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Friday, November 04, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016


i remember the day i was scared of dentists

only just recently i girded up my loins and found me a dentist.
i don't like dentists. i am scared of dentists. it is not a phobia – it is a real fear. sometimes all we have to fear is fear itself and realising that i took the plunge and set up an appointment with the dentist. three sessions later i am still alive. i still don't like dentists and i have to confess i am still a little afraid of them.

it got me wondering where the fear came from.
it could have been my school days dentist (the last time i went – really i can't complain that all i needed in 35 years or so was two fillings and a clean), now to her credit mrs gutzman was a good dentist who took as much care of me, with as much patience as humanly possible. i was not an easy patient. i was not one of those kids who could sit in the waiting room know that they were going to have a filling or an extraction and be all calm and smiley about it. no sir. i was not that sort of patient at all.
in truth i was like that even before i met and was dealt with by mrs. gutzman.

it goes back to a day when my dad was off to the dentist. for some odd reason he took me a long – cheeky chappie all in short trousers scuffed shoes and scabby knees. these were the days when dentists operated out of front rooms with flock wallpaper and people smoked all the time and everywhere.
the waiting room was red – while i was far too young to know about these sorts of things – it could have doubled as the reception area of a high class bawdy house, who knows maybe it did. there were cabinets to look at – filled with dentist stuff a mix of the interesting and macabre. just a tad unsettling.
dad was there to get a tooth removed. as bad as my teeth are his were worse playing up to that stereotype of the english having bad teeth. that is what happens when your diet involves a lot of cigs and booze. we were waiting. unlike me dad was punctual, if not early. in this the apple did fall far from the tree.
he was nervous. even i noticed that. i am a boy, i look up to my parents. i pick up on his nerves and worry.
the nurse comes in all very much carry on style (another fine english tradition that has gone away) and asks if he is who he is supposed to be. there is no one else in the waiting room. he, gentleman that he is, takes his fag out of his mouth and says yes. she replies that the dentist is ready to see him once he has finished smoking. she smiles at him, smiles at me, leaves.
dad fishes in his pocket, takes out a packet of senior service and proceeds to light them all. he gives me a wink. it is a joke. we are cheeky chappies together. i giggle. in the back of my mind i know there is something wrong – dad is scared.

in that way that professions have a secret language in order to exclude everyone else they also have secret lines of communication. that can be the only explanation for what happened later.
the dentist took the delay in good grace. dealt with dad. we went home. dad a little subdued.
years later and a different dentist dad had to get a set of false teeth, obviously keeping a dentist waiting is a heinous crime never to be forgotten or forgiven and so through the secret information network there was a bad mark against my dad – because that can be the only reason for why he ended up with a set of gnashers that made him look like a demented ken dodd.

so dear reader there in that moment my fear of dentists started and has never left me. it is a fear i have been happy to pass on to others – people who have been happy to go to the dentist after listening to me going on about all the things i think can go wrong are suddenly stricken with a niggle, a worry, a concern. a fear worm.

it is true that after my last experience i may not compare each visit to the dentist as an audition for a remake of the marathon man (a comment that once fell very flat with mrs. gutzman – for the life of me i can't work out why) i am still not going to be rushing there with arms open wide and a song in my heart.

still nice to know that old dogs can learn new tricks.


i remember the day when i wasn't a contender

lumbering was a word that could be used to describe me when i was at school, to be fair it could still be used i am not the most elegant of people. back in school i was good at two sports: rugby and shot put (i thought it was putt but the bbc says it is put and they know their stuff).

while i had p.e. teachers who encouraged me i can't really say that northolt high school was really a place of sporting excellence. there may have been a large sports field in the school and there may have been two gyms in reality they looked better than they were.
it seemed i had my growth spurt early and so for a period of time i was one of the biggest kids around this made both my chosen sports relatively easy for me. i would go out and practice the shot put. doing that little backward skip before the explosive turn and throw. skip, turn, throw, skip, turn throw and again, and again. practice, practice, practice. that is the thing about sport (like so many other things in life) is quite often you just have to keep doing the same old thing time after time after time. working on your technique getting it perfect, making it second nature – no thought the body just does.
in the case of shot put – enter the throwing circle, settle yourself, calm, explosive glide across the circle, launch the put and watch it lands a large distance away. all the hard yards you had done in training coming together for those few moments of wonderment and achievement. it is all common sense really – the reverse of systems people's shit in shit out theory.
as far as the school was concerned i was the best at shot put.
so off to the district champsionships. they took place in a field in greenford. the thing about throwing is no one really cares – maybe they get excited about the javelin but the rest not really. scale that back to a small school meet in the middle of nowhere and you imagine just how many people were watching: only those who had to be there. i win. yay me. i win it again. yay me again. i win it again.

not sure why but this win gets me an invite to the county championships. big time.
to be fair i enjoyed sports to the extent i had fun with them. i have never been a big student of the game. never really followed other people and their results, never really compared myself with them. i never sweated the small details. i was a big picture guy. i admit that i had dreams of following heroes such as geoff capes and fran cotton pulling on the jersey and representing my country.

the county championship was the first step on the way to that.

i turn up at crystal palace and raring to go.
loads of people there to compete. loads of people there to watch the loads of people there to compete. no one there for me. boo hoo.
well not so boo hoo as it turned out.
from the start it was overwhelming – just trying to find the people i needed to find in order to get my number, in order to find out what time the event was starting and in order to find out where it was.

all that done i head off to start the event.
i am met with manchildren – i thought i was big – but these guys have muscle on their muscles. ok this is a whole new level. i've got on a pair of dunlop green flash – these guys have proper throwing shoes. these guys have real warm up routines, they have coaches with them. no worries i have this covered. i can do this.
first round and every one is throwing well. my first throw is poor. second round they have worked out the kinks and throwing further. i am not. oh dear. as there were not enough competitors for some to be knocked out my misery drags on for six rounds. i see guys throw 5 or 6 meters further than me and be so upset with it that they foul the throw. i see guys throw double my distance and look disappointed.
am i downhearted? am i despondent? do i wish i was somewhere else?
of course i am and of course i do. only problem is i still have couple more throws. a couple more attempts at staving off sporting humiliation – my own eddie the eagle moment. needless to say the skies did not part, there was no divine intervention, i was unable to call up my inner superhero, i didn't hulk up and i threw a couple more pathetic (hey i was consistently bad so i played to form) attempts.
i came last by a country mile – or more accurately several meters from the next worst thrower.

it wasn't the first time that i had failed at something that was important to me, and it surely wouldn't be the last. it was, however, an incredibly public failure. there were no real important lessons to be learnt other than there are times when you are just out of your depth – and all you can hope to is reach the shallow end. there is no shame in losing.
importantly i didn't give up and sometimes that is all you can ask of yourself: keep going, keep trying.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


i remember the day i gave up on my name

my dad had one middle name.
mum had two.
they gave me three and i added another one.

as far as i was concerned dad was pat or patrick, and in that great tradition they named me after him.
i was just slightly wrong. turns out he was really a henry. it also turns out that henry becomes harry boy and harry boy wasn't something dad liked to be called. so in a moment of great wisdom he decided that i should have a couple of names so i could choose the one i wanted. so between them they gave me a bunch of names.
all well and good.
but i am an easy going chap (stop spluttering there in the back rows) and found that i didn't really mind pat or patrick at all. besides i had more to worry about with the cruelty of kids giving me nicknames such as clarence, cyclops and fatty (the last not being too original). annoyingly as i have moved into adulthood i never really got that nickname that stuck and used by everyone – the closest i got was 'slam' which got used by the local newsagent and his mates because they saved me a copy of the uk basketball magazine, lucky really as they also saved me a copy of the teletubby magazine. i used to know a bloke who was so upset he didn't have a nickname he decided he would invent one for himself and instruct his staff to call him that. being a comics retailer he choose 'biff' it never really took off.
oh i get called cunt a lot – but i am not sure that is a nickname.

(as an aside i did go through that phase of wearing a number 6 badge but declaring i am not a number but a free man – all the while wearing a number, listen it made no sense then it makes less now. i was young and impressionable and looking for an identity).

back to the story.

i was happy being pat or patrick.

turns out that mum wasn't always so keen. in her eyes dad was big p i was little p, or sometimes just p, or paddy.
dad on the other hand had decided that little p, p, or paddy wasn't enough. using one of the other names they had given me i was w, bill, billy boy or will. just occasionally he would call me pat. i never quite understood how he could've gotten so worked up about what he was called but seemed oblivious to my wishes.
parents eh! which kid really understands them?

in the end i gave up being too concerned with being called pat or patrick – after all they are just convenient labels.

one thing it did teach me was try never to get someone's name wrong – it is their name at least do them the justice of trying to get it right and when in doubt there is always the standard fallbacks of 'geezer', 'mate', 'fellah'.
in my case i stopped worrying these days 'oi' will do.


i remember the day we tried to create a rock star

one of my friends at school was david. dave was one of those blokes you just wanted to hate but you couldn't because he was just so darned charming. david had the looks. david had the body. david had the attitude. david was a ladies man par excellence.

i think we became friends because of rugby, he of course played the glamour positions while i just chundered along in the pack.

most weekends we would go see a movie and end up in pizza hut in harrow. didn't matter what we ate, didn't matter which of the waitresses served us they were all smitten by david - so free drinks or ice cream came our way. it was daunting to be in his company when the ladies were trying to have a moment with him. the air shimmered, the earth shook and he just smiled the smiled that made them go weak in all those places they go weak.

of course david was a bit of a fashion plate and he was happy to rock the nu-romantic look.

it was then we had the great idea - why not take david and term him into a rock star.
it was so obvious.
he had the looks.
he had the moves.
he had the style.
he had the charm.
it was a slam dunk.

luckily among the group of friends were several musicians who had the recording equipment we needed. we all piled around to their place.
excitement rippled. this could be the start of something big.

the reel to reel was set up. levels were tested.
headphones sorted. a track to sing was chosen - 'tainted love' as performed by soft cell.
excitement mounted.
we left david to it. only to return once he had sung his heart out - turning all that passion that oozed from him when he silver tongued the ladies. we counted the seconds down. the thought of david as a front man making the musicians in the room go as weak as the girls david normally charmed.

remember he had the looks, the moves, the style and the charm.
sadly what david didn't have was the voice.
david might have been a lot of things but a singer was never going to be one of his talents. it wasn't that he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket it - it was that he couldn't even carry the bucket.

while we all had a laugh, including david - who swore he could sing, there was an underlying sense of disappointment because we all hoped that he could, we all saw a rock and roll future ahead for us.
it was not to be.

i know you are wondering if i ever thought about getting up there and rocking my socks off.
the answer is yes. while david was bad i was worse. in my head i have a nice speaking voice - when ever i hear a recording of it all i hear is a whiney whine, while my singing is something that can only be described as cruel and unusual.

i am never going to be that rock star. 


just recently i had an accident with my little laptop. i am going through a phase of not sleeping very well but being able to drop off to sleep anywhere and without much warning.
see that fat hairy guy in pret a manger snoring? probably me.
see that fat hairy guy on the train snoring? probably me.
see the fat hairy guy on the tube..
well you get the picture.

there is no transition. i am awake. i am asleep. bosh.

this is not a good situation when you have a laptop in your hands. bang.
laptop dented and cracked. but still working.
good for you hp computers.
this is not a good situation when you have cup of coffee in your hand while next to your laptop. splish splosh.
laptop covered in lukewarm latte. still working.

well it was working and then it wasn't. well some of it works and some of it doesn't - about half the keyboard is buggered. not much good when what you want to do is type. not much use when you need to type your password to get on the darned thing.
strangely over a few days the parts of the keyboard that don't work have moved.

oh well time to get a new laptop.
long and short of it is i have a new laptop.
new laptop means new problems.
i can't remember any of my passwords. used to be so simple when they were all a variation on my favourite bruce willis film (no not that one - that is the greatest film of all time). stupidly i heeded the warnings of simple easy to remember password used multiple times: so i changed them all and made them 'secure'.
cleverly i sent them to myself on email so i could access them at a later date - just in case i forgot them or hadn't used a site for a long time. see i can be smart when i have to.

of course it shouldn't have been a problem - other than the fact of my recent fall from grace has meant that i don't have access to my desk top computer and a nifty little notepad in which i had written down several of the more important passwords. added to that all my passwords were saved by the relevant sites.
oh you know where this is going.

so i try to sign into a website with what i thought was the password. didn't work. no luck. tough titty.
no worries that password will be in my hotmail account.
off to the hotmail site - go to log in and what do you know? shit i have forgotten my password. how? i've been typing that password on and off for years, but now....

funny enough the one password i could find was for blogger.
i use it.
get told that this is unusual activity on my account and so i need to confirm my identity by (oh you guessed it) by replying to an email sent to my email account. i think the technical term is: shit.

as fate would have it i also worked out my log in for flickr. get the same result. now two sites rest on my remembering the password to the hotmail account. no pressure then.

(as an aside - both of these sites (and i am sure i will have a similiar problem when i work out my twitter password) are social media style sites, the sort of site you might wish to access from anywhere that has access to the internet, rather than be tied to the home desk environment - that after all is what adds the social benefit to social media. turns out that view is just a tad naive.

the next few days are spent trying to get hotmail to work. i remember the password, sort of, so i begin to work through variations of it (cursing, as i go, the fact that i can't locate the notebook that has it written down in - because i know i have it close to hand, somewhere (my new situation means i have stuff all over place).
first attempt fail.
second attempt fail
third, fourth,, fail, fail.
there comes a time with hotmail that it too decides there is unusual activity taking place with the account and adds in an additional layer of frustration: the catchpa. so now i don't know what i am getting wrong - the password or the catchpa or both. aaaaargh!
hunt for notebooks.
write out more variations on a password.
let muscle memory kick in.
fail. fail. fail.

after a few days i go around the sites one more time see a break in trying to crack the site meas i see if they will allow me to try again and work. lo and behold blogger is up and running and here i am.

this break/delay has thrown out my plans for my memories series - so expect a bunch of them over the next couple of days, normal service is about to be resumed.
you lucky people.

still haven't worked out the hotmail password, still working on it, maybe crack it next time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


i remember the day i met vika

several years ago i came up with the idea of reality bubbles. essentially that our lives are very much ongoing venn diagrams. the me at work is different from the social me and they are both different to the me at home. there can be as many mes as there are situations. each me has its own reality bubble. the differences between the mes might be slight or they might be vast. the differences are brought about partly by the situation – rules of work are not the same as the rules of social engagement, more importantly the differences are brought about by the others who are sharing the reality bubble you are in – the people at work expect me to act in a certain way and respond in kind, while social situations see a more fluid negotiation in expectations and acceptance.
that is a rough and ready view of the reality bubble concept.
you can imagine my surprise when i discover that it has all been used in the recent resurgence of identity politics and the concept of intersectionality.
i am not bitter mind.

i mention this not to show what an unheralded genius i am but because i had been arguing this concept with joel. joel is an old school friend. we share a like of music, some movies and books, but mostly we share a history. joel is creative and arty and has established himself in the creative industry both as a technician (for want of a better word) and as an artist (with a big capital a). most of his social circle come from this sort of arena.
i am not of that grouping.
reality bubbles.

one of his mates from his creative universe was a laptop musician who ran a very interesting music club. it wasn't quite underground and it wasn't quite mainstream – but it always entertained and always had the potential to surprise.
one of the things that was interesting about the club was its location: a wine bar in a trendy area. this led to some of the audience just being there because it was a hang out they would go to regardless of what was on, while some of the audience (me) wouldn't have stepped foot inside the place but for the music club night.

there we were nodding and noodling to the music as someone twiddled knobs and slid sliders to make music on their laptop.
the night came to an end. we chatted a little as we waited for the crowd to thin before we made our move. suddenly i am confronted by an elfin princess in a huge patterned jumper. in an accent i can't place: “who are you?” she asks, well demands. “i am me” i reply, always quick with the witty response. “who are you?”she asks again. this time i realise she thinks i am someone special, she has confused me with someone who appears in a music magazine. i tell her that i am nobody. this doesn't go down well. i am not doing my bit for foreign relations. she gets frustrated and leaves. i am a bit confused by the whole thing – a feeling that i have missed out on something washes over me.
joel asks what happened. i tell him i am not really sure.

next thing i know joel isn't there and i am left standing like a lemon wondering where he has gone to and which of his creative friends has he buggered off to talk to. when he returns he is a bit out of breath and he hands me a piece of paper. he had chased the elfin princess down the road and asked her what was going on. turns out she was 'interested' in me. then he hands over a name and number along with the instruction: phone her.

now i would like to say this story has a happy ending – but not really.
i do phone her – she is about to go on holiday, but she'd like to chat when she returned to london. no worries. i start counting down the days to her return. she is due back just in time for another gig night. we sort of arrange to meet there. i even make a few cd mixes for her (well mix is too strong a word it was just various albums copied for her – it was the thought that mattered...). on the night she didn't show until the moment i said she had blown me out, but in truth she sort of did as she was with friends and we just smiled and said hello.
oh well.

i saw her one more time at another music thing. we chatted briefly. i noticed she had very delicate tattooing on her arms and ears – nice work, no need to be lying in her case.

in the end nothing happened between me and vika the elfin princess. it was nice to know that i still had a little magic, even if not quite enough.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


i remember the day i lied to a woman.

i am not proud of myself but yes i have lied to a woman in order to have my wicked ways with her .

tattoos are incredibly personal. you have inked yourself permanently and you have to believe that in 20, 30, 40 years you are not going to be looking at yourself thing why the fuck did i do that. so far the 4 tats i have still stand up to my self scrutiny.
but i am aware of the fact that what i think is good is not what other people think is good. that a style that might float my boat is dead in the water to someone else.
my pal emma had a very large celtic rope knot design on her shoulder. i could admire the artistry and skill of the tattooist (it was an intricate and well done piece) the actual image left me cold. luckily when we discussed tats i had given up on going out with emma so we could be honest with each other – which is probably why she called me a cunt (but she was being affectionate. wasn't she?)

diamond was a place where lots of people got tattoos or piercings. there were lots of discussions about styles and techniques. i came late to the party but stuck pretty much to traditional looking tattoos – and all of mine done by the, now very famous and only does the stars, evil in the ink. (ooh get me – i was there before they were).
there were lots of ooohs an aaahs when someone would unveil their new tat.

also at diamond was beth. beth was a petite red head who was just a little off her rocker (though not quite as far out there as she thought she was). beth loved italian horror movies. beth dressed in a grunge hippy style. beth had multiple tattoos – they were all pretty simple black line things, the sort of tats you associate with prison (india ink and needle). most importantly i fancied the tits off of her.

for a short period we lived in the same house.
one morning we were having breakfast and she noticed my chest tattoo – a hand sized chinese dragon thing in colour. i was telling her about it and how it took around about three hours to do. she pointed to her own chest tattoo and said this took five hours.
now dear reader i confess i had looked lovingly at her chest tattoo many many times. i had imagined kissing that tattoo, i had imagined licking that tattoo i had even thought about drooling all over that tattoo. so trust me when i say i knew what that tattoo looked like: it was a simple six pointed star, two triangles laid on top of each other one pointing up, one pointing down. six straight lines, a simple star of david.
no fucking way did that tattoo take five hours.
the only way it took five hours was if you were to count from the time you woke up in the morning, had breakfast, did your daily shop, suddenly had an idea for a tattoo, spent some time looking for a tattooist to do the work, travel there, get the tattoo done, travel home, have a snooze and then have a relaxing cup of tea. then it might have taken five hours.
did i say that?
did i fuck!
of course i didn't say that because all i was thinking was if i tell her what i really thought of her tattoos then the chances of me getting to kiss, lick and drool on that chest tattoo went from slim to never happening unless you were the last man on earth and we were being attacked by lava breathing spiders.
so i said: really? it is a fine piece of work. there was no hint of sarcasm or scorn in my voice. i meant it – it was all i could do to prevent myself from saying it was a work comparable to caravaggio at his best.
i admit i was not proud of myself.
in the end it worked. i had a very brief fling with beth – that did involve some kissing, licking and drooling – though not nearly enough of it.

the funny thing about lying about women's tattoos is once you have done it once it is so much easier the second time. so when several years later i became involved with another woman who had dodgy tattoos i was straight in there with a 'that is a lovely piece of work' when really i should have been asking why did you go to the blind tattooist. i maintained my admiration for her awful ink work until long after we had ceased to be an item.

i am not proud of the fact that i am prepared to sink so low as to lie about a lady's tats, but sometimes the situation calls for a bit of silver tongued word play. i have learnt my lesson – next time i date a woman with tattoos i am going to make sure she has decent ink before we get serious.


i remember the first day at big school. 

for some reason or another the move from junior school to senior school scared the life out of me. it wasn't like i was going anywhere different brentside junior school was right next to the senior school. most of my mates, including my bestie: jody, would also be going. yet there was a twinge of doubt, a twinge of fear. 

i shouldn't have worried. 
we ended up moving and i had to go to a different school. 
we ended up in northolt, to be sure not a million miles away from greenford but it meant i had to go to a different secondary modern, vincents, and it meant that i would know no one there.
fresh meat (of course i had no idea of the term because i was yet to become a fan of cheap action movies set in prisons).
vincents also had the distinction of being right next to a grammar school, eliots green grammar school – just so we could be constantly reminded that we failed at the 11 plus: failures already. not that we cared, we were just happy we were not saddled with their school uniform of purple blazer. no for us it was the standard plebeian black. it is quite possible that vincents had a school motto, i can't remember it, probably something like: you've got detention.

up until this point i can only remember one occasion of being dressed smart and that was to go church in order to receive holy communion. a trip to abernethie and son was necessary. t hey were the local school uniform supplier.
blazer, a tad too large but don't worry i'm told you'll grow into it – i wonder just how many times they had to say that over the years? trousers, shoes, shirts and school badge (to be sewn on later, but before school – it looks all very prussian double headed birdy thing). all needed. all got. just missing the school tie. oops no school tie. helpfully they tell us that the school should have some for sale.
come the first day of term i am dragged out of bed by mum, ugh too early. dressed and inspected, mum (clean behind the ears, fresh pants on). i pass muster.
off we go.
the plan is to get there early see about the tie and still be on time to start classes.
finding the school is easy – it is a big building, finding the admin office not so easy – it is a big building.
the secretary gives us the once over, not sure we are up to snuff. they don't have the ties, but the headmaster does. my first day at school hasn't started and i am already in front of the head. hopefully not a sign of things to come. the look he gives is a bit like the one we get from the secretary – somehow we are letting the place down even before we have started. he does have a tie, he gives it to me. i look at it like some foreign object, he ends up having to tie it for me (mum makes practice all night long to make sure i can tie a tie – i have no idea what sort of knot i do – but i like it medium and yes, before you ask, i do rock a tie when i wear one: mostly funerals these days).
there is a speech about the school and what it expects. it washes over me. he then points out that the badge on my jacket has been sewn on back to front. mum is mortified – like these things come with instructions. i spend the rest of the day walking around with my left arm trying to cover the badge – i look like a fool. a look i will maintain for the rest of my life.
later in the term we would discover that vincents was to disappear in a merging with eliots green. our year was the last of the secondary modern and the first of the new fangled comprehensives.
for all its faults i mostly enjoyed school. i made some life long friends there. i was inspired by a few good teachers. it provided me with some great opportunities – most of which i just frittered away.
if i learbt anything it was how to tie a tie.


Monday, October 10, 2016


i remember the day i was told star trek was make believe

annemarie was off doing her night college, we were not yet an item, i was, however, on babysitting duties.
sitting in a toy strewn front room i was help the kid build something with lego. i say something because i had no idea what he was making. it might have been something to do with transformers, it might have been a sleek aeroplane, it might have been a gun, it may have been some futuristic bridge, it could have been an entry into the turner prize.
whatever it was he was happy.
if he was happy i was happy.
if he was happy annemarie would be happy and well who knows how that might go. (nowhere for months if you must know).

as we were playing i noticed that star trek was on bbc2.
real proper classic star trek. kirk, spock, mccoy and scottie
william shatner star trek. william fucking shatner – an actor who could touch the outer reaches of ham and make it look like he was still grounded in the worlds of shakespeare. his scene chewing made star trek more than just a science fiction show, it made it more than just a mirror of contemporary society – it made star trek magic.
(if you want to know the real problem spin off series such as next generation, voyager and enterprise? they acted, maybe not well but they acted. whereas deep space 9 – well that had avery brooks a man, a legend an actor who took the shatner playbook ran with it and added to it. star trek is supposed to be bigger than life and it needs bigger than life actors leading the way.)

so i ask the kid have you ever watched star trek?
no he says.
do you want to i ask,
ok he says. (nothing like enthusiasm to make a day).
i turn it on and i am thrown back to the days of wonder when i first started watching trek. hand on heart i was a fan, but never a dedicated one. a frother but not a fanatic.
of course i sort of expect that sort of wonder to wash over the kid. i expect him to look at and escape into the excitement and thrills of the show. in truth i wanted him to like it.
we watch a few minutes – it might have been the tholian web episode, or that one where shatner fights the lizard beast, or mccoy saves that alien creature with a bit of polyfiller, or the one with joan collins. it doesn't matter which one it was – it had william fucking shatner in it and therefore wonderful.
or not as the case may be.
the kid looked at me and said – it's not real it is all made in a studio.
what? what? what? i give the kid tv gold and he throws it back in my face with a it is all made up, what kind of shit is this. i mean, no, really what kind of shit is this.
i descend into a bit of a blue fugue.
talk about pissing on your parade!

just around the time i make him some tea (then i did have to cook – not well just enough to get by), we are watching street hawk on tv (it is some dreary programme about a bloke dashing around the place on a sleek bike solving crimes), and blow me down but the kid is well into it. he turns to me and then starts explaining how street hawk is related to knight rider who is a cousin of blue thunder and they are all pals with the bloke who drives the big truck everywhere. no doubt they all go for tea around at manimal's house.
what the fuck.
so you are happy to tell me that star trek is made up and not real, but you want to fill my head with nonsense about shitty programmes involving talking cars?
no. no. no. and no again.
but i am a grown up and i act like one. (all the swearing was silent and just internal dialogue.)
i just nod my head and agree. i let him witter on telling me and more about their adventures. my eyes don't glaze over but i am thinking of other things: klingons, romulans and uhura.

several years later i see that my work with the kid did pay off.
i'd been separated from his mum for a few years and i get a call out of the blue – can you get the kid tickets to see the star trek next generation movie? oh hi how are you? can you? (obviously we were picking up from where she kicked my heart apart). i'll try i say.
i get him tickets.
him and his mate go see the movie.
he had become a trekker. parenting job done.
stick that in your airwolf and smoke it.

Sunday, October 09, 2016


i remember the day i decided not to meet a hero.

the job had sent me (well forced me) to go to new york to attend the new york comicon. i really didn't want to go (yeah i don't understand it either) and almost sabotaged it by not having my passport ready in time.

i did get the passport, a day before i was to travel – plenty of time not cutting it fine at all. i did get to the airport in time – a matter of minutes, plenty of time. cutting it fine? never.
i survived the flight.
while the cab ride into mahattan provided a fantastic introduction to the city - i did not get one of those interesting cabbies of film, tv and everyone else who went to new york: you know the ones who tell you about their experiences from their days before being a cabby:explorers, spacemen, elite special forces. or the proud new yorker who knows everything and everyone in nyc and wants to tell you everything about his city. no i got the ones who chatted to their family on the mobile. total bummer.

i enjoyed, no loved, the few days i had to myself to walk the manhattan streets and art galleries.

but work. i had to go to work.
i turn up at the convention centre to see what i can do to help – turns out very little the boys and girls of diamond are a well organised machine when it comes to setting these things up and i am the proverbial spanner in the works, the fly in the ointment. i end up doing make work just to look like i am doing something and not getting in people's way.
at double quick time the booth is being erected.
i am oohing and aahing at some of the product – ever the fanboy.
all around booths are getting to that point where they are complete and those manning them are relaxing or starting to do the serious business of selling and buying.

as the uk representative of the company i decide to go and scope who is there – to see if there are people i can talk to in order to see what we can do to increase their sales or profile in the uk,
wandering to the back of the hall mostly populated with independent dealers and small publishers i spy a total star of the comic firmament. a hero. a great.

now i am not someone who cares much for celebrity. there are people i worship for what they do but i don't really go out of my way to find out more about them. i love their work and i want them to produce more of what it is they do that i like.
among that group there are a handful i want to have the opportunity to go up to shake their hands and thank them for the hours of pleasure they have given me over the years and to thank them for future work that they are going to do. (i would keep the gushing down to a minimum.)

the man heading up the continuity comics booth is just one of those people. as i live and breathe it is neal adams. neal fucking adams. oh i just have to go and say hi and thanks. i just want to tell him how much i love his work and how i have just ordered all three the batman hardcovers collecting his ground breaking run on the character.
oh shit i can feel a gush coming on.
there is a teenager at the booth chatting to neal adams – he has a recorder in his hand. turns out the chap is trying to do an interview with neal adams. also turns out that neal adams is being a total arse about it. well that's not very good is it. my hero, this star is totally up his own arse. what a wanker. all my good will and gush towards him have quickly turned to vitriol.
now given my recent wayne sleep story (and people say i just throw this shit together) i am well aware that celebrities of all stripes have to put up with total wankers and anybody watching waynegate would tell you wayne sleep was fully justified in what he said to me, but from where i was standing neal adams was just being a cunt.
i walked away.
i never said thank you.
i never shook his hand.
i never got let my hero know his work was respected and appreciated,
why because he was acting like an uber wanker's uber wanker.
i never read the three collected volumes – they now felt tainted.

it was a reminder that as much as you like people for their work – quite often they are not their work. sometimes it is the other way around i can't stand neil gaiman's work but everything i hear about him paints him as a top bloke.
perhaps it is better to keep a distance from your heroes and just their work speak for them.

i still enjoy looking at pages of neal adams's work, but i am more thankful to him for providing a lesson in not putting people on pedestals.

Saturday, October 08, 2016


i remember the day i got my nipples pierced

the last tattoo i got done is a fantastic piece – it is a hopi indian symbol that mean cloud that walks alone. now i'd like to take credit for how it sometimes is an accurate portrait of how i see me and the world but in truth i just like the design.
a moment of synchronicity.
while process of getting the ink and looking after it was not one of the best experiences to go through -i love the result. to this day i have no idea why it was a nightmare – the best i can come up with is i just wasn't in the mood.

but once bitten by the body modification bug it is hard to completely walk away from it especially as where i was working it seemed like barely a week would go by without someone getting more ink or a piercing.

suffice to say it wasn't long before i wanted something else done. i still wasn't sure about another tattoo i couldn't find a design i really liked and i wasn't ready to relive the travails of the last one. so move into new ground and new experience – let's get the nipples pierced. as i couldn't remember and couldn't be asked to find out which nipple was the straight one and which the gay one (the body as a call card) i thought i'd go all in and get both pierced and that is exactly what i did.

i went to a painfully hip and trendy place in smithfield. i even got there on time.
i explained this was going to be my first piercing and i was somewhat nervous. no worries, they tell me, simple process you'll barely feel it. yeah right i thought.

the piercer cane to collect me and we descended to the bowels of the shop. dark gloomy and atmospheric, it could happily double for a set in a hammer horror movie or be used for a dominatrix's dungeon.
the young chap who is going to do the deed has a maori style arm tattoo – i never quite understood the attraction of such tats just a lot of black ink on skin, may as well just do a new design every week with a marker pen, but that dear reader is the joy and wonder of tattoos: they are such a personal expression of who we are.
we chat. i once again go over the fact i am a bit of a wus when it comes to pain. he tells me that don't worry it doesn't hurt, and that it is best not to have a numbing agent, just get it done and enjoy that endorphin kick when comes rushing through the body.

he directs me to the old leather dentists chair – the back of my mind is screaming out DON'T GO THERE but that is because i have seen too many horror films. i take my top off and he begins to work on the nipples.
first problem: sweating like a pig so he can't get the guide clamps to stick every time he gets them on they just slip off. takes some time but the first one is in place. he gets out the needle – fuck that looks big, he gets out the ring – fuck that looks big. i close my eyes and he does his thing. the sweat doesn't help him but i can feel the needle going in and in and in and in – suddenly my nipple seems to be the size of a redwood tree. he is muttering and in my experience that is never a good thing. and then the pop – imagine the sound of taking a bite out of a ripe apple or peach and that is the sort of sound you get when your nipple is punctured by a needle. ring inserted. first nipple done.
i had to get up and walk around take some deep breaths to prepare myself for the next one. he took the opportunity to wipe down the chair that looked as if it had been hosed down in fatman sweat.

let's do nipple do.
see above.
pierced nipples.
lots of instructions of how to look after them.

not so happy a few months later when lying the bath the last ring finally floated out of the scabby nipple. no matter what i did to look after them the nipples became a magnet for everything to bang into them. carrying some boxes? the rings would catch. go to the gym, a weight would land on them. stumble into something and nipples would take the brunt of it.
those poor old nipples were not going to get any rest and the rings were destined to come out. shame really as they looked really neat.

what i did learn from it all is that generally when people tell you it isn't going to hurt they are lying. when they tell you the endorphin kick is going to be great they are lying, either that or i missed it because i ended up sleeping.

in the end the piercing turned out to be the last body modification i had. perhaps it is time to have some more?

Friday, October 07, 2016


i remember the day i was told to fuck off by a celebrity. 

there was a time when wayne sleep was the shizzle, and the time he was hot stuff was also the time my old man was working at the wig and pen club on the strand. 
back then the wig and pen was the oldest club in london - the building had survived the great fire of london. it being an olde building it was a bit pokey - but i guess that was the charm of it. mostly it catered to judges, lawyers and journalists (see wig and pen - awesome, and of course its location is also a dead give away to rich and expense account types who wined and dined there. dad was in his element there handing out a line of patter to any tom dick and harry who came in mixing deference with sarcasm while drinking himself to an early grave. 
(a bit of a digression here - a while back i had this idea to do a piece about my dad and the clubs and hotels he worked at sort of this is the only way a bloke like him could get to a place like this thing. i thought i would start with the wig and pen. i rocked up there to see if i could talk to someone about my idea and bugger me senseless it had been turned into a thai fast food joint - i was gutted.)

back to the story. 

for a reason that escapes me wayne sleep had gone to the wig and pen club. a few days later this visit was immortalised in cartoon form in a national newspaper. the cartoon featured my old man very prominently.
needless to say he was made up.

at the time i was studying at the london school of economics. one of the things i used to do when i was studying was to wander around soho and the west end at night. 
one night i was walking down long acre in covent garden and walking close by me is wayne sleep. we are pacing each other. he is oblivious to me. i am staring at him like a loon. i want to say hey you appear in a cartoon with my dad, but i don't. instead i keep staring at him as we keep walking in the same direction. i still want to mention that he has appeared in a cartoon with my dad, but i don't i just keep staring. by this stage wayne has noticed me. he is looking at me in an odd worried way. but why i think, after all you have appeared in a cartoon in a national daily paper with my dad. i said nothing, i kept staring and had an inane grin on my face. quite what wayne sleep must have been thinking i have no idea but i very much doubt he was thinking - i bet i have appeared in a cartoon with his doubt. he was more than likely to be thing along the lines of: who is this weird fucker?
obviously i ignore this glare from wayne sleep.

unfortunately we are still walking in the same direction and we have matched pace. i am still giving him that look that clearly says you have appeared in a cartoon with my dad but wayne sleep is being a bit of an idiot and he is just not getting it. i mean come on – i am the son of the man he appeared in how can he not want to acknowledge that.
i can honestly say that no part of my rational or common sense brain was working – so i am not picking up the warning signs or realising just how stupid i am being.

we continue on this mad path for a bit longer me with the stare but never once articulating why i am staring. him thinking i am a mad arse stalker weirdo. finally he snaps 'why don't you fuck off you cunt?'
i am somewhat taken aback and stop in my tracks. wayne sleep disappears into a building, he had obviously timed his wildean barb at just the moment he was arriving at his destination.

i am left alone in the dark night time street – there is no one around. i am a tad upset not because wayne sleep had sworn at me but because he still didn't get it he appeared in a cartoon with my dad, how didn't he know? then there is a moment of worry, perhaps he did know and perhaps i've ended up getting my old man into trouble. that bothers me as i walk to the tube station.

somewhere in the middle of the tube ride i realise what a tit i have been and smile ruefully at the whole thing – i have been told to fuck off by a celebrity, and deservedly so.

that said i still wonder if wayne realises just how lucky he was to be in a cartoon with my dad? i doubt it: his loss.


i remember the day i cried.

at heart i am a big old softie.

the weary sarcastic hard bitten cynic i often appear to be is just camouflage to hide my inner mancry. but the real me is so ready to weep that i might as well have been a luvvie – just a shame i can't act.

way back when, we used to go the cinema after work - sometimes a group of us, sometimes just a few. finish the job, rush to the west end, see a movie, home. a great way to relax.

titan was a place were lots of similarly minded people worked – most of us liked visual culture and most of us liked film – we may not have known much about the ins and out of cultural theory but to whip out an old saw 'we knew what we liked'.

me? i have always had a simple relationship with most of the things i go to see – i like a straightforward story,i am not someone who worries about subtext and complex hidden meanings. tell me that the killing of a character is representative of the end of patriarchy and i will probably snort like a pig while trying not to laugh.

start middle and end, stuff happening because well stuff happens and not because it is a metaphor or an allegory for something else.

never claimed to be an intellectual, shallow as the day is long. call me puddle.

this particular evening it was just my pal paul and i, not really sure how we choose the movie. it might have been that there was nothing else on, it might have been that we liked his previous movie for whatever reason we rocked up to see the latest kevin costner movie. little did i know it would change my life forever.

one of the things that myself and paul had in common was a capacity to eat a lot of sweet stuff. so before a movie there was determined walk to the concession stand to load up: chocolates, sucky sweets, ice cream, crisps all up for grabs. all topped off with a large helping of diet coke – this always got an amused grin from whoever was serving us and my protestation that i preferred the taste of diet coke fell on deaf ears – but it was true: honest.

laden with supplies we sit and watch 'field of dreams'. it is an amiable life affirming movie. it is sort of a baseball movie but it is also ...fuck i am doing subtext. anyway he builds it they come and everyone in the movie turns in pretty fantastic performances. then right at the end there is a scene (and i am not going to tell you what it is because i know some philistine out there hasn't watched it) and as this scene progress i get more emotional until such time as i am weeping, i casually lift my hand to wipe away the tears in an 'oh look i have something in my eye' type gesture. at this paul has looked around and asked in what can only be described as utter amazement 'are you crying?'

the concept of what happens in the cinema stays in the cinema never occurred to paul. so he blabbed, and by the time i had gotten to work pretty much everyone knew i was a blubberer, now there are several very valid reasons why this particular scene in 'field of dreams' hit me so hard, but to be honest they are almost beside the point at this stage.

i took a bit of ribbing about my blubbing.

forward a year or so and paul gets me a copy of the movie on video as a birthday present.

my mum was a big burt lancaster fan, he plays one of the main characters in the movie, a symbol of... (see look there i go again). one christmas it was on the tele and i told her she should watch it. in one of those familiar happy memories it was a chilly evening, fire on. light out, mum laid out on the couch, me in the comfy chair.'field of dreams' comes on we settle back to watch and enjoy. about 15 minutes in i can feel the first sniffle coming on. i am welling up. a casual wipe away. i needn't have bothered with the subterfuge mum had nodded off. as the film progressed she would go from gentle snores to gale force snores.

she didn’t get to see burt.

she didn't get to see me blub.

the video allowed me to watch field of dreams whenever i wanted. continued viewings just strengthened the mancry. it used to be that i just cried at the end of field of dreams. with each subsequent viewing there was another scene that touched an emotional trigger and off would go the waterworks. sometimes it was just a small welling up, others a full on niagara falls of tears just streaming down my cheeks. it got to the stage that just picking up the video or dvd case brought on tears. there was at least one viewing that i may as well have been watching from the bottom of a swimming pool.

the mancry wasn't just happy coming out for field of dreams. oh no. now it had tasted freedom there was no putting it back, no holding it in check.

i was a full on mancrier.

going to the cinema was now an emotional test. yes i teared up at marley and me – but damn it i was supposed to – its a dog dies in the end movie. but tears at a steven seagal movie? come on that is just not right. there are now a growing number of songs that are guaranteed to make me sniffle – and i have no reason why. there i am enjoying an episode of dr. who and bosh tears. there i am looking at the news in syria and nothing but the last episode of supergirl: call me weepy.

there is no rhyme or reason to what brings out the mancry – it lurks just waiting to break the surface and gush out.

a corollary of the impact of hat field of dreams had on me is no matter what kevin costner does he will always be a favourite of mine – up there with bruce and orson, and above steve and jean claude.

so there you have it. what started as a heartfelt weep in a cinema many years ago has now turned me into a blubberer of no distinction – anything is likely to set me off.

perhaps it is tourettes?

but do you know what? i have discovered something good and special – it is good to cry.

just not in front of anyone who will tell your mates.


i remember the day of my first prostitute encounter

it didn't take long (no this isn't going there – get your minds out of the sewer and at least join me in the gutter) before my dad realised that i was safe to go to the west end on my own.

once allowed to travel freely the weekly pilgrimage to dark they were and golden eye in wardour street, and later st. anne's court, became the thing to do. every weekend was like all your christmases rolled into one. new comics every week – who would have thought it – i mean after years of searching for the odd comic here and there in the local newsagents or being lucky enough to find a second hand bookshop that dealt in back issues (always with some great big stamp on the front telling you it was from 'dave's books' or some such. instantly turning a pot of gold into a lump of lead – but i didn't care, partly because i didn't know and mostly because i just wanted to have the thing in my hand, ownership was key not resale value).(if you were really lucky the same second bookshop would have a supply of old paperbacks: nel, james bond, film/tv tie-ins all the goodness that would never ever be accepted by school – and if that was the case i was farting rays of sunshine all day long).

in fact places like dark they were (because as i would later discover there was more than just one shop doing this there was a whole industry) took the fun out of it, no longer did you have to hunt for these rare gems, now you were able to pig out each and every week. i had gone from little choice to too much choice.

all which is beside the point of this little remembrance.

the trips to west end and soho were mostly to do with comics, but soon stretched into buying records. true my local area had the most wonderful sellanby record store – a place where i started many long term love affairs – with musicians such as frank zappa and king crimson. like any young man i was happy to have dalliances with other record stores. and lo it came to pass we found one close to dark they were that specialised in cheap remainder records. sure there might be a bit of the corner missing to the cover, sure there might be a bit of a warp on the record – but they were cheap, and i liked cheap.

once we had bought comics we would walk through soho going towards piccadilly to get to the record store. while this was not the hey day of soho – it was still pretty wild for boys who were still dealing with raging hormones and lived out in the sticks. you could give yourself a neck injury with all the head turning and you. looking at shops that sold all sorts of interesting material that you could not mention in polite society not even in a postmodern ironic sort of way. looking at all the door signs that advertised all sorts and sizes of women doing all manner of things – if only you wanted to walk up those stairs and ring that bell. all of this went on around a vibrant street market selling fruit, veg and fish.

it was a very busy place where the curious mixed with the local.

the journey to the record store would take you past numerous sex shops all with windows crammed with magazines and toys of every description – just from looking you could get an interesting education into the myriad possibilities that human sexuality offered.

on this particular occasion the route we were taking meant we went by a road where there were two casinos. the only interest to us in the casinos were the nifty frontage they both had. no way we could have gotten in to them and i have never been interested in gambling. the casinos meant it was a busy street, even though it was one of those streets that said there is nothing here for anyone other than gamblers. it was pretty much a through road – went through it to go somewhere else.

we were chatting about the comics we had just bought, we were thinking about the albums we might buy. the usual chit chat that kids who were still worried about their 'o' levels (it seems an appropriate reference given the circumstances) would chit chat about. the only care in the world we had then was did we have enough money for the comics and records we needed (listen i may never have done drugs but i was addicted to paper and vinyl).

key here is that i am yet to do my 'o' levels i am young dumb and full of not much of anything. i was also probably the last generation of kids who were still 'innocent' where sex and all that went with it was still a smutty joke rather than a life choice (not that we could have sexted back then but people did pass naughty notes in class, not me though i was still naïve). the closest i got to a meaningful relationship with a girl was with jean grey of the x-men.

bag of comics in hand, about to add an album or two to that stash and then head off home to read and listen.

just as we get to the record shop we have to cross the road the casinos are on.

right at the corner is a flash car – i am slightly impressed. i know fuck all about cars now, knew less then but i can appreciate a sleek line and a shiny (get your mind out of the gutter) hood. draped over the cars are several women, and when i say draped i pretty much mean draped. as we got closer one of them slinked off the car and stood to speak to us.

polite as ever we were ready to tell her the time or answer her question – because that's the sort of people we were.

'do you want to fuck?'

it wasn't the question we expected and it wasn't the sort of question we could answer, after all we had just bought comics and were about to buy albums. sex was the furtherest thing from our minds especially sex with attractive but forthright in your face ladies.

cue some blushing.

cue some shuffling of feet.

cue some speeding up.

cue some clutching dark they were bags as shields.

cue some spluttering.

we moved on double quick time.

i am not sure if the girls laughed or not, they must have known we were under age and just not ready for their assault on our sensibilities.

in the many years since then i have been approached by numerous prostitutes as i wandered around soho and the liverpool street/ commercial road area and quickly developed a 'no thank you – have a nice night' style response – sometimes it led to conversations mostly just a nod as they looked out for the next potential punter.

i can't remember what albums i bought that day – but i am pretty sure it was cheaper than sex with those ladies of the afternoon, and i know i have more pleasure from it than i would have had from a dirty fling.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


i remember the day i tried smoke

both my parents were heavy smokers – just about 5 cigarettes short of being chain smokers. they started when smoking was cool and a socially accepted thing to do (if only the anti-racist and anti-sexist groups could replicate the change in attitude smoking has gone through). my early life was filled with fogs of ciggie smoke as mum puffed on players and dad puffed on senior service, not that they really cared that much about brands – a smoke was a smoke was a smoke.

no matter where you went there were people smoking. pubs smoking. restaurants smoking. doctors smoking. cinema smoking. buses smoking.

for some reason i never took it up.

then one day i decided i would try.

i would be like those cool kids at school.

i would be like my mum and dad.

i would smoke.

it was half term.

parents were out working.

i was doing nothing so it was time to give it a go.

have a puff.

have a drag.

there was enough time before mum came home from work to make sure that any evidence of my indiscretion would have disappeared.

do a quick check. pack of fags available, big lighter? on the table. ashtray? on the table (it may seem incredible that smokers who could have competed in an olympic puffing team could misplace, lose or break as many lighters and ashtrays as they did but add in booze and well it is easier than you think.

right let's do this bad boy thing.

oh hold on.

let's draw the curtains. mum's flat (always thought of it as her place) was the middle one of a block of three. the living room window overlooked a large green space but was opposite an l-shaped block of houses, so there was a very faint possibility that someone might be looking in the window at me and realise what i was doing and might be concerned enough to speak to my parents about it (say the same chance i have to win the roll over lottery win – that wasn't available then). so i did the sensible thing. i drew the curtains, even though we had net curtains (net curtains i have recently learnt means you are middle class – this would have been news to both my parents who just considered them the done thing – i of course was quite happy curtain and net less),

right. no one can see in.

equipment ready.

do it.

i get a cigarette. i get the lighter. i take up position and psyche myself up.

a few strikes of the lighter to make sure it is working.

dangle the fag from my lips to get a feel for it.

check the look in the fake antique mirror (mum loved that mirror),

oh just spark it up.

flick the lighter,

put it to the ciggie.

huff or is it a puff?

crikey how long have i been watching mum and dad smoking?

why can't i get the darned thing to light.

try again.


not working,

just seem to be burning the end of the cigarette.

give it another go. third time is the charm.

oh no it isn't.

couldn't get the cigarette to light. tried my best. divine intervention meant that i never smoked.

my attempt at sparking up to become a cook kid failed.

have never smoked since or even thought about it.

have never managed to be a cool kid. ever.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


i remember the day of the bomb.

time tends to speed up or slow down at just the moments you don't want it to. the day at work had been a bit draggy, end of the week finishing off shit, the sort of things i couldn't just leave and come in at the weekend to do. all day it was bitty work. the gap between the tick and tock of the clock seemed to be minutes rather than seconds.

then, as ever, around 5 o'clock when all sensible people are leaving i get dragged into a phone call and dealing with a customer. yeah thanks. still no worries an hour before i have to worry about getting out of the warehouse so that i can get to the game on time.

just how long can this take?

now the gaps between the ticks and tocks are whizzing by and the clock is moving like the devil is on its tail.

a niggle, a worry that i am going to miss the game. can't miss the game it is an important one for the championship and it is our cross town rivals: leopards versus the london towers, and i have never missed a home game.

as the call continues more and more staff are leaving.

shit i am going to be left to close the warehouse up. piss on a stick.

finally get the call to end.

gone 6pm. don't have much time.

make sure everyone is out of the warehouse.

lock up downstairs.

check no one is left in the offices upstairs. chub the door. do my ablutions, get my bag ready. one more check that everything is locked and turned off.

set the alarm. slam the shutters and fit the locks.


now get to the game.

walk run to the station, can still make the start, i can still do it. no i can. just a bit of huff and puff and i will be there.

mmm looks a bit overcast, hope i get there before it rains.

bit of luck there is a dlr coming in. phew caught it.

going to make it, going to make it.

bloody thing has stopped. why?

oh come on just a few more stops and we are there. come on. move you bastard.

this train is out of service please change at the next station, west india quay. sod it i can run from here (well maybe shuffle) i can still get there for the first quarter.

spits of rain in the air not much but i can feel it.

still a bit grey overhead – but be getting dark soon.

running down westferry road aiming to go down marsh wall road – i am sure there is a quicker way but i don't know my way around here that well and i really have to get there. flash of light, big bang. fuck me it is going to storm and i am going to get caught in it. shit.

oi you where do you think you are going?

it's a copper shouting at me, why?

off to the basketball match.

don't you know area has been cordoned off?


didn't you hear it?


the bomb?

what bomb?

(the copper is looking at me as if i am a total retard who is having a very bad day)

the one that just went off.


can i get around if i go the other way. i've got tickets (as if that explains and justifies everything).

he dismissively waves at me – an expression of well it's your funeral on his face.

i run off down westferry road.

run. walk. jog. walk. run. jog. gotta get to the game.

go past one of the tower blocks. glass from windows carpets the forecourts

get the arena. i am on time as the game as been delayed. of course it has.

then it struck me i have run towards an ira bomb.

i have continued running into a potential site for a second bomb.

i am in a packed arena in an area where there might be another bomb.




as i watch the game – a little less involved in the lacklustre action then normal – all i can think is i ran towards a bomb, i ran towards a bomb, i ran towards a bomb. a fucking big bomb. a big fucking bomb.

can't remember who won. didn't really care.

we had to walk back from the arena. a bit more caution, a bit more fear. area swamped with police and army doing checks and clear up. loads of ambulance and fire brigade on hand just in case. huge numbers of press – big outside broadcast vans, small outside broadcast vans, reporters with backpacks and microphones. all looking for the big story or anything they could fill the airwaves with .

as we walked you could see more of the damage done by the shock wave: broken windows, buckled doors, damaged cars. eerily quiet.

was glad to get home.

it wasn't to be my last run in with a bomb – i would be near by the 7/7 attack at floodgate. i would be close by the brick lane and wardour street bombings as well. for a bit there i was getting paranoid, but just my natural bad luck.

fingers crossed it will be a while before i get caught up in something like that again – much prefer dull to that sort of excitement.

Monday, October 03, 2016


i remember the day of the puddle

this is probably my earliest memory. i am not like a lot of my friends who can remember what they had for breakfast the second sunday after their third birthday. frankly i have trouble remembering last week – mostly because like mr. kipling i live exceedingly – just not make cakes, keeping it dull. what that basically means is that while i should have lots of interesting memories of early 60s brick lane: i don't.

though very oddly many years back while visiting a friend who had moved into the street i used to live on i was looking out of his back window and said to him – see that bridge there? i used that to cross over the train tracks to get to school (not sure if i was right or wrong side of them), it was a bridge i had never seen from that angle and hadn't been near in 20 years or so. yet several years later when i had moved back to the area i spent many a happy hour in my favourite coffee shop oblivious to the fact that i was born there. go figure.

so back to this day in the early 60s.
it was winter – lots of leaves on the ground – big curly up ones. a nip in the air. soggy splashy park. i am all bundled up in a duffel coat and wellies, short hair and a cheeky grin (the sort of grin that just begs to be slapped). dad is in a suit, white shirt and tie – the proper gent, brylcreemed hair (when he still had some), fag in hand (days before health warnings-not that they had any effect when they came in he just kept puffing as if his previous life he was a chimney), our dog, black lab called sally, running back and forth not sure if she was keeping me safe or treating me as if i were an errant sheep.
dad has a ball at his feet, he kicks it. i run after it. kick it back. dog running back and forth. happy kiddy squeals of fun. two things that the neutral observer would spot straight away – that we were having fun. secondly that the amount of footballing skill on display was disappointingly close to zero, what did we care – i was still a kid who just wanted to play and he was a dad who just wanted his nipper to be knackered come bed time.

it is the nature of kick and run that you end up going all over the place, especially when one of the kickers was a child with no skill at all. it was all about fun, not about skill. dad would kick, puff and throw a stick for the dog.
we roamed the park.
then the fateful kick. it scooted away. i ran after it. dog yapping following, look a big pile of leaves to run through (c'mon who can resist a pile of leaves to mess up … oh you all can, well i couldn't. full speed ahead leaves to mess up.
and then i am in a very large deep puddle. a deep wet cold puddle.
laughter stops.
bawling starts.
stuck there for hours and close to death.
or 30 seconds and just up to my waist.
you take your pick.

i was a mess.
dog was a mess
mum not best pleased.
dad trying not to laugh too much.

strangely there are still days when i want to jump in puddles and splash about in them, and while that still happens i know i can still find a smidgen of happiness in the everyday and that is good to know.