to get this off me. now.
i wrestle myself to the floor doing an impression of the taz the tasmanian devil trying to get this thing off of me. with some jiggery pokery i managed to get it off along with my t-shirt. success. it takes me another minute or so to free my t-shirt from the rubber vest.
as i returned the vest to its hanger i decided that i wouldn’t bother getting a new pvc shirt.

what did i learn from this?
that the fashion world has a misguided conception of what extra large is – for the fashionistas it seems to be little more than a bit bigger than medium.
i also learnt that in certain shops there were a number of very large sized toys, all with names like henry, albert and charles which just to look at made my eyes water quite what they would be like if you inserted them i have no idea. i am not going to try.

i never did get that pvc shirt. doesn’t matter now – my clubbing days are long behind me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


i remember the day i should have quit.
it was a monday, a day like any other day (hold on that is a bad start as i am quoting foreigner lyrics), but it was a monday and it was like any other monday. i was running a little late (nothing new there), i knew i had a lot of time sensitive stuff to do: the weekly mail out, stock lists and look at what needed to be ordered. a fair chunk of work, nothing unusual. nothing a few cups of coffee wouldn’t get me through.
i clocked in. checked i had no post. walked to my office.
i had to pass my manager’s very neat and very precise desk. he stopped me and told me not to start anything as there was a meeting in the conference room (a grand term for just another office with a lot of tables in it). he gave me the look that said ‘no arguments’. he didn’t use the look very often. i had no idea what it was about.
i made a coffee. strong and black.
then went to the conference room.
there to be greeted by cindy, our american vp of operations; john h, our general manager (both of whom had come down from warrington); john n, my manager and ros, our books consultant.
and little old me.
they were all seated around the table; i sat at the head of the table.

a little bit of background: diamond had decided that it couldn’t just rely on being a comic distributor to comic shops, a wise move, and so had embarked on a plan of diversification. on the one hand they established diamond select toys in order to manufacture and source toys that would appeal both to comic fan and to the high street buyer.
they also set up diamond book distributors (dbd) the plan was to sell graphic novels into the high street and to the online retailers. it was a bold move. though to be honest it was nothing new, back in the days when we were titan mike lake (the owner) had hit upon the idea to sell this stuff to bookshops. it was a simple idea that hit a large number of complications.
move forward a few years and we are now diamond. we are still discussing how we get graphic novels in the high street. a few of us do some investigating and get some answers. it doesn’t really move on from there. we do the london book fair. i go a little ott on the books we take along. steep learning curve.
dbd has established itself in the states. time to roll it out over here.
they decide that they don’t want to go in house looking for people to run it. they are going to hire experts. fair enough.
interviews are held. two people are chosen. one is going to be the lead off person, going to set up base camp and break new ground. the other is going to join later and is going to be the second in command who once the whole thing is up and running will take over and forge ahead with it.
simple plan.

ros is chosen to be the instigator. she is on a 6 month, very lucrative contract, to establish dbd in the uk. you can see why she has been given the job: cut glass posh, very confident and very much in with the book crowd. she is to be followed by simon; again you can see why he has been chosen very much the young go-getter brimming with cocky confidence and a love of comics.

ros was quick to tell us how the book market is much more sophisticated than the comic market as it has process in place for the forward ordering of books. she set about learning a little bit about how diamond worked, she had her ‘day book’ in which she wrote down things that she learnt, or seemed important to her.

about a month later simon joined a gung-ho bundle of energy. all smiles and enthusiasm and rearing to go.
now dbd in the states had set up a rather nifty database that collated all the information for the books they could sell and also provided you with detailed breakdowns of sales made. compared with what we had i was frankly very jealous.
this is when the problems started to become apparent. it seemed that no one in the interview stage had bothered to discover if either of them was computer literate. they weren’t. ooops. ironic really when you consider how much more sophisticated the books market was. simon, to his credit, made the effort to learn how to use excel and the dbd database. ros was very happy to rely on others for all the pertinent information.
as the months rolled by not much was happening, to quote ros there was a lot of sizzle but not a lot of sausage. what little we did find out both nick w and i had already told senior managers many months ago.
after awhile even simon was complaining about her.
i am not sure what it was that triggered it. i was probably rude to her or it may have been that i didn’t give her the answer she wanted. i don’t remember. either way it resulted with me being in a room with four people.

so there i was confronted with the two johns, cindy and ros.
i was the villain of the piece.

it was couched in terms of how i was trying to undermine the dbd effort. now i am the first to admit i wasn’t overly keen on how dbd customers were getting a much better deal than our core customers, who were in effect subsidising the dbd project. our customers bought firm sale and most of them on 35% discount. dbd customers bought sale or return and at 50%. i was annoyed that any returns ended up counting toward diamond’s figures. i was told we were all one company – but it never seemed to be one company when it was dbd’s success – then it was just the wonderful work of ros and simon.
this went back and forth. i told them it didn’t matter to me as this was all stevie g’s money (steve being the owner of the company) and he choose to use it how he liked, i was just here to do my job, and i pointed out that at no time had i not done the work required or asked of me by dbd.
in the end i said it wasn’t a case of not liking dbd or not wanting it to succeed it was down to the fact that i didn’t like ros and i didn’t like the fact that everyone else was doing the work for her.
that pretty much ended the meeting.
i went back to my office and tried to get on with my work.

what i should have done was tell them i am going home because i have a migraine and i will be back next week when it is better, you have till then to work out a redundancy package for me and then left the building.

because i expected more from people i had worked with for years.
cindy i had known for quite a while – she was a vp who came over to england every so often to see how things were getting on. she was doing her job to make sure everything was worked out.
john h was the general manager – i had worked with him for a number of years. i had a lot of respect for him because of the way he had handled a bunch of redundancies from the company – he had gone into bat for the staff against the americans and got a better deal for them. on a personal note when my mum died he was gracious in the time he let me take off and no trying to rush me back to work.
john n i had known for over 15 years. i wouldn’t say we were buddies but we shared a number of likes and over the years had lent each other music and film, had gone to a few gigs. most importantly he was my manager.

both the johns knew the meeting was going to happen because they had to arrange for cindy and john h to be in london for it. both of them had listened to ros, both of them had chosen to believe ros. neither one of them had bothered to speak to me first, to hear my side of the story. i was pretty much guilty before proven innocent. ros had her say without being on trial – me i just got to respond to accusations.

as i sat in my office trying to find the desire to do the day’s work i realised i no longer respected my managers: they hadn’t even done me the courtesy of speaking to me first. i realised that i no longer trusted the company.

i have to doff my cap to cindy – she alone came into the office after the meeting to see me and to ask how i felt about it all. she had no need to, but she did. credit to her.

from the two johns? nothing.nada. zip.
it was as if it hadn’t happened.

that was the day i should have quit. it was also the event that was in the back of my mind when i did eventually quit when i perhaps made the worst decision of my adult life.
but hey – you live and learn.

(oh and if you want my opinion the book market could learn a hell of a lot from the way the comic market works, because from what i saw sophisticated it ain’t).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


i remember the break up

actually this isn’t about the break up, as such. this is about a night down the pub the week it had happened.
the break up itself was traumatic, well for me, for her it was a piece of piss. i sort of knew it was coming. did my best to prevent it; no luck.
naturally the week it happened i was in less than a good mood. bears with sore heads were better company than i. i threw myself into work. at first i tried to deny it and then i just told people. i think i sounded like a whiney sixth former (though i didn’t do any poetry; i was tempted).
at the end of the week a lot of us would trudge off down to the beehive public house. our general manager, robbo, was dating the landlady. it was a traditional pub that served those that lived on the housing estate as well as those of us who worked in the light industrial estate that backed onto the houses.

it was a pub where we once held a retailer event at which robbo and his lady put on a rational east end pub grub fare. no one went near the very large mound of eels in jelly. it looked like a work of art that damien hirst would have been proud of, but no one wanted to taste it.

it was a pub that several people deserted for awhile because the girl of their dreams had taken offense at something someone may or may not have said to her, or near her. it didn’t matter because clodagh the golden haired siren had spoken so like lambs to the slaughter they followed her to another pub just to bask in her glory. they would eventually return to the beehive.

it was a pub where one night i was involved in a conversation with three of my colleagues which started with one of them asking: “do you masturbate in front of your partners” (he couldn’t call them girlfriends as that would be showing possession). that led to a fair bit of spluttering and mumbling as answers were avoided. to his credit he didn’t give up and kept asking. he didn’t get answer as everyone tried to move the conversation on to safer ground.

it was also the pub where on one friday night we watched robbo and his lady perform the sloppiest of kissing. they were like two teenagers in heat. the general feeling was that public display of affection deserved public commentary. this would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact several of the group were pissed as news. rude and obnoxious didn’t cover it. out of order didn’t come close. it was a night where it snowed. so one of us wrote ‘wanker’ in the snow on the roof of his car (sadly while the snow had melted by morning the legend remained in the dirt on the roof) while another decided to have a piss on the radiator. he was spotted doing it from one of the windows. ah the jolly japes. to make matters worse it just so happened that several of us turned up to work on the saturday, including robbo. it was decided that we should man up and apologise to him. to robbo’s credit he wasn’t making a big issue out of it, which i think made it worse. my desk was near his office so i watched as a couple of people wandered into his office to apologise. i was going to do mine just before i left. tim, one of the culprits, was the only other person left in the warehouse. he walked to robbo’s office, knocked on the door, put his head in and said: “about last night. we were bang out of order. sorry.” then he left.
i couldn’t match that. so i never said sorry.

as we were locking up robbo invited me down to the pub for a drink. i declined.

anyway back to the story.

most fridays it was packed.
this friday was no exception.

i was as close as i had ever been to wanting to drink. drink and drown my sorrows. we gathered around a bunch of tables. people avoided me. they must have known what i was going to be like. i don’t blame them.
i do blame them for what they let happen: the bastards.
i was sitting there shell shocked. as far as i was concerned my life was over. my dreams shattered. i wanted to mope and moan. i wanted to whinge and whine. instead i got gareth. it is hard to describe gareth. imagine gary numan without the personality, but with the intensity. he would occasionally wear eye-liner; he would always throw shapes with his body when he talked like some mutant version of william shatner’s kirk. worse than that gareth could be boring. boring as hell.
but tonight he asked about the break-up and i started to tell him. this is what i needed. this is what i wanted. an outpouring. a gushering. a cathartic explosion.

what i got was gareth telling me about how his wife had screwed him over.
how his wife had taken him to the cleaners.
how his wife he done the dirty on him.
how he low he felt.
how he had suffered.
him. him. him. him. him.

no it should have been about me.
he went on and on and on. and on and on and on. and on some more, and then more.
the whole fucking night.
not one of my mates. not one of my pals. not one of my friends came to save me. bastards.
there i was my world fallen down around me and gareth moaning and droning on and on and on.

drone. drone. drone. drone.
white fucking noise.

as the night wore on i was closer and closer to crying out give me a bottle of vodka to drown my misery and so once i had finished the bottle i could use it to clout gareth over the head to shut him up.
but no. no drink. no violence. just the thought of it. it was all that kept me sane as he droned on and on and on about how bad his break up had been.

i am sure on any other night i would have been sympathetic, but not on this night. this night was supposed to be me. me being the sad sack crying into his cups bemoaning the fate of the world. instead i was fight to keep the will to live as the drone went on.

the only thing i can say about it was that by the time i left the pub that night i didn’t feel much worse off.

i guess i should have been thankful for some small mercies.


i remember gold’s gym
there was a time when i was a gym rat. i loved doing weights. i would pump iron happily even though i knew i was never ever going to have a sculpted defined physique (those damned doughnuts).
when i was studying at the london school of economics i went to gold’s gym in great newport street. i would finish my studies go to the gym work out and then go home (after a visit to some bookshops and record stores).
the thing about gold’s gym was that it was a bodybuilder’s gym. it was hardcore. there were machines there but mostly there were lots of loose weights for people to do their many many reps. so there were lots of people there who had biceps the size of a baby’s head.
on one occasion i was working out quite hard. i was hitting my thighs quite hard. squats and leg presses. then it hit me a wave of nausea. cold sweat merged with the hot sweat of the work out. i stopped what i was doing to go outside to get a breath of fresh air (well as fresh as you can get in the busy heart of central london). i was bent over double trying to get my breath and settle my guts and hoping i wasn’t going to hurl. i was there for several minutes. then from the gym a little old woman came out to tell me that the gym management didn’t want people giving the gym a bad name. i suppose they were worried that my washed out pale face made me look like a drug addict.
one day i was there and a very large brute of a man was working out. he was obviously very hard core and very much working out to get himself into bodybuilding competition shape. his sweat pants ripped into shorts, big work boots on, the arms of his check shirt torn off. he was doing curls, very slow and very precise. large veins and sinews working over even larger muscles. he had a nice rhythm to his work. a big grunt at the end of his set. weights thrown to the floor. very impressive. as i watched one of the lithe girls who worked out at the gym went over to him. they were obviously friends. she was telling him about her latest casting call. he listened. then replied.
‘oooh i know, he is such a rotter.’ even larry grayson had a butcher voice. the fey feminine voice seemed so wrong coming from this hulk of a man. luckily i didn’t laugh.
i have to confess that i have a thing for muscular women. i also have a thing for women’s shoulders, yeah i know odd. so i was working out on my lats. using the lat pull down machine. i was trying hard to control the movement. keeping it slow, feeling the burn in the muscles as they contract and relax. keeping the breathing just right. one. two. three. work that muscle.
i finished my set. a voice asked if they could work in with me. i turned to the voice and there stood carolyn cheshire, at the time she was a quite famous british bodybuilder.
sure i said.
she sat down. took out the peg in the stack of weights i was using, or more accurately struggling with, and placed it ten or 12 slots below the weight i had used. she worked the weight smoothly and easily. none of the struggle i had. i was in awe as i watched her work. i stared at her back as the muscles coiled under her tanned skin. it was all i could do not to go over to her and lick her shoulders. as much as it was a chance missed it was probably a wise move on my part.
i have long since left the gym behind me and the doughnuts have taken their toll.
maybe it is time to start exercising again.

Monday, October 24, 2011


i remember porn shops.
the reason i wanted to go into the west end may have been to go and buy comics from ‘dark they were and golden eyed’ but it didn’t take me long to discover the porn shops that were close by.
now this was when old compton street wasn’t full of bars and eateries, when it seemed that every shop sold porn.
at first i resisted the urge to go into the shops. i would just go along old compton street and window shop. the windows would be full of magazines promising untold delights (or at least naughty titillation). the windows of old compton street even became a tourist attraction for several of the teenagers from northolt high we would go there either to buy comics from ‘dark they were’ or to buy albums from our price records; maybe we would have been going into foyles, with its archaic system of buying and paying for books. once we had done our business we would wander along to the street of dirty dreams and peer in each and every window to look at the range of magazines that were on display.
some we would find funny (the one that sticks in my mind is the one of the two naked couples on the cover. the two women kneeling down, the two men standing behind them their cock and balls resting on the girls heads, even in my teenage years that was pretty much a what the fuck image), some would be phwoartastic and a few would make you go ‘noooooo’. (remember this was long before the days of political correctness and long before the clean up soho campaign was even a twinkle in someone’s eye).
it wasn’t long before i decided that i had to go inside these aladdin’s caves of porn and sample the wonders inside.
it was a sunday. it was a porn store in walker’s court.
i went passed the shop a couple of times. should i go in? should i stay go home?
i was nervous when i walked in. would they kick me out? would they know me? would they know it was my first time? lots of thoughts ran through my mind.
and then i was confronted with all the magazines. what a choice. all manner of sexual acts. some in colour. some in black and white (must be art). i browsed. i flicked. i read. i looked. i thumbed.
and i bought.
just as i was about to leave i felt a hand on my bum. i turned and looked and there was a little middle aged man who then winked at me. i kept my composure and left the shop and walked to the next corner, turned into and ran for dear life.
when i got home i was as nervous as anything in case my mum knew i had a porn magazine in my bag. she didn’t. that was the first of my stash.
by the time the year was out i had visited all the porn shops in soho.
i still make the occasional trip to the few remaining soho porn shops – but the excitement and thrill of it has all gone.
i guess now i am too old for it.


i remember coffee.
i love coffee. some might even say i was addicted to it. they are probably right. when i was working i would be happy to down 5, 10 or more cups of black coffee a day. when i go out to a coffee shop i will indulge in a latte or mocha.
i discovered coffee at the bbc.
my dad got me a summer job there. i was a kitchen porter. very glam work i can tell you. if i wasn’t running around clearing the canteen tables i was elbow deep in dishes. (mmm thinking about this might have been where my aversion to cleaning first appeared).
you won’t be surprised to know that the bbc’s canteen was a busy place so there were lots of plates to collect and clean.
work. work. work.
plates. scrub. plates. scrub.
when all that was done tables to be cleaned.
work. work. work.
it was during a lunch break that i had my first coffee. i was probably scoffing on a large turkey sandwich (they were very nice) and then i had my damascus moment a large white mug of strong steaming black coffee.
second cup.
third cup.
more, more. more. more.
how lucky was i? i got to rub shoulders with the stars (well a few of them) and i discovered coffee. oh yeah baby.
it took me a week or two to realise that the reason i couldn’t sleep was due to my heavy consumption of coffee.
ah live and learn.
i have never looked back and i am still drinking too much coffee.


i remember star trek
before i went out with annemarie i acted as a babysitter to her kid. for several thursdays i would go over to her place and entertain the kid while she went off and did her evening classes.
now i have always been a fan of star trek, well classic star trek i was never keen on next gen – it was too serious. there was something about kirk, spock and mccoy that always appealed. during my junior school days we would play at star trek which would involve us running around, shooting our phasers and having mock fights. oddly this was how we also played hawaii 5-0 and the high chaparral.
while i liked star trek i could never been considered to be a trekkie or a trekker, though it was a close run thing as i did start down the road of being one of them. for me it was a great tv programme that was science fiction and i did love my science fiction.
anyway back to that thursday evening.
i arrived to look after the kid. annemarie leaving to go to class.
it was a winter’s evening. cold and dark outside. his best friend was away so it was a lego night. i had the tv on so i could watch star trek… these are the voyages of the starship enterprise. he was making something or another with lego and babbling about something or another. i was doing that adult thing of pretending to pay attention while watching the tv.
needless to say it was an episode that i had already seen before, that was beside the point i still enjoyed watching it. it was another one where kirk would save the day.
i tried to get the kid interested in the tv; he just ignored it because his lego craft had grown to critical mass.
it just so happened that once star trek finished on bbc2 street hawk was starting on itv. street hawk just happened to be one of the kid’s favourite shows (no doubt he played at it when he was in school). the tv was turned over just in time to catch the credits of street hawk.
lego was put down.
babbling stopped.
attention on the tv.
dead quiet.
he watched and watched.
the first ad break came and he turned to me: “i don’t like star trek it is all made up. street hawk is real and is the brother of airwolf and knight rider.”
there was little i could say to that.
(many years later – long after i had stopped seeing annemarie i was contacted by her she wanted to know if i could get the kid tickets to see the new star trek movie. i could. i did. i felt like my mission had been completed).

Sunday, October 23, 2011


i remember getting pierced.
there was a period of time at diamond when body modification was all the rage. we carried a number of magazines and books about tattoos, piercing and such like. many of the staff were either recovering from or planning their next tattoo or piercing.
the majority of those wanting tattoos opted for celtic knots or tribal, often they would design their own which ended up looking like a big squiggle done with a marker pen). (oh yes there was a lot of tat snobbery around – one of the chaps got a fantastic traditional rose done on his arm, the ink work was exquisite but it was dismissed by the tribal crowd because it was old fashioned).
the last tattoo i had done wasn’t the best experience i ever had. that in itself was strange as i was very excited about getting it, i really liked the design and i trusted the tattooist. somehow it wasn’t as much fun as i thought it was. it hurt. it was a bugger to look after. all in all it was a drag. the tattoo itself came out as well as i expected it to and i still like it now. i just didn’t enjoy getting it done.
so when the urge came upon me to have more ink i looked around for images that would make interesting tats. i had several pieces i quite liked; i even had a mad plan for a dragon that would go from my ankle to my shoulder (i had obviously been reading too much ‘crying freeman’).
yet as much as i looked at them i couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to get one of them done.
then it struck me like a bolt out of the blue. i would get my nipples pierced.
yeah that would be a good idea.
i asked a couple of my work colleagues who they would recommend. with their tips in place i located a place, made an appointment and booked time off work.
come the fateful day i was nervous.
i went to the piercers. it was a very hip place. very clean and very professional. so on that level i was happy. i was still nervous though.
i get called. i am shown through into a big room with a large dentist’s chair in the middle of it. this didn’t help me at all. i hate dentists. odd thoughts flew about my head. nervous and scared now.
the piercer started to chat to me, asking me why i was getting them done. i told him that i couldn’t find a tattoo i wanted so i decided to try piercing instead. he showed me his tattooed arms – both, he told me, variations on maori designs, in truth it just looked like someone had drawn lots of black triangles on his arms.
by this stage he had cleaned down the chair. got all his gear together and was just waiting on me. i took of my top and sat in the chair. it was a mild day but i was sweating like the proverbial pig. i was slick with sweat.
his first thing was to clamp the nipple, then mark them. his clamps were not sweat proof and then slid off. once. twice. three times. turned out fourth time was the charm. there i sat with a medical clamp attached to my nipple. he was taking out the needle he was going to use, i am sure there is a technical term for it, but for me it was long and sharp so needle will do. he lined it up against the mark he had made. i could feel the point jabbing into my flesh.
all i was hoping for was that i didn’t squeal like a piggy, that i didn’t cry like a baby and that i didn’t soil myself.
he pushed. i could hear the flesh ripping. the sound was worse than the pain i felt. for such a little thing it seemed to take forever for the needle to go through the nipple. a bit more pressure and he was through. a wiggle and waggle and he pulled it out and lo and behold i had a pierced nipple with a ring through it.
i had to get up and walk around the place to get my breath back. i may not have cried like a baby but i was acting like one. it gave the bloke a chance to dry the chair down from my sweat. if i had been damp with sweat before now i was positively drenched.
second one seemed to go much smoother.
the rending sound of the flesh being ripped was still horrible. it sounded like the wrenching of ripe fruit when you bite a chunk out of a peach or an apple.
he told me i would be high on endorphins later in the day.
he was wrong – i went home and slept.
i was very pleased with them, but never let anyone tell you that it doesn’t hurt.
sadly they didn’t last long, i didn’t look after them as well as i should have done and somehow i managed to keep banging the rings against things in the gym or in the warehouse. eventually they grew out.
still i can’t complain i have nice smiley nipples now and more often than not they stay erect. always a silver lining.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


i remember that you had to be there.
a long time back monty python did a sketch about the most dangerous joke in the world, so funny you would laugh yourself to death. on one bright afternoon i experienced a mutated strain of that joke.
when i was a teen i was quite a funny bloke (yes i know people who tell you that they are funny are generally not, in this case i am telling the truth) i have no idea why i stopped being funny, it coincided with my move from being sociable to curmudgeonly.
there i was in my office. it was a big office with an air conditioning (how i miss that) i was probably looking at some spreadsheets when the phone rang. it was jim. jim was one of the co-owners of forbidden planet international and someone i considered to be a friend. we had known each other for a long time. we shared a love of comics, movies and music. besides that he was a bruce willis fan; that made him ok in my book.
he probably called to place an order or to make a complaint. as with every call we spent a fair amount of time chewing the fat, shooting the breeze and chatting shit.
i think i had recently been to visit a couple of the shops he owned and that is how we got around to the incident.
jim told me his story.
even before the end we were laughing. jim was having trouble finishing his story. all that mattered was that we both found it funny. more than funny it was hilarious.
we laughed.
we laughed some more.
the laughing verged on mania.
just as one of us would be stopping the other would say (well try to) something and that would be us off on it again.
i was laughing so hard my ribs were hurting, i think i was close to tearing a muscle in my or two in my stomach. there were tears rolling down my cheeks. i could feel a vein throbbing in my temple.
i could hear jim grasping for breath.
neither of us could say a word without doubling up.
the door of my office opened in walked a colleague. she said she had come in to see what the noise was all about. that just made me laugh more. she sat down and watched. i just kept laughing.
she smiled and then started laughing.
that made it all worse.
she walked out of the office shaking her head. a few others popped their heads in to see what was going on.
didn’t matter to me i was too busy laughing.
i have no idea how long we were laughing. eventually it came to an end.
unlike those in the python sketch i survived but i hurt.
i don’t think i have ever laughed so hard or for so long since.
there is no point trying to explain what it was that was so funny. every time i have tried to explain it people just look at me as if i am mad.
i guess you just had to be there.

Friday, October 21, 2011


i remember doughnuts.
i have a sweet tooth. i blame my dad.
when it comes to teeth my dad and i were the perfect example of the american stereotype of british bad dental care. neither of us had good teeth.
i have a distinct memory of him at the dentist – back when dentists seemed to be in people’s front room and people could smoke anywhere and everywhere: and did. the dental nurse popped into the waiting room and told my dad that when he had finished his fag the dentist would see him. at which point my dad pulled out his pack of senior service and lit up several more fags. i think it was the first time i saw my dad scared. it might also be at the root of my own fear of dentists.
at this point we were living in northolt. dad was working nights. mum was working mornings and in the summer holidays i would be in the front room reading whatever book i was engrossed in before going out to meet up with some mates.
dad would come in. tea would be made. he would sit at the table. open his copy of the daily express, back when it was a broadsheet, in order to do the crossword. dad was very good at crosswords, loved the cryptic ones. mum settled for doing the basic crossword in the sun or the mirror. me? i have never finished a crossword.
before he started on the crossword he would pass over the doughnuts. he would keep a couple i would have the rest. he would challenge me to eat the doughnut without licking my lips. i always failed.
dad would be happy at the table a paper, a fag, a cup of tea to be followed by a glass of scotch.
i would be happy with doughnuts, tea and a book.
the simple things are the best things.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


i remember vika
along with he who can’t be named (joel) i was attending a biphop electronica club. sprawl was run by a mutual acquaintance, douglas – or si-cut.db as he is known in music circles. we had been several times before. entertained by artists who would squeeze music from laptops.
the location for this particular night was a wine bar in smithfields. the crowd there was an odd mix of the local office workers there for an after work drink, the local trendies getting ready for a night out and those who were there to listen to the music.
it was busy.
we found a spot by the window and began to listen to the music.
to the left of us there was a large leather couch. a couple were on it. he was in his neat trousers shirt and tie, she in a blouse and skirt. they were drinking wine. it soon became obvious that they were not there for the music, or the wine. they were there because they were having an illicit affair. their hands all over each other. the wine forgotten they just spent the night in each other’s embrace in a powerful liplock that they broke occasionally in order to get a breath of fresh air. as the night progressed more and more of her legs were exposed as the skirt was hitched higher and higher. no one seemed to mind the almost x-rated action that was going on. personally i was impressed with their single-mindedness and total concentration on each other. when they left there was a big wet patch on the couch due to sweaty passion.
in-between watching them and listening to the music he who can’t be named (joel) and i more than likely had another part of an ongoing discussion as to whether laptoppers were musicians or not. joel would say yes. i would say no, as i think of them more as composers (however what i know about music, composing and performing could be written on the head of a pin and still leave room for the works of beethoven and bjork).
the evening’s entertainment was coming to a close. the last performer had done his bit. just the dj left. we were getting ready to go.
i didn’t notice her until she was standing directly in front of me, but apparently she had made a beeline to me from the other side of the club.
her: who are you?
me; i am no one. why?
her: who are you?
me: pat. who are you?
her: vika.
to say she was petite would be an understatement. even under the very large jumper she was wearing you could see she was tiny. she had short blonde hair, very pale skin. she looked elfin and as if she would break if you sneezed on her.
we chatted some more. i was trying to find out who she thought i was. her english was not the best. we said goodnight to each other and she left. i turned to joel and shrugged and said something about ‘i have no idea what that was about.’
i got my bag to go. joel told me to wait there.
i waited.
i waited.
and i waited some more.
either he was having the longest piss in the world or he had bumped into one of his, many, creative friends who frequented these sorts of things.
i waited.
then he turned up. he was out of breath.
he gave me a tube ticket with a phone number on it. told me not to lose it. i looked at him quizzically, it’s her number you idiot. he told me he had to run to catch her before she got to the tube station.
i couldn’t phone her for a couple of weeks as she was off on holiday.
we met a couple of times. nothing happened, shame as she was very cute.
it was just very odd.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


i remember the isle of wight.
one of my best friends moved to the isle of wight because of his job – twenty plus years later and he is still there. a bunch of us went down to visit him. phil drove us down in his 2cv (a car that helped me out on a couple of occasions, true phil helped as well). the rest of the gang was made up of he-who-can’t-be-named (joel) and monty.
now in the tradition of what happens in vegas stays in vegas i shall not go into our antics too much.
two things do deserve to be mentioned and have moved into our group folklore.
there was monty’s red skimpies (or his pulling pants). on seeing them phil declared they were “tight, so tight” which made is all laugh (well maybe not monty) not only because they were indeed a dangerously tight pair of pants, but also because ‘tight’ was monty’s favourite word approval for a band he thought was exceptional. while monty’s taste in music was of a high calibre his taste in pants was not. so for pretty much the whole weekend we would hear phil exclaim: “tight, there were so tight” at inappropriate moments.
pride of place though has to go to monty.
we had barely gotten of the hovercraft; we hadn’t even walked the length of two streets before he uttered the immortal words: “it’s a toilet, it’s a fucking toilet”.
i doubt he will be asked to work of the isle of wight’s tourist agency – but they are words that will make joel, phil and i smile each and every time one of us utters them. and we do.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


i remember bunking in.
back then cinema trailers were both a promise of things to come and tease of the forbidden fruit. it was all about the ‘x’ movies – the films i couldn’t see. the films i wanted to see, mostly because they promised action, thrills and spills, but partly because i wasn’t allowed to see them.
going to see an ‘x’ before you were allowed was a rite of passage.
i had decided my time had come.
i knew what i was going to see. i knew where i was going to see it. nothing was going to stop me.
i dressed grown up. i had on my neatest faded blue jeans, a white shirt, tie and a blazer, which if memory serves me was of a blue paid design. i thought i looked sophisticated – in reality i looked like a cheap hood out of an even cheaper gangster movie.
i hopped on the 140 bus.
once in harrow i made my way to the grenada cinema, it was a place i frequented a lot and of the cinemas i went to as a teen it was one of my favourites (it still remains one of my favourites now – even though i have not be to it in close on 25 years). the nearer i got the more nervous i became. mad flights of fantasy ran through my head as to what they might do if they realised i was underage (the simple not sell me a ticket was not among them). i hesitated. i went to look in the model shop that was next to the cinema (i don’t think i ever went into the model shop – even then i realised that my ability to make models was nil and why waste money – but i did hanker after the apollo rocket model from airfix they had in the window – oddly i still want it).
finally plucking up courage i made my way to the cinema (i wasn’t worried about the time as one of the things people used to do back them was just sit through the films until they had seen what they missed or watched it until the end again). i walked to the ticket office and asked for a ticket. my heart pounding, waiting for someone to accuse me of something.
my money was taken.
the ticket given.
i walked up the stars to sit in the circle.
i watched ‘death wish’ with charles bronson. the hard man of action movies. i loved it. don’t think i have ever watched it since. it was on with ‘mean machine’ starring burt reynolds. i fun movie that appealed to the rugby player in me. have watched it many times since and have even watched a couple of lame remakes of it.
i had passed my rite of passage. i had been to see an ‘x’ movie.
the cinematic future looked bright, it looked silver.

(less so for the grenada - its future had gold in it as it became the home of a well known gym chain).


this morning david cameron was going on about how the government had to work "harder and faster" to bring down energy bills.

this afternoon chris huhne was telling us how we should all be checking that we are on the best tariff possible.

government at its finest. sees a problem. sorts out a solution. amazing. not many people had thought of that.

yet here is an irony - there are a lage number of people out of work. there are a very large number of homes that need to be insulated. scope there for a government programme? i thnk so? will it happen? of course not.

instead we have the government facing off to the big energy companies - looking them square in the eye and doing what? the full sum of what they have achieved is to tell consumers that they need to look at what they use and to look for a better rate.

cameron and his cronies really are out of touch.
still while they are nice and warm we can all remember that we are in it together and bask in the glow of that knowledge.

Monday, October 17, 2011


i remember jim the cat.
jim was annemarie’s cat. we seemed to arrive in her life about the same time. he was a stray who somehow decided that he quite liked the flat and the people who lived there.
i have no idea if jim was a typical cat.
there was a morning when i was more than half asleep, so much so that i wasn’t going to move even if there was a bomb in the flat. jim came over to me and made it perfectly clear that he wanted to go out. i tried to ignore him. the result was that jim just turned around squatted and dropped the largest sloppiest shit i have ever seen.
jim would go out on the prowl; he was a bloke after all. sometimes he would come back with a number of cuts. we took him to the vet. stitches in and bandage on. the vet told us we would have to keep jim in for a couple of days while he healed. it took jim less than 60 seconds to remove the bandage. the cat houdini.
sadly that led to the unkindest cut of all. another scrap. another trip to the vet. annemarie had arranged it. i just took him there. i was expecting to be told that his cut would be stitched instead i was told he was having the snip. ‘the what’ i screeched? my ball sack shrinking back in horror. the vet explained that jim was going out and getting into fights and this was dangerous for him, removing his testes would save him a lot of trouble in the future. jim looked at me as if to say ‘yeah right’ and as much as i needed to believe he vet all i could think of was ‘yeah right’.
jim’s look told me all i need to know – as far as he was concerned i was a traitor to him and to all males. i sat in the waiting room feeling like judas.
within a week of coming home jim was back out on the prowl. bolockless but proud.
it was the dead of winter and very late at night. annemarie and i were in bed canoodling, and maybe moving on to something a bit more raunchy. the bed was warm, the flat was cold. all was well with the world. or it was until jim started the meowing by the front door. meow meow meow, at first plaintive then angry. then came the scratching at the front door. it almost said ‘let me out’ in morse code. all of this was strange as we had only recently let jim back in from his nightly wander.
we ignored him and got on with the kissing and cuddling.
jim decided to come upstairs and padded into the room. he made his presence known by pouncing on the bed. normally he would have just found an inconvenient spot for us and decided he was going to go to sleep. not this time. he purred. he pawed. he bit toes. he did anything to get attention. frankly he was a passion killer.
as was the way with anything that involved one of us getting out of bed in the middle of the night to deal with it i was nominated. i thought about it. flat cold. me warm. short run to the door, short run back to bed. be quick. no need put any clothes on.
‘c’mon then jim’ i said, ‘if you want to go out let’s let you out’. jim was a clever cat and i am sure he understood every word i said. i dashed out from under the duvet. jim followed. he was quicker than me and like a black streak of lightning he was down the stairs.
now i have to stop the narrative here just to add a little colour to the tale. remember i had said that i had been engaged in some snogariffic action that was moving towards rumpy pumpy. the effects of this could been seen by the very full, very rigid hard-on i was sporting. as i rushed down the stairs it swung around like a demented divining stick hunting for water.
my woody didn’t impress jim; he was waiting at the door. pawing it. i pushed him away so i could open it and let him out.
an arctic blast greeted me when i opened the door, i should mention we were several floors up and the door opened up on to a view of the roofs and backs of the shops of the holloway road. sometime after we had gone to bed it had snowed.
it had snowed quite heavy/
it was freezing.
the cold moon glared down.
the snow was thick and gleamed virgin bright in the moonlight.
it was beautiful.
it was freezing.
i was naked with a boner standing motionless in my front door.
the only things that saved me from being a public spectacle was that it was the middle o the night and that it was too cold for anyone sensible to be standing around.
i could feel my balls contacting from the cold. i could feel my nipples turn to icy pebbles. i could feel the cat rubbing up against my ankles.
what the cat?
i looked down. jim was like me standing looking out at the snow. he was making no effort to go out in it. i pushed him. i shooed him. he wouldn’t budge. i think i lost feeling in my extremities. the cat wasn’t moving.
i turned my gaze on him and said i thought you wanted to go out. jim gave me a look that said ‘in this weather are you fucking mad?’ (i have no idea where the cat learnt such language). at that he turned and walked back into the flat and buried himself under a pile of clothes to sleep.
i took one last look at the snow. went back to bed.
i did take some delight in the squeal of anger from annemarie as i pressed my cold body against hers.


questions i was asked this weekend.
while i was having a coffee in brick lane two emo goth girls approached me. in accented english (i think they were dutch) they asked me if i were french. i told them no.
what i should have said was 'why do you think i am french?'

while on the tube i noticed a young lady jump on and sit down near me. she was pretty in an interesting way. another girl sat opposite her. girl one started up a conversation about girl two being an archetypal metal girl. i am not sure what the evidence was for this but she seemed to have gotten it partly right. they chatted for a bit. girl one was also a bit of a metal fan, worked in the civil service and recently suffered the loss of her granny.
girl 2 gets off the tube after a girly hug, i am not so sure that girl 1 didn't want more (or maybe that was just me being pervy).
girl 1 looks around at the rest of the tube. hunts around in her bag. turns to me and asks if i had any chewing gum. nope i reply. she finds some gum. offers me some. i decline.
girl 1 then asks me what sort of music do i like. i tell her. she asks about bands i like. i reel of a list. she nods. she tells me i should check out a band called riverside.
she asks me where i live. i tell her. only two more stops for me. i ask her how much longer she is on the tube for - she has to go to mile end station and change there.

as i walked off the tube i couldn't believe i didn't at least try to swap facebook details. she was cute and she liked metal.

missed opportunity.
story of my life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


i remember being stopped by the police.
my first choice of careers was to be a policeman – colour blindness put a stop to that. you can imagine then that i have a lot of sympathy for the boys in blue. i do. however that hasn’t stopped them stopping me in the street.
there was the time when a bunch of plain clothes coppers decided to take a group of us to one side at liverpool street station because they thought we had been smoking (gasp) pot. that they couldn’t actually keep up with the scallywags in question had nothing to do with it. instead of the younger and thinner crew they missed they settled for the next best thing: a bunch of blokes who were ambling by liverpool street station. we were searched and questioned. i don’t think we got an apology when they were done. i did get a stop and search report that described me as having long white hair. i was tempted to sue for defamation.
as i wander around london with my camera i am a potential suspect in the eyes of many policeman (i am a photographer – not a terrorist)) yet even when i set the alarms off in downing street resulting in the approach of an armed response copper i have found being polite is all that is required.
my camera almost got me into trouble on my first visit to runcorn.
i had stupidly managed to book myself into a hotel as far away from where i needed to be as possible. not to worry runcorn isn’t that big a place so it wouldn’t be too hard to walk from there to where i wanted to be. it was a plan. it was scuppered the moment i had it. i asked the hotel staff if they had a map of the local area. they looked at me as if i were the village idiot. i asked for directions. they were not very clear. not that it mattered as i soon forgot them.
camera in hand i set out on my mission.
clicking here and there as i went i soon realised that i was lost. not only was i lost but there were no one out and about for me to ask where i was and how i need to get to where i want to be. i found myself on a large long road on one side there was a large field, the other side a long row of houses. snap. click. snap. click. i might be lost but i can still take photos. on the field there is a tractor doing some work there is a little mist in the air. in my mind it is a good photo (it turned out to be shit). there is not a person in sight. i am getting worried now as i need to find someone in order to find out where i am.
it is like some very post apocalyptic movie where i am the only person left alive. true this is a vision that is ruined by the very occasional car that drives by.
i keep walking – i’ll find a shop soon. won’t i?
i can see a car coming towards me; it is slowing down and it stopping ahead of me. all i can think is ‘don’t ask me directions as i am lost’. out jump two plain clothes (sort of) policemen, they would have been plain clothes except for the prominent stab jackets with police in big letters on them. ‘mmmm’ i think.
they approach me. they ask me what i have been taking photos of. i tell them ‘nothing in particular’ i explain to them i am here to check out the area to see if i want to move here for work. they inform me that the field i was walking next to was a school playing field. ‘oh’ i say (a witty and clever response from me). i wanted to say it is a very empty and unmarked school playing field but i didn’t. i show them the pictures i have taken. they don’t compliment me on my clever compositions. they run my name through their database. i am clean. they tell me they are just doing their job and responding to a call from a local concerned citizen (or a bored busybody with nothing better to do than give the stranger in town a hard time). i tell them not to worry.
i ask them how to get to runcorn old town. they tell me to go across the road, down through the park and at the bottom of the path there is a main road and you can catch a bus from there.
i thank them and make my way to the bus stop. the mission is back on track.
the path they directed me to? ran between two schools both teaming with children.
i guess were coppers with a sense of humour. i put my camera away in its carry bag.
better safe than sorry!


edwina currie was on the radio tonight in order to review the sunday papers. she started off by telling everyone that she had enjoyed her champagne and smoked salmon. good for her.
one of the big stories of the papers was about the protests that had been taking place in various financial districts around europe.
after patronising a protester for not having a solution (because george osborne has one – doesn’t he) she sparked off an argument when she denied that anyone in the uk could be starving and no one had to make the choice between heating or eating.
when a caller pointed out that ms. currie had been going on about her champers and salmon and that for the majority of people that would be a luxury. ms. currie replied that it was a half bottle that had been given to her and that it was salmon bits. somehow her justification/ defence just made her sound very petulant and pathetic. (here is a tip to the rich conservatives – we know you have money, and lots of it, we don’t expect you to wear hair shirts and eat gruel (though it would be fun) we just don’t want you pretending you are suffering like the rest of us).
when challenged about the heating/eating problem she claimed that no one in the uk could be starving, there are children in africa who are really starving.
i guess that shows the level of compassion at the heart of the conservatives.
as long as they can point to people who are much worse off then you shouldn’t have the right to complain. you shouldn’t even think you have a problem when there are others so much worse off than you.
looks like the ‘we are in it together’ tact has failed so we might be entering ‘they have it worse than you’ phase – so just remember the next time you think you have something to complain about have a quick think and if there is someone worse off than you then just zip it buddy boy because you are still better off than them.
see all the social problems of the country solved, and not a penny spent.
i bet you are all feeling better now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


i remember my first day at school.
i was a secondary modern boy. i was the last of them (and then the first of the comprehensive lot). i was not looking forward to my first day at vincent secondary modern school. partly because i wouldn’t be with my mates and party because i had heard horror stories of what it was like in the big school.
mum got my uniform from abernathy’s and son; it would be where i got my uniforms from for the rest of my school career. unlike the boys and girls at the next door grammar school my uniform was a sensible black trousers and blazer and white shirt and tie. easy. the school badge needed to be sewn on.
monday was on us.
mum walked me to school.
she took me into the headmaster to make sure i was in the right place.
she also asked him to show me how to tie my tie.
i was already beyond embarrassment.
mr. finer was happy to show me how to tie my tie. i have to admit it is still something i have trouble doing. while doing my tie the headmaster commented on the fact that my badge had been sewn on back to front.
mum said she would deal with it that night.
i spent the day walking around trying to hide it.
turned out big school wasn’t all that bad.

Friday, October 14, 2011


i remember shot put.
i was my school’s best shot putter.
i liked sports i just wasn’t very good at most of them. i was quite a chunky teen (as opposed to the fat adult i am now), my growth spurt came early and was short lived but it meant for a period of time i was bigger than a lot of my peers.
over short distances i was very fast. over long distances i plodded. with ball in hand i was pretty darned good. with ball at feet i was a bull in a china shop. anything to do with hitting a ball with an implement of any kind – just forget it.
essentially that narrowed down my options to rugby and the throwing events in athletics.
i enjoyed shot putting. it was easy. glide across the circle, heave the put (in a pushing motion) out and just look on in amazement at how far it had gone.
yay me.
i was unbeaten at school. setting records every year.
yay me.
i won the district championship several times
yay me.
then i got to go to the county championships. the big time.
all my previous competitions had taken place on school fields or school athletic tracks with about ten bored spectators waiting around to see their ‘little johnny’ perform.
the county championships were taking place inside a real stadium.
win this and you go on to compete for a chance to throw for your country. no pressure then.
unlike previous events this wasn’t just turn up give your name to some bloke at a table and that was it. numbers had to be pinned on, forms had to be filled out, names called out over tannoy systems. this was the real deal.
there have been several times in my life when i have been a big fish in a small pond. this was one of them – the difference was this time i hadn’t known it. this time i thought i was the bee’s knees.
my event was called. i ambled over to the throwing circle. looked around and shat myself.
suddenly i was the smallest person there. these guys were monsters. arms bigger than my legs. where i was in just a vest, shorts and trainers these guys had weight-lifting belts and the right shoes to throw shot with. this was a whole new league.
if i did realise i was out of my depth then i soon did when i got to throw.
i got down, nestled the shot into my neck, breathing right, balance right, power off the standing leg, glide across the circle, hit the backboard, swivel, throw/push exhale and watch it sail out … to fall way below the mark of everyone else.
i wasn’t even close.
not even spitting distance.
i just needed to warm up i told myself (even though the rational part of my mind was telling me that they had already out thrown my personal best. hey hope springs eternal.
sadly this wasn’t to be one of disney’s uplifting sports movies where the underdog comes good.
the rest of them got better with each throw. i got worse.
i came last.
ah well i was the district champion. that would have to do.

(as a footnote – the key to living with being a big fish in a small pond is to know your place and the limitations it puts on you. if you don’t know that (as i didn’t) it does lead to a very rude awakening).

Thursday, October 13, 2011


i remember advice.
i can only remember my dad giving me two pieces of advice. now these words of wisdom came from a man who a few years before i turned 16 told me he would sort me out an experienced prostitute for my sixteenth so that i could learn all the tricks of the trade.
he may have uttered the words of advice during this same conversation, which may or may not have been his attempt to teach me about the birds and the bees.
firstly he told me that when a woman says no – she means no.
secondly he said: and that is what your right hand is for.
words to live by.
though thinking back on it i never figured him for being a feminist.
my 16th i think i got some new rugby boots and a proper gum shield, much more practical albeit a lot less fun.


i remember farting.
i have never been shy about farting – happy to let a parp out whenever the mood or need strikes. the only time i have tried to control my flatulence was the early days of my tenure of being a step-dad. see i can be responsible.
so there i was at the london school of economics. the morning in the library hadn’t been as beneficial as i hoped. maybe a trip to the canteen for a coffee and a bite to eat would get me through the block. nice plan. for some odd reason i choose some fish sandwich or another. mistake. revitalised i returned to the library.
the block was still there. i read the same page three or four times and none of it was making sense. i went looking for another article or two – trying to approach the problem from another point of view. so i head over to the journal section. i start looking for the right issue of the american journal of sociology. that is when it hits me. or more accurately it is when it leaves me. a long almost silent parp. i look around to make sure that no one heard. it was a pretty quiet one so little danger of that.
all would have been well but for the fact that this long linger fart smelt as if it were the fires of hell wafting over a very large pile of stale tramp shit. it was foul beyond foul and it seemed to be drifting out into the body of the library. to make matters worse as i moved the stink came with me.
i took the only course of action available to me: i left the library. only to return when i thought the smell had gone.
i have never farted as bad as that again (though there was a time in sainsbury’s that was quite close).


just what is it with the conservative cabinet ministers and their mates? is it a boys on tour thing?
to make matters worse liam didn't even have his mate share a room - more taxpayer's money wasted. though that can't actually be the case as the taxpayer's alliance haven't mentioned it on their website - so it must be money well spent. (nor can we making sniggering comments about their special relationship - how the press must hate him for that!)

as the pace of life quickens it seems time it takes governments to get entangled in sleaze also speeds up.
(as an additional bonus the papers can rightly claim: this is in the national interest - and it buries any stories about phone hacking. double bubble.)


i expected it.
was hoping it wouldn't happen until the new year - but hey as my sainted mum used to say 'if ifs and ands were pots and pans there would be no need for tinkers' - yeah i have no idea what it means either.

anyway i have been shit canned from my job.
they are downsizing.
so the admin team i led at the college has lost four full-time members of staff and three part-time members of staff. leaving three staff and two bosses to deal with several hundred students. (oh and one of the members of staff they have kept on for just a month and one of the bosses won't go near students).
it isn't so much downsizing as it is pulling the plug.

so i am back to the job hunt again - just when the news of unemployment figures reaching a 17-year high. boy am i regretting my decision not to move north right about now.

oh well tomorrow is another day and options to be weighed and decisions made.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


i remember throwing up
i might not have been the most punctual of employees but the one thing i could be counted on was turning up. in all my years of work there were only a few times that i didn’t make it into work. there was a time when i had the flu – not man-flu but dyed in the wool real knocked for a loop couldn’t move thought i was dying flu. the other time i called in sick it was so i could spend more time in coventry trying to patch up my relationship with my ex. it was time badly spent.
some might think i was dedicated – the truth was more to do with the fact that i lived alone and i quite liked playing the martyr act and getting sympathy from others. shallow? you bet.
this particular day had started off fine and dandy.
the usual round of talking to retailers, selling them books and dealing with their problems. going into the warehouse to pull an order or two and chatting with the lads. an average day.
it may have been the veggie burger i had eaten from the snacks wagon. it may have been a delayed reaction to something i had eaten the night before. it could have been anything. about midday day i was feeling like shit. a little later i was feeling shitter and very soon i was feeling even worse than shit. i had the cold sweats. i was burning up. i was shaking. i couldn’t see straight and there was a headache that banged and throbbed.
i was in no condition to work.
so i decided to do the only sensible thing: go home.
i said my goodbyes and headed off, rather slowly and unsteadily, to the tube station.
i finally got there – it was an effort.
bromley-by-bow is a so so tube station – neither good nor bad. it just is. i go through the barriers and head to the platform. i get down the first flight stairs and then it happened. it bubbled up out of nowhere and exploded out. i hurled. i heaved. i coated the stairs with runny puke. a big puddle of runny puke.
it was the first time i have ever thrown up in public. it wasn’t nice. i didn’t like it.
i went back to the ticket office. i wanted to know if they had a toilet so i could clean up and if they could give me a mop and a bucket of water to clean up my mess. no and no. well that was helpful. i wasn’t going to argue. i was just interested in getting home so i could sleep and get over whatever it was i had.
back to the platform.
i walked by the big puke puddle i had made.
i got to the platform. any train will do. first one comes in and i decide to let it go – not sure why just a feeling. then as it leaves the station i feel another quiver in the stomach, another surge and before i know it i am bent over expelling more puke and bile than i ever thought possible. pints and pints of it. where had it all been? no idea. i just knew where it all was – all over the platform.
it is bad enough puking in public (twice) now i was left with a horrid acrid taste in my mouth and no chance of getting rid of it.
i cuffed what was on my mouth and chin.
i was a mess and i knew it.
i must have looked ashen faced. i felt even worse.
everyone was looking at me. their accusing eyes seeing me as a drunk or an addict – i wanted to tell them i was really sick. honestly i was sick. i am sick i wanted to shout out. i didn’t. they looked at me as if i were evil.
fortunately the journey home was short and uneventful.
i sat down and turned the tv on and there was dipsy of the teletubbies playing in a green puddle.
it made me smile.

Monday, October 10, 2011


i remember dark they were and golden eyed.
for as long as i can remember i have loved comics. it probably started off with beano and the dandy, a splash of whizzer and chips. some tv 21 not to mention look and learn. then came the discovery of dc and marvel comics.
odd that it was probably dc characters such as superman, batman and superboy that hooked me on comics as a kid when several years later i would become a marvel zombie (that’s what too much exposure to claremont and byrne will do to you). (as a digression i suspect the true reason for my love of marvel comics was more due to the weekly british reprints in such comics as ‘the mighty world of marvel’).
once i had discovered the four colour majesty of superhero comics i became a collector. i would buy everything i could get my hands on, which wasn’t much. i hunted for comics in newsagents and second-hand shops i had no idea what i was doing i just wanted to get more comics to read. the collecting gene had been awakened.
while i picked up comics from wherever i could find them i was pretty much unaware that there was a fandom out there. that there were others like me, others who collected, and others who had turned collecting from a passion into a science.
i don’t remember how i found out about dark they were and golden eyed – but i did. a shop in soho that sold comics. yes a shop that sold comics. joy of joys. i mentioned it to my dad. i wanted to go. he wouldn’t let me go to soho on my own. he would take me on the next saturday he had off. when that exciting day came i went to the west end with my dad and my pal joe.
we got there and it was all i could have imagined it to be and more. packed to bursting point with comics and books. comics and books i had never even heard about. wow. wow. and wow again. it was the ever loving freaking motherlode. of course now i know it was just a large pool in the potential sea of collecting – but ah what a clear gleaming pool it was.
i looked around. so much to buy. so much i wanted, no i craved it all. comics and books. books and comics. a treasure trove.
i bought a bunch of comics. i bought my first official proper back issues (jim steranko’s ‘shield #1” and jack kirby’s ‘new gods #1’ if you must know). i was that pig in shit.
if i am honest it was one of those days where my life changed.
now i know where to find comics. i would travel to dark they were for many more saturdays. i would follow it to its new location. i would be there when it morphed into forbidden planet and when key members of the staff formed their own shops such as comic showcase or gosh.
but that day all that was ahead of me. that day i had bought all i could afford and all i wanted to do was get home so i could read the comics i had bought that day. little knowing how that simple day out would affect me for the rest of my life.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


i remember being kicked in the balls
i used to do karate. i was quite good at it. our sensei was a south african who looked like peter fonda, he was a stickler for the ritual and tradition of the martial arts and it was this that i loved. alongside learning how to kick, punch, block, throw and fall we would learn about zen philosophy, we would learn to meditate. he would tell us about acupuncture and calligraphy.
i enjoyed the meditation sessions (though i was never keen on the kneeling down part as my knees always felt like they were going to pop), there were a few moments where i reached a certain level of peacefulness that were wonderful, but they were fleeting.
what i liked most of all was doing katas. i loved doing them. it is the closest i have ever come to being coordinated. knowing where everything was going to be from start to finish. i still get a thrill watching martial arts movies where they do their practice form (pretty much in all martial arts movies except those of the later seagal and van damme).
one day he decided that we would all spar, and that the sparring would be as close to real fighting as possible. so not fancy moves just what we would do to get out of trouble if we were in a fight. we had all done a bunch of fights with him walking around watching. then he decided that the sparring would take place with everyone watching. we all had turns.
up i go. up comes my opponent. we circle each other. he lets fly with a front kick to the stomach. i block and step forward for a punch. he blocks that. we go back to circling. this time i kick for the stomach. he blocks me and kicks. i block. he kicks again i back up and block. he blocks my punch and kick combination. it is all pedestrian stuff. nothing fancy. front kicks, front punches. strong blocks. we don’t notice it but we fall into a rhythm of the attacks, i block and attack, he blocks and attacks and i block and attack. even worse we are not varying our attacks that much. we are like a pair of modern dancers.
my concentration slips. i miss a block.
thwack. foot into balls. dead centre. i drop like a sack of spuds. before i hit the ground the sensei has caught me and is laying me on my back and with a few quick strokes of his hands along my sides most of the pain has gone (i have no idea if he was touching the right pressure points to relieve ball ache or it was just because i was ticklish and that took my mind off of it).
i sat the rest of the bouts out.
i walked funny for a couple of days.
so take it from me – don’t try this at home folks.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


i remember puppies.
we had just moved into a new pub, it would be the last pub we lived in. the white hart was a big traditional pub with three bars. the big long public bar, the small games bar and the plush saloon bar. for a young kid it was a wonderland to explore.
we had a dog, sally, who was due to give birth. i was excited, what kid wouldn’t be: puppies! each day i waited for them to arrive.
my dad had put sally in the saloon bar (it was her favourite bar – the customers had been doting on her). each night he would check on her, each night before i went to sleep he would let me know whether or not she was going to pop.
as with all these things sally did it in her own time and when there was no one around. dad was worse than me and he had been checking on her all the time. so now that she had pups he came and woke me up. it was like christmas. in my jim jams i rushed downstairs with a gleeful squeal that only excited young boys can make.
i ran into the saloon bar and ran towards the basket that sally had been resting in. i could hear her and her puppies. i was even more exited by that. that speeded up the patter of my little bare feet. as i ran across the carpet i discovered that sally and her puppies had left a few little presents and i managed to run into them. dog and puppy poo squidging through my toes.
it didn’t detract from the sheer pleasure of seeing a bundle of puppies and their proud mother.
that said i don’t recommend playing with dog shit.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


i remember the best pizza in the world.
after much debate and putting it off it was decided that we would sometimes put a person out on the road to go see some of our retailers. for some it was seen as a plum job (out of the office; bit of a jolly) to others it was a chore (hate retailers; smelly oiks). i enjoyed it – got to see some of the country, stay in hotels and hanging out with (in the main) nice people.
i like glasgow. it is a beautiful city. one of my favourite retailers (and i would like to think friend) has a shop there. so i was looking forward to being there. normally i would do such shop tours alone – this time i was accompanied by dan.
we did our jobs. we went around a number of shops. we commented on their stock. their layouts. we talked to them. we listened to them. we questioned them. we answered them. there were some lies; there were a few excuses and a couple of lies (well no need to hurt the feelings of the retailers).
first night we were there we stayed in the hotel bar chatting to a retailer and his wife. dan was happy to keep getting the drinks in: the joy of being on expenses. stories were told. laughs were had.
second night and we went out with a bunch of the staff from one of the shops. we went to a local pub. the bar was packed. the music was loud. the accents were thick. as the evening wore on the noise grew and the accents got thicker and i understood less and less of what was said to me. until in the end i was just nodding and shaking my head. no one seemed to notice (or care).
from there they took us to a local club that played hard rock music. we danced ourselves stupid. i shook my head. i sweated. i threw metal shapes and air guitar. it was a great night and a shame it came to an end.
we said our goodbyes and walked back to the hotel.
we detoured – hey it was late and we were pumped.
we found ourselves at the st. enoch centre.
we found a busy take-away with a large queue outside it. we joined the line. it moved slowly. people were either ordering a lot of stuff or changing their mind as to what they wanted.
my turn came – i got the largest pizza they did. dan did the same.
we sat outside at 2am on a chilly sunday morning, still coated in sweat, scoffing pizza.
the pizza was great. the company we had kept were great. the night had been great.
in fact we decided that sometimes the best things in life were the simple things. in the moment of eating pizza in a glasgow shopping centre very early in the morning we knew were having one of those times.

Monday, October 03, 2011


i remember theft.
there had been a spate of thefts at the warehouse, a number of expensive limited edition hardcover books had gone missing.
while a big song and dance was made of the stolen books when the culprit was revealed to management they went out of their way to cock-up catching him in the act (they had to apologise to him) but they also made those who had pointed him to to appear to be the villains of the piece. needless to say they never got much help in these sorts of matters again (which might have been the reason why one of our warehouses did a roaring trade in cheap cash-in hand product.
but that isn’t what this is about.
well not directly.
one of the managers was spin. spin saw himself as a man’s man, and he probably was except for the time when he dressed like an urban cowboy, albeit a fey one, or when his girlfriend dressed him as if he were the first reserve for boyzone.
spin was a clever chap. he was a funny chap (though never quite as funny as he thought – but then he did think he was the funniest man alive). spin was a man with a firm sense of right and wrong. he was also a man with anger management issues.
the warehouse was a busy working environment. lots of hustle and bustle. people moving here and there, stuff being moved all over the place. workers in the warehouse had three precious items: their tape-guns, their stanley knife and their pens.
pens would go missing almost faster than you could get new ones.
on this particular day (it was a nice bright day outside) spin was marking up pages to indicate where boxes should be put when they came off the next delivery van. the radio was either playing capital or one of the lads had it on some dodgy channel playing house music (youff eh!). all was well with the world.
then a verbal explosion. a shout. a howl. a roar. spin enraged.
where the fuck was the marker pen he was using.
which cunt had stolen his marker pen?
give it back.
pretty much everyone just looked at him with a ‘what are you talking about’ expression on our faces and we just got on with the jobs we were doing.
it is hard to tell what infuriated him more – the missing marker pen or the fact none of us cared.
whatever it was before you could say ‘that’s entertainment’ spin was standing astride the bench demanding that we all listen to him. a curious mash-up of bolshevik rebel rousers stoking the flames of revolution and a john barrowman clone about to do a lounge version of ‘ymca’.
he shouted. he proclaimed. he declaimed. he was vim and vigour. he was thunder and lightning. he was sound and fury. he told us we were all thieving bastards. he told us that we were scum. he told us that unless we gave him back his pen he would sack us all. he was in full flight. no stopping him. he was a colossus (if a colossus looked like they were about to burst into songs from the elton john songbook). he swore. he cursed. his voice loud and proud. he was in smoting mood.
the warehouse had come to a standstill. hushed. the only sound that of the impassioned rantings of spin. he went on and on. we were all fascinated by the performance. no one coming forward with the missing pen.
spin getting ready to burst a blood vessel.
spin ready to take names.
and voila there in his back pocket is the missing marker pen.
i thank you.
with a wry smile and a ‘let that be a warning to you’ look spin hops down from the bench and gets on with his work.
we shake our heads and get back to work.
just another day in the warehouse.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


i remember getting my degree.
doing my finals was a nightmare. i thought i knew it all. i thought i had prepared everything. i thought i was on top of my game.
first paper up was sociological theory – that was the easy one. that was the one i was going to slaughter.
how wrong was i?
i came out of the exam room a beaten and battered man. a bunch of us went into the canteen to talk it over. none of us were happy.
depressed. worried. scared.
i went home and tried to study for the next day’s exam.
five days and several exams.
lots of coffee. lots of sweets. not enough sleep.
final paper taken. in the canteen again. lots of talk about how we all thought it had gone. for most of us it would be the last time we saw each other. i was so nervous i even missed the signals being given off by one of the foxier ladies on the course.
all that was left was the wait.
working as a caretaker. sometimes dull work. sometimes had work. good money and only once did i kill anything (those gerbils still haunt me).
except before that i got a call from college asking me to go in to transcribe my exam scripts because they couldn’t read them. ah the embarrassment.
so i got to see just how bad my work was. joy of joys.
back to being a caretaker.
buffing floors. sweeping playgrounds. washing windows.
then it happens.
letter on the floor.
it is the one.
i hold it.
i look at it.
i look at it some more.
then i look at it again.
work up the courage to open it.
read it once.
read it twice.
have my mum read it.
yay i have passed. phew.
no time to celebrate have to get to work to clean two toilet blocks.
i never got to wear the gown and mortar board. just another thing to add to the list of regrets.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


i remember.
actually i don’t remember a lot – this is partly because i have a memory like a goldfish but mostly because i have lived a very dull life.
my earliest memory is of me in a park with my dad (it is not an interesting story – but i am going to tell it. however i must preface this story with a disclaimer i can’t say for sure if this happened or is a memory of a story my dad told. my dad was a teller of tall tales).
as another digression the earliest tales of my life are apocryphal. there is the one where the first word i said was ‘fuck’ – given my potty mouth this does have the ring of truth to it. then there is the story of how i got out of my cot to slap my dad (or my mum – depending on the storyteller) for laughing at doris day in ‘calamity jane’ – given the fondness i have for doris and the movie who knows. the final one involves a ghost telling my parents to move my cot in order to save my life, they move it and later that night the ceiling fell in on the room i had been in – your guess is as good as mine.
back to the story of me in the park. i am around 4 or 5. i am wearing a jumper (probably with a pattern on the top half and plain at the bottom and probably knitted by my gran) and i think i am in a paddington bear style duffel coat. it is autumn going into winter. dad would have been dressed in jacket shirt and trousers. we would have been in the park to walk the dog, sally, and for me to run around mindless kicking a ball. dad would have been puffing away on a cigarette or five. leaves were everywhere and there was a wind blowing. dad kicked the ball. i chased it (even then it was obvious that i was never going to be a good footballer). as i was running towards the ball what i thought was a large patch of leaves turned out to be a large patch of leaves covering a large deep puddle. unlike in the cartoons where the protagonist realises there is something wrong and their legs run furiously in empty space i just sunk into a cold deep puddle.
oh don’t worry i was never in danger – it wasn’t that deep.
just deep enough to soak and scare me.
funnily enough it hasn’t stopped my child like love of the rain or of puddles. what has made puddles a misery for me is that pretty much all my shoes and trainers have holes in them.