Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Grandfather.


My Mother: Shall we walk the dog down to the allotment together?

I blink briefly and agree. Something I’ve inherited from my mother – and she from her father – is an emotional distance. We've never really had a traditional mother-son relationship, being very close in age.

I hold the lead of her dog as we walk. We chat about nothing much and gaze across the valley, not acknowledging that this is odd. We get to her allotment.

As a child I would visit my Grandfather’s house every Sunday with my father and younger brother – post-divorce we’d stay with my Father in his rank bedsit, top-to-toe in a double-bed with sheets that had not been washed in living memory  - and have to get used to a couple of days of bad food, poor hygiene and the loneliness of pub lounges whilst our father drank in the bar with his friends.

We would then return home to our mother and her new husband who also drank and despised me. I dreaded that also.

Sunday was another matter. My Grandfather sang opera, painted, read, gardened, acted in his local amateur dramatic society, listened to Radio 4, played the piano and was the opposite of any man I’d ever known. And each week my father – who did this much – would take me to see him.

They were precious hours. In later life I would take the still very young Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter to see him of a Sunday and Favourite Son would inform his mother “Guess what Mummy? We went to the big house today!” And it was a big house, filled with art, books and peace. It was an escape, a refuge and was presided-over by an absurdly strong-willed man who constantly smelt of cigarettes, gin and learning.

“They call me ‘Great’ of course.” He would inform the family. They didn’t, but they couldn’t quite manage “Great Grandad” and he liked his version.

He was the only person who wrote to me when I left home for university – typewritten, signed by hand, naturally – the only man who took me to one side and offered me his wisdom before I did. But a cold, distant man who was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

He was a frightening and impressive man who commanded every room he was ever in. There was always an easel in his front-room with a work-in-progress, a new piece he was trying to learn for the piano (he wasn’t very good to be honest) or something new he was trying to cook, his garden was an oasis and he was a joy to be around.

At this point he had died two days previously. Practicalities aside, we'd not spoken of it.

My Mother and I both gaze at each other for awhile. We smile at each other.


My Mother: Anyway. Shall we go back?

William Kemp 1915 - 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

“Previously, On ‘Tired Dad’…



A little over six months have passed since I last updated this foolish web-log (I hold the term ‘blog’ in some distain and will not entertain it) and – partially inspired by the excellent Belgian Waffling and her ‘forty updates over forty days’ thing – I have decided it is time to make some sort of effort myself.

Normal service will, therefore, resume shortly (ie: weekly, fortnightly or maybe monthly posts depending upon events and/or my mood) but it seems only reasonable to briefly update my no doubt now limited readership on the events of the past few months. So, in no particular order:

  • Made redundant by Evil Multi-National Media Corporation (last week in fact). People of my acquaintance have argued that if one decides to work for an Australian media mogul of limited morals then one gets all one deserves. They can fuck themselves.
  • Fell in love. With an actual real-life woman. Anyone who has ever met me will be unsurprised to hear that this did not end well.
  • Afflicted with a brief attack of labyrinthitis (look it up, I can’t be bothered to create a link.). Colleagues, paramedics and Accident and Emergency doctors all thought I was having a stroke. Not embarrassed to admit that I’ve never been so scared.
  • Also had a similarly dramatic epileptic episode in my place of work. Unsettled some people, but it did have a positive outcome. Unfortunately, I have also had more related incidents in the past six months than in any time since my diagnosis.
  • Have spent more time this year with my Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter than at any time since Tired Mam decided everyone’s life would be improved by moving four hundred miles away without me. “It’s been a ‘Daddy’ year” Favourite Son solemnly intoned whilst discussing this.
  • I do not normally give much time to Halloween but, as offspring were staying with me at the time, we had what they described as the “best one ever”.
  • Met Tired Mam’s new ‘fella’. He seemed alright, to be honest. Nodded his head a bit too much but nobody’s perfect.
  • Got my VHS video-recorder to work again.
  • Appalled by the fact that my now twelve-year-old Favourite Daughter has become – without any consultation – a Young Woman, resplendent with hips, bum, tiny waist, vest-tops and constant flirtatiousness.
  • My Grandfather died. Being a massively self-involved person, I didn’t realise until after his funeral that he was the only constant elder-male figure throughout my life and the only man I’ve ever looked-up to. I still haven’t cried.
  • Finally figured-out the SCART leads at the back of my television so I can have the VHS, DVD player and Freeview box all workable at once. I don’t watch television much but, you know.

That’s about it, I think. I can elaborate upon any of the above on request (aside from the ‘falling in love’ thing) – assuming anyone now reads this – otherwise the next update will involve an unusual encounter I’ve recently had with a gentleman of no fixed abode.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Old Skool And That.



Deciding to watch some television – for the first time in days – I switch on my ageing CRT widescreen television at the power socket. It promptly explodes. I actually leap away as it dramatically expires.

It really exploded.

I stare at it in the manner of a man who can’t actually believe that anything else in his life could go wrong. It’s been a difficult few weeks. I roll my head on my neck.

Twenty-four hours later and I am delighted. I’ve dragged the old 21” square black television from the cupboard under the stairs, wired all the SCARTs and the FOUR other cables that have no obvious purpose, put the big silver widescreen dead thing back under the stairs without back injury. These CRT things are heavy and I’m no Geoff Capes.

I watch an episode of Cheers in its intended aspect ratio. The colour depth is astonishing, the resolution is astounding. The bass and stereo is amazing.  I switch channels for a while just to see people without horizontally-elongated heads and to hear them as they were meant to be heard on my twenty-year old television.

Everything was fine the way it was. Really. Vinyl was better than CD. Old televisions are better than the new ones. Low-tech is the best.

I turn the television off, deciding instead to spend the evening reading. That’s as low-tech but also as cerebral as it gets.

I turn my Kindle on.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

An Aching Leg.



Not so long ago. I am sitting in my front room, reading. My Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter are staying at my house for a few nights, there are three toothbrushes in the toothbrush glass in my bathroom instead of the usual lonely one and I’m feeling ok.

It is nine at night and my children have been asleep for an hour.

The door slowly opens.

Favourite Son: I’ve got an aching leg.

He hasn’t even opened his eyes yet and is tousled of hair and rumpled of pyjama.

Me: Come here son.

I gather him in my arms, he tucks his head under my chin and puts his arms around my neck. He’s nine now and such spontaneous displays are becoming increasingly rare. We head upstairs.

Six or seven years ago this was a regular occurrence; to the extent that his mother managed to convince herself he had rickets or something. I finally worked it out – he was finding himself half-awake as we all often do, disorientated, alone, in the dark and wanting only the proximity, touch, warmth, familiar smell and the gentle warm breath on his skin of someone he loved and trusted beyond question before he could rest.

So he’d tell us he had an aching leg. And we’d rub it better and kiss him and hug him and he’d go back to sleep.

It’s been at least five years since he’s had an aching leg. Tonight he is four hundred miles away from his mother and their familiar home, sleeping in a bed he uses rarely. So I 'get it'.

I put him back down in his bed.

Me: Just lay there a second, son. I’ve got some Magic Cream that’ll be perfect for this.

I don’t think he buys the age-old ‘Magic Cream’ placebo thing any more than I buy the ‘aching leg’ nonsense but it’s an important routine. Returning from the bathroom with the Tiger Balm, I roll up his pyjama leg and gently massage a small amount in.

Me: It’ll feel quite warm but it’s great for aching legs, ok?

He silently nods his head, eyes still closed. I give him a small hug and tuck him in.

Me: I love you.

Favourite Son: Love you too.

I place a gentle kiss on his forehead, and return to my front-room and my book.

And smile to myself. I suppose we all get an aching leg from time-to-time.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Inappropriate Jokes And Massive Insults.



I am in the office, checking my emails in lieu of doing actual work.

Me: FUCK!

I telephone the ex-Mrs Tired for one of the few times since she decided her life and those of our son and daughter would be considerably improved without me in it. (She usually calls me.)

Me: This school trip of Favourite Daughter’s is NEXT WEEK! I’ve just had the email from the school! I didn’t realise it was so soon – she’s only bloody eleven why the hell is she going to FRANCE on her own?

Her: She won't be on her own, it's with the school. And I think it’s Belgium actually…

Me: WHAT? We don’t even know what fucking country it is? CHRIST! We’ve both seen Taken…

As the words tumble from my five-foot-fuck-all eight-stone body I know I’ve misjudged things.

Her: WHAT! Why would you even think something like that! Why would you say it! What is wrong with you?

I belatedly realise that silence is my best option at this point.

Her: And I’ll tell you something for nothing – you're no Liam FUCKING Neeson!

It’s a valid point. And probably one of the funniest things she’s said to me.




Monday, March 24, 2014

Yet Another New Job.

Interior. Day. Office building of Evil Multi-National Media Corporation.

Me:..so yeah if you just cut the sprouts in half and fry them face-down without boiling the flavour is totally different.

New Blonde Colleague: Actually that sounds really good. I might try that. Maybe with a bit of garlic. And I'd probably use single cream...

New Blonde Colleague is no substitute for the original Blonde Colleague who has tiresomely decided to give birth and is no longer available for my amusement but she has become an immediate and close friend which is a bit odd for me.

Me: Sounds good. If I were to make it again I'd add some mushrooms...

NBC: Ooh yeah...

Me: Use pancetta though...

New Blonde Colleague is rake thin and eats like a horse and adores food, as do I. Also listening is New Thug Colleague, who is a skinhead, over-weight, plays bass in a punk band and is a massive Newcastle United fan. He has been surrounded by a predominately female working environment for some time and has been struggling with it.

New Thug Colleague: You know what Tired?

Me: Mmm?

NTC: When I heard you were joining us I couldn't wait to have another bloke here.

Me: Ok.

NTC: I hope we get one some day.

Me: Bite me.

It seems to be going well.

Friday, February 07, 2014

My Eight-Year Old Son, Ladies And Gentleman - The Writer. Below Is All His Own Work.

Death Valley 


Bridge squinted at the shimmering scenery in the distance, the desert sands seemed to stretch for a thousand miles. The blazing sun was slowly sinking and the night sky was creeping in. He pulled his flask out of his pocket and took a long, thirsty gulp of water.
“Rats,” he hissed. “I'm nearly out of gas.” He quickly scanned the arid landscape for a gas station, but all he could see was sand and the dry bones of desert animals.
Bridge slid down the side of his motorbike and sat on the cracked ground, thinking.
All of a sudden dust rose into the air. Bridge looked up, noticing a large truck approaching. He jumped up and waved his hands to let the drivers know he was there. The truck stopped and two men wearing sunglasses stepped out. Bridge held out his hand.
“Am I glad to see you!” smiled Bridge, shaking the bearded man's hand.
“We ain't got nothing better to do, we just spend our days in the desert. Always someone who needs help” he said slowly, staring at Bridge and holding up a container of gas.
“I'm Hank, this is Ray,” he added, pointing to the man next to him.
Bridge jerked his hand back from the shake; it felt cold and scaly. Both men removed their sunglasses, revealing shining violet eyes.
Bridge backed away and the guys knew that he thought there was something strange about them.
Bridge jerked his head around, searching; there was nothing.
Nowhere to run. No gas. 
Bridge slowly reached for the knife on his belt.
The men moved forward and each time their boots thudded to the ground, grey, mirrored scales swept up their bodies, swiftly transforming them from men to giant lizards! Their forked tongues darted from cave like mouths and knocked the knife from Bridges belt.
Bridge stared at the knife, almost defeated, it was too far to reach. Quickly, he grabbed his flask and squirted water in their eyes. As the lizards pulled back, Bridge grabbed the container of gas and splashed it over them.
He took his lighter from his pocket and lit the trail of gas dripping from the overgrown reptiles, WHOOOOOF
A ball of orange flames engulfed the scaly assassins.
Bridge ran to his bike as fast as possible and poured what was left of the gas into his motorbike. He swung one leg over his bike and... a flaming lizard grabbed his leg and started to drag him into the fire! Bridge dug his nails into the sand as he was pulled, but it was no use, he could already feel the heat burning through his trousers. He kicked his legs wildly trying to escape and put out the fire. He kicked the lizard right in the face and he let go. Bridge jumped onto his bike, he'd seen the last of them.
BUT

As he sped away the shapeshifters slowly regenerated back into human form, watching with their violet eyes.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Rocket Man.


Interior. Day. It resembles the waiting-room of a doctor’s surgery. A disorientated woman in her late-fifties wearing gardening attire enters and takes a number from the ticket dispenser. The number on the ticket reads ‘65’. She glances at the LED display above the reception desk. It reads ‘43’. She sighs and takes a seat, glancing around her in a bewildered manner. The other people seated do not look healthy. Some are bleeding.

After a moment or so a side-door opens and a wiry gentleman of perhaps sixty or seventy years of age enters. His grey- to silver-hair is swept back, he is wearing a plain t-shirt, jeans and sturdy boots.

Wiry Gentleman: You. Come with me.

Disorientated Woman: What? Me?

WG: No. The other woman I’m looking at and talking to. Yes, you.

DW: What’s happening? Where am I? A moment ago I was in my garden doing the weeding before winter set in…

WG: Look, I’ll not beat about the bush. It’s like this: you’re dead, aren’t you. This is the after-life. There’s a bit of a queue and they thought – you know, considering the circumstances – I should rush you in. [Eyes the seated people, the LED display above reception] Fucking bureaucrats. Justifying their eternal existence. Sheep.

DW: Wait! What circumstances? All I remember was doing the borders in my back-garden and looking-up to see this bloody great rocket hurtling toward my head…

WG: [Taking a glug from a can of Carling and then drawing on an oddly-fragrant hand-rolled cigarette before fixing her with a steely-blue gaze that many would find intimidating] Yeah. That was me. Me in the rocket. That did you in. It was decided it was ‘polite’ I do this for you. Come on [gesturing toward the side door] hurry in before the fucking lemmings get wind.

…………………

Five days ago (oh, this is me now) and I’m standing in a back garden. It’s a beautiful garden – my favourite kind; utilitarian, a place that produces; that grows useful stuff - things you can eat, things you can use - a man’s garden. A place to work, to drink, to smoke, to reflect. A place that brings satisfaction to whoever tends it. It boasts a tremendous view over one of Gloucestershire’s valleys.

There are loads of people milling around, some gazing with concern at the sky and the light rain it is sprinkling. Among them are my Favourite Son, Favourite Daughter, their Grandmother, their Uncle James and the ex-Mrs Tired Dad, Their Mother.

The garden is huge, and Uncle James is half-way down it, separated by some yards of electrical wire and a detonator from a three-foot tall model rocket. The rocket contains the ashes of his and of the ex-Mrs. Tired Dad’s father – my children’s Grandfather. Ashes I had escorted on my lap from the crematorium in the passenger-seat of his ex-wife’s car.

With the strains of Pink Floyd playing from the house behind us Uncle James pulls the trigger and the rocket shoots what seems hundreds of feet in the air before the payload detonates over it’s passenger’s favourite place in the world.

And then instead of descending straight ahead into the valley it veers to the right. Quite a lot to the right. And disappears over the roof of a neighbouring house into what can only be the back garden.

Bloody hell, I think to myself, I hope there was no-one out there.

John Bridge-Williams 1945 - 2013


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Banter.


I approach the bar of the ale-house I have met some old friends in, slightly giddy with the odd experience of being neither in my office nor my home and of being surrounded by people I have a genuine fondness for.

Slightly Attractive Barmaid: What can I get you?

Me: A pint of Strong Drink, please.

I’m not entirely sure what ‘banter’ is. It seems to have a bad reputation. However, I’m feeling a bit excitable so decide now is the time to give it a whirl.

Me: Oh, and can I have it in a normal straight glass and not one of those vases?

SAB: You don’t like the chalices?

Me: No. I’ve quite small hands and the weight and balance feels weird and I always end-up spilling some.

She glances at me with professional polite dis-interest. I ‘up my game’.

Me: Plus, they look gay.

SAB: [Giving me a contemptuous look] I’d have stuck with the ‘small hands’ story were I you.

Me: [Warming to this now, resting my elbows on the bar] Well. You know what they say – ‘small hands, small…...’ Ah. Erm.

She gazes at me blankly and places my drink in front of me.

Me: *sigh* Sorry. Forget that. It didn’t work. I…erm. Thanks.

I turn to walk away with my drink.

SAB: [To my back] THAT’S THREE POUNDS FIFTY.

Me: [Startled, slopping Strong Drink everywhere] Christ. Yes. Sorry.

Transaction complete, I return to the table of old friends – who have thankfully been out of earshot – and put my drink down.

Old Friend#1: [Cheerfully] Alright, then?

Me: Fuck off, will you?

I go outside for a cigarette. As I close the door I hear:

Old Friend#2: He hasn’t changed.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

I Nearly Die. Putting On My Trousers.


I am getting out of my mother’s car after the obligatory Thursday-night dinner at her house.

Me: So. Thanks. Oh and I shan’t injure myself whilst putting my trousers on again. Haha.

My Mother: [chuckling] I told M [M is her husband] about that –

Me: Why? When?

MM: Oh you were out having a smoke. He thought it was really funny. If you tell anyone, though, you must say it was one of your ‘episodes’…

Me: *sigh* Goodnight.

Two days previously:

I’m late for work but this as yet presents no immediate physical danger. I’ve kept my ablutions down to 10 minutes and am getting dressed.

I begin to put on my trousers. I have done this many times. I am getting quite good at it. I have no immediate fears for my well-being.

Time slows.

I plunge my right leg into my trousers. I have not cut my toe-nails in some time. I am single. If I were in a new relationship my toenails would be immaculate. If I were once again in a long-term relationship they would be as dreadful as they are now.

My ragged big-toenail catches-upon the lining of the right-leg of my trousers.

As any man owning well-tailored apparel will know, the lining of one’s trousers cease about half-way between the crotch and the knee. My toe catches there, takes hold and forces my entire body weight into the knee of my right-trouser leg.

This then sends my head hurtling toward the wall over my dressing table, propelled by the entire weight of my body and the effect of gravity also. I don’t weigh a lot, but it’s enough when it’s propelling your head toward brick and plaster.

I think all of this in the milliseconds that are to follow:

“Oh dear,  I will eventually be discovered, rotting, with my trousers around my ankles. People will think ‘Micheal Hutchence’ or ‘David Carradine’. I can’t have this.”

I imagine my children having to explain this to their friends in later life, perhaps at University or something, “So, they found him with his pants down?” They will be asked. They’ll just shrug and say that their mother left me “before all that”.

The local newspaper will describe me as ‘troubled’. Possibly a ‘loner’.

And time returns to normal and at the last possible instant I put my hand out.

The shock ricochets up and down my arm.

My right eye-socket – already circled with scar tissue – is millimeters away from the wall. I know from experience that had it been my face instead of my hand I’d be unconscious.

I flop back onto my bed and finish the normally danger-free process of putting my trousers on. I pick the flakes of paint from my hand – which had hit the wall with such force it had removed them from the plaster and lodged them into my palm. I stand up with difficulty – my hips had hit the top of my dressing-table and limited my ability to walk for days after.

Five minutes later, I get into the car of the colleague who kindly gives me a lift into work each morning. She notices my limp and the burst blood-vessels and blood-blisters on my hand.

Kind Colleague: Oooh! What happened?

Me: Oh. Nothing.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

So. This Bloke Tried To Bum Me...


It all started innocuously enough, as I imagine receiving an unwelcome and unwanted bumming attempt usually does.

Heading home after work I notice Ex-High School Friend about to get in a car, armed with takeaway food.

Me: Fuck!

EHSF: Bloody hell!

We’ve only seen each other a couple of times in the last twenty years.

Me: How are things you twat?

EHSF: Awful! My wife’s leaving me, I can’t remember the last time I saw my daughter and I’m back living with my parents!

Me: [Laughing with genuine delight at his misfortune] Brilliant!

EHSF: You?

Me: Oh you know. Other-half left me, took-up with an unworthy and lesser man then moved hundreds of miles away taking my son and daughter with her. I wasn’t invited. Oh and I've just had an MRI that showed I’ve got brain damage. You know how everyone used to say I was ‘fucked in the head’? Turns out they were right! We should have a drink sometime.

We shake hands and exchange mobile numbers and I go home. Ten minutes later I receive a text.

How about now?

He arrives a short time later armed with beer and vodka. We drink and talk and may as well still be in high school. He’s that sort of friend – the type you don’t see for years and it’s as if no time has passed when you do.

We call it a night at about three in the morning and he goes home.

(Yes, I know he hasn’t attempted to bum me at this point – this is just some back-story. Don’t worry – it’s on the way.)

A couple of days later - as his parents are away for the weekend - he invites me round to their house for some drinks. I accept, on the reasonable basis that I do not expect to be bummed at any stage.

We drink far too much for far too long. At some point we begin wrestling. Which is very odd. It’s not the sort of thing I tend to do of an evening. And at some point he is on top of me, I’m flat on my back on the floor, he’s much bigger and heavier than I and he is attempting to unbuckle my belt and unzip my fly.

At this point I should add that he may not have been trying to bum me. He may have just wanted to wank me off. Either way, if anyone is to spontaneously tug me off I prefer that person to be a woman. And I'd rather my bum-hole remained intact no matter what the situation.

With this in mind, I manage to get my feet under him and kick him to the other side of the room. Taking no chances I then put him in a head-lock, the inside of my elbow blocking his wind-pipe and carotid artery. Understandably, he struggles against this and three days afterward I still have the cuts and bruises incurred whilst he fought against impending unconsciousness.

It was llike that scene in Unbreakable where Bruce Willis confronts the kidnapper using the same method and is slammed around leaving dents in the walls and holes in the plaster-board. By which I mean an ashtray was kicked over. It was carnage.

Eventually he passes-out and I sit on the floor panting. After a little while the blood and oxygen flow to his brain returns and he awakes.

Me: [Experiencing the sobriety that comes with a sudden burst of adrenalin] Hi. So. Have you ever had any gay feelings before now?

EHSF: Not until tonight.

Me: I’m going for a wee.

By the time I return from the toilet he is unconscious again. I calmly finish my drink and put his half-full cigarette packet in my pocket.

It’s the least he owed me.

I limp home.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mr. Daniel Surname.


INTERIOR. DAY. THE BOARDROOM OF FUCKING WITH TIRED DAD INC.

THE CEO IS SAT BEHIND AN ENORMOUS MAHAGONY DESK AND LIGHTS A HUGE CUBAN CIGAR WITH A BURNING FIFTY-POUND NOTE. ALSO PRESENT IS A NERVOUS-LOOKING EXECUTIVE.

CEO: [Pausing to sip from a crystal glass filled with the tears of orphaned children] Report on the progress of Operation Dan.

Exec: Um. Yes. Ok. Phase One has been successful. He wrote a blog post about it and everything. Not that anyone reads blogs anymore but…

CEO: ENOUGH! I will not tolerate negativity in this organization. So?

Exec: Right. Yes. So. We’ve commenced Phase 2. We should see results soon. Sir?

CEO: Mmm?

Exec: Isn’t this all a bit trivial? Who is this guy anyway? Who cares?

CEO: It’s that sort of talk that’ll see you back in the Department For Making Sure USB Sticks Never Go In The Right Way Round On First Attempt.

Exec: Dear God no. Anything else, sir?

CEO: [Rising and undoing his trousers] You KNOW what else.

FADE TO BLACK.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Somebody is definitely fucking with me. [This is me now]

Regular readers will remember my receiving some odd post, before all this ‘going missing’ nonsense.

I receive yet another envelope addressed to Daniel Surname but the ‘surname’ itself is different from the last one. Everything else – including the postcode – is bang-on.

This is far too co-incidental. I am hugely uneasy as I open it, which I know I’m not supposed to do. The postmark is familiar to me, a place near where I used to live in the South-West of England.

‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROTHER.’ Says the card.

I scratch my head. It’s nowhere near my birthday.

In biro within the card:

“Have a really fab 40th Dan! With lots and lots of love your Big Sis Surname.”

I'm not named Dan and I'm not 40 years old. I’ve lived here years. I know the man who lived here before me, who also lived here years and is not named Dan. Surely a man’s SISTER would know his current address? What is this?

Enclosed is a cheque for £20.00 made out to Daniel Surname signed by ‘Big Sis Different Surname’

This is outrageous. Not only are strangers sending me musical details of GENUINELY the worst songs on earth but they are also tormenting me with Twenty Pound cheques I cannot possibly cash.

This is all making me deeply uneasy. If I didn’t know any better I would think someone were doing it on purpose.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Missing Person.


“So, where have you been?” Asks the desk sergeant at my local police station.

Me: I haven’t been anywhere. [Gesture at myself] I’m not missing. I would have noticed.

Desk Sergeant: [Unamused] Yes. But there was the added concern regarding your medical condition…

I rub my right eye with the heel of my hand.

Me: [Wearily] It’s not a ‘medical condition’…

D.S: Anyway, thanks for coming in – you understand we have to take these things seriously. We can close the report now we’ve seen you in person.

Sixteen hours previously:

 I’m having a job interview held in the sort of absurdly high-class hotel that's dark and mood-lit even in the middle of a sunny day. The sort that take five minutes for your eyes to adjust whilst unfeasibly attractive members of staff clad head-to-toe in black appear at your elbow from nowhere like the shop-keeper in Mister Ben whenever a small frown crosses your brow and enquire in hushed tones if they can ‘do anything for you’, adding only to your disorientation.

It’s a lifestyle-magazine Overlook Hotel from the Shining, and all the staff are immensely glamorous versions of the sinister bartender. I am rattled, not helped by my mobile phone ringing in the middle of it all.

Me: So sorry, I’ll just get rid of this.

The call is from my landlord, which is odd. I turn the phone off.

My interviewer continues to talk to me. Phrases such as ‘press releases’, ‘social media’ and ‘front-end experience’ are thrown at me. I nod in a knowledgeable manner. I have no idea what is happening.

My other mobile phone rings, because I am the sort of imbecile who walks into a job interview carrying two mobile phones and doesn’t think to turn even one of them off.

(I have two phones because a ‘playa’ needs to ‘keep his shit separate’. By which I mean I can’t figure out how to get the number out of the new one and so have been unable to inform anyone of my new details and have to keep the old one with me.)

Me: [Killing the call and putting the phone on ‘silent’] God, I’m really sorry about this.

Interviewer: Mmm. So tell me – why are you thinking of leaving your current position?

I blather some ‘unable to feel I can fulfill my true potential’ nonsense, assuming that ‘threw a massive tantrum in the middle of the afternoon and stormed out without giving any notice a couple of days ago actually’ would not go in my favour.

Later.

I’m outside the hotel in the sunlight lighting a cigarette, observing with some amusement a football-shirt clad gentleman so inebriated he seems in danger of falling into the nearby river. Said gentleman begins to loudly and repeatedly question my sexual orientation, prompted no doubt by the fact I am wearing a well-cut suit and not a football-shirt.

I grin and give him the ‘thumbs-up’ and walk away, checking my mobile phones.

TEXT#1: Police are at our house looking for you as you have been reported missing!

From my youngest brother. “Bit odd.” I think to myself.

TEXT#2: The police are about to break into your house, you’re on the missing persons list. Going to kick your front door in, not even joking.

From my sister. “Actually, this is very odd.” I think to myself. I begin to wonder what my landlord wanted.

I attempt to make some phone calls. Amusingly, the network is down. I inwardly applaud O2 and it’s ongoing reliability, whilst thinking that I’m quite fond of my front door the way it is and that time is of the essence. There is not a public phone in sight. I’m not convinced they even exist anymore.

Five minutes later and I’m in a bar I used to frequent. The barmaid and I ‘sort of know’ each other.

Me: Can I use your phone?

Barmaid: [Dead-eyed] It’s not for customers.

She isn’t in a great mood. I look at her. She looks at me back.

Barmaid: [Runs a hand through her hair] *sigh* What’s it for?

Me: Someone’s reported me to the police as a missing person. They’re about to break my front door down unless they can get hold of me. Now.

Pause.

Barmaid: Yeah, go on then.

Fifteen minutes later and I’ve spoken to everyone concerned. The police inform me that my recently-ex employer had lodged the report. Despite being fully aware that I’d expressed no intention of setting foot on their premises again until they’d rectified their inability to pay me accurately and in a timely manner. The logic of the actions of my ex-employers continue to escape me. I promise the police I’ll attend the station the next morning to confirm my physical existence.

Me: [Handing the cordless phone back to the barmaid] Thanks.

Barmaid: Sorted?

Me: Yeah.

Barmaid: Drink?

Me: Shouldn’t really.

Sixteen hours later, slightly hungover, I ring the bell at the desk of my local police station.

Jovial Community Support Officer: Morning! What can I do for you?

Me: I’m the world’s least missing ‘missing person’.

JCSO: THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL!

Me: Mmm. Anyway. I said – I’ve forgotten the officer’s name – I’d come in person and demonstrate my, you know, non-missingness. Is that a word?

JCSO: I’LL JUST GET THE SERGEANT!

Me: Mmph.

I got the job, anyway.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Stories.


There are an awful lot of plasma-screens in my new office. I squint at them.
New Boss: Do you need glasses?
I tell him a story.
Me: I tore the corneas of both my eyes.
NB: Jesus!
Me: I know.
NB: What happened?
Me: I wore contact lenses for years, but my eyes are a funny shape. ‘Pointy’, according to my optician. Don’t know how many years he spent at Optician School to come up with that diagnosis…
I wait for the expected snort. I’ve told this story a hundred times.
NB: *snort*
Me: So I couldn’t wear the soft ones. Too big, they’d just fall out because of my ‘pointy eyes’ [I make the ‘inverted commas’ gesture with my fingers] So I had to wear the gas permeable ones. They’re really small. And they’re like glass. I wore the same pair for eight years. My eyes changed shape, the contact lenses didn’t and my eyes got all fucked-up.
NB: Fuck mate. Sorry.
Me: *shrug*
It’s a true story. What I never mention is that it was years ago and my eyes healed without any trouble and that I could very easily wear lenses or glasses now but can’t be bothered. I can see two foot in front of me – beyond that I really don’t care what’s happening anyway.
But that wouldn’t be such a good story. Stories are important things. And words are powerful things.
And besides – it’s just a small story.
Like this one.

A Mystery #1


I receive some post. This in itself is not mysterious. To be honest, it’s happened quite a few times. But this is not addressed to me by name. Again, something which is far from odd, but this is hand-written.

A hand-written envelope is not the method of choice for debt-collectors or direct-marketing companies. As such, I am intrigued. But is there not some sort of law involving opening Her Majesty’s Royal Mail? Is it not an actual criminal offence to open mail not addressed to oneself by name?

I think about this as I open the envelope addressed to Named Individual Who Is Not Myself, which is not my name. The Queen can fuck off. The Royal Mail was going to be renamed Consignia at one point anyway so she can’t be that bloody bothered.

‘Daniel’ is the Christian name of the person this envelope should actually reach.

I find four photocopied sheets of paper, with no explanatory covering letter. One is of ‘Guitar Chords Used In This Book’. Do they call it tablature? I neither know nor care.

Sheet two is the lyrics and chords for the abysmal song ‘Top Of The World’ that I had to sing at each morning’s assembly at the frightful Church of England First School I attended. It brings to mind my cold bottom upon the unforgivably chilly assembly hall floor.

I am now feeling uneasy.

The third sheet is similar, but this time refers to Mull of ‘fucking’ Kintyre.

I feel less uneasy.

The fourth contains the lyrics for I Have a Dream by ABBA. Someone has hand-written the chords next to the first three lines of the lyrics but has then gotten bored or lost the will to live and stopped.

There is nothing else. I have lived in this house for nearly three years. Would someone sending such obviously-expected information not be aware that the recipient had moved house some time ago? I know the previous inhabitants and owner quite well. None of them are named Daniel.

Or is someone FUCKING WITH ME?

Next: Someone is DEFINITELY fucking with me.






Monday, November 05, 2012

I Start A New Job And Have An Awkward Encounter With A Lesbian.


It’s a nice hotel – it’s got oddly-spaced stairs as all the best hotels do - and my new company has rented a meeting room within it for the week in order to ‘induct’ and feed their new employees, of which I am one.

I’m in the carpark smoking cigarettes with a couple of my new colleagues, both of whom are women and are discussing their love-lives  – a result of my special skill of making women forget I am actually a man.

Female Colleague #1: It’s just, it’s like he’s moving in by stealth. It’s only been a couple of weeks and his stuff is EVERYWHERE. It’s my place, you know, and all of a sudden he’s just THERE all the time. I can’t be doing with it. I just want some time to myself.

I am nearing the end of my cigarette.

Female Colleague #2: See, I’m the opposite. I can’t bear to be away from my lass at all.

Female Colleague #1: Your ‘lass’? Oh. You’re gay?

I’ve got maybe one draw left on my cigarette.

Female Colleague #2: Oh aye.

My cigarette is finished and I stamp it out.

Me: That’s me, then.

I head back into the relatively-swanky hotel, past reception and begin mounting the awarkwardly-spaced stairs up to our meeting room. I get about half-way up the first flight. And stop.

Reflecting upon the last couple of minutes, I realise finishing my cigarette and leaving a second after Female Colleague #2 had revealed her preferences might have indicated disapproval on my part. Which would be a gross misrepresentation. If  I were pushed to make a stance on the subject, I would have to come down firmly in favour of lesbianism.

Deciding the best thing to do is return to the carpark and smoke another cigarette with the claim that ‘I just fancied another one’ and cancelling-out any perceived homophobia I turn around and do the tiresome hop-skip back down the stairs only to be met by both female colleagues now coming back up them.

They give me an odd glance. My shoulders sag a little. Having little choice, I turn around and begin following them back up the stairs.

They glance over their shoulders at me. At which point I realise that it must seem I have been waiting on the stairs for them to pass by so I can then follow behind them purely to look at their bottoms.

I have no choice but to turn around and walk back down the stairs and into the Gents toilets in the bar. I look at myself in the mirror. I have the distant, perplexed expression of a man who can’t quite remember if he put the bins out last night.

Me: [To my own reflection] You’re a twat.

A previously-unnoticed gentleman gives me yet another funny look, straightens his tie in the other mirror and leaves.

Me: Brilliant.

I wash my hands to make it look like I have a reason for being there and head back upstairs.

Forgetting that it’s a ‘posh’ hotel and that the stairs are deeper than they are high and do a weird sort-of-tripping-skipping thing en-route like a prancing marionette.

But no-one saw that so I think I’m making a good impression so far.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Do Something Breath-Takingly Foolish. Just To Break Things Up A Bit.

 
 LAST SATURDAY. I awake, already heavy-of-heart that I shall have to return to my now-hated job come Monday. I make some tea, go out and buy the papers and eat some scrambled eggs.
“Actually, I’m not going back on Monday.” I think to myself.

 “Or ever.” It’s not a dramatic moment, more like a massive mental shrug. Sort of like that bloke in the film Office Space.
“I don’t really enjoy it so I’m not doing it any more.” He says. I can’t be bothered to look-up the actor’s name. But it’s like that.

I feel so much better at the very THOUGHT that I know there is no other option.

I turn on my fifteen-year old laptop and apply for about six jobs. “It’ll be fine.” I think. Because I am MINT. I will have a job offer by the end of the week. THAT IS MY TARGET. BECAUSE I AM AWESOME AND THAT IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN.
I actually think that to myself.

LAST SUNDAY. I make a full roast chicken dinner, with Yorkshire puddings, stuffing and everything. Because I am totally unconcerned. The ex-Mrs. Tired phones. I inform her of my rash decision to Just Not Work Anymore. The expected tirade regarding our children and my ability to be a proper father to them with no money does not arrive. “Oh thank God.” She says. Because I am either AWESOME or MINT. Probably. I don’t know.

LAST MONDAY. I have two interviews scheduled. Not bad. The other four will be in touch soon, I imagine. If nothing works out I can spend a week getting some decently-paid freelance writing work and it will all be fine. Because I am MINT. Or AWESOME. Current employer shows no interest in my absence.

LAST TUESDAY. The other four have NOT been in touch. I potter about the house, clean some stuff and do not go mad. I’m actually a bit worried though. Generally. I’ll never get freelance work. Not regular freelance writing work in one week flat. That would be absurd. Even if I’m MINT. Or AWESOME.  I’ll die alone. That’s what will happen. I’ve not even ‘pitched’ or whatever you call it. I’m not even sure I know what that means.
There’s a possibility I may not be mint. Or awesome.

LAST WEDNESDAY. Interview at agency for job #1. Fine. Phone call later – I’m meeting the actual company on Thursday. No word from the other job I’ve had a silly phone interview for. I am no longer sure exactly how MINT I am. I’m starting to sweat a bit, to be honest.

In actual fact I AM going a bit mad. I’ve effectively quit a steady job with nothing set-up in advance in the middle of the world’s worst recession EVER and am now flailing in a job ‘market’ that does not really exist. I will shortly have no means by which I can travel to see my own children or, indeed, feed myself and will be reduced to noshing-off sailors in Teeside for food money.

I am not fond of Teeside. Or, to be honest, noshing-off sailors.
Their Mother phones. I am insanely up-beat in the manner of somebody on the edge of ‘losing their shit’. Oddly, she is hugely supportive and sends me a text informing me that all will be well. Weird.
LAST THURSDAY. Another interview, this time with a real person who is in the position of actually offering me employment. In THE REAL WORLD and everything.

It’s horrendous. However, I’ve took the precaution of discovering that I actually know two people who work there, phoning them in advance and asking them to tell some lies and assure everyone that I am indeed MINT. And probably AWESOME.

Interview Bloke puts me through the most difficult interview I’ve sat through EVER but redeems himself in my eyes by offering me the job on the spot.

I briefly consider the 50% increase to basic salary and the considerable increase to bonus potential already and accept.
There is some hand-shaking.
LAST FRIDAY. “Good news!” Says the bloke from the agency about the other job. “They’re totally interested!”
They would be. I am both MINT and AWESOME.

That interview’s next week.

And the other four who never got back to me can fuck right off.

Friday, August 31, 2012

It Rains And It Rains.

“Do you think he’s dead?”

It’s not a phrase you often hear at two in the afternoon.

I join the rest of my colleagues at the window on the second-floor of our building.

Me: Christ. How long has he been there?

The rain pounds down, as it seems to have done for the last two months. The city looks set to flood again. Again.

Colleague#1: About half an hour.

We’re looking at a man slumped on the pavement across the street. It’s difficult to see any detail due to the black sky. The rain is so heavy it is also hard to see more than a few feet ahead.

A biblical clap of thunder shakes our windows followed by forks of lightning you only see on specialist satellite television channels. The man does not move.

Me: If I were him I’d have gotten-up by now.

Uncannily Similar: He’s dead.

We’ve all stepped-over bodies on our way into work of a Monday morning. It’s that sort of city. But this is unusual of a Wednesday afternoon. Considering the weather.

Colleague#2: He’s probably a tramp or something.

Colleague#1: Have you seen his trainers? They’re spotless. There’s something badly wrong there.

Thirsty Kirsty: Let’s just go down and have a look.

Fuck it. Yes. Why not.

Me: Right. Come on then you lot.

I grab the nearest umbrella and head for the double-doors that lead to the lift. I dramatically smash them open and turn around to see that everyone is carefully inspecting their fingernails. Like that scene in Jerry Maguire.

Me: Great. Brilliant. Thanks.

I stab the ‘G’ button in the lift with unnecessary vehemence.

The six wide-eyed ladies on reception look at me.

Me: When was the last time that dead bloke across the street moved?

Head Receptionist: Oh God at least forty-five minutes. We don’t know what to do. Somebody passed-by and shook him and he just fell over.

Me: Right. I’ll have a look and if it’s grim we’ll call the paramedics.

H.R: Oh thaaaanks Tired.

Me: Yeah. Ok.

This is bollocks, I think to myself as I cross the street. I was quite happy sneering at my twitter feed and pretending to work. It’s fucking pouring-down out here.

I shake his shoulder. Nothing. He’s as limp as a Rich Tea biscuit that’s been dunked for too long. As my knowledge of rigor-mortis is based on having seen two episodes of Silent Witness I don’t know what this means. But he’s not responsive.

Aware of the dozen pairs of eyes watching me from across the street I shake him a bit harder. He moves his head, thank fuck. And makes a ‘aaampphh’ noise. I’m hit with a blast of raw alcohol.

It’s raining. My sympathies are running low. I shake him some more. Quite roughly now. He is annoyed, from what I can gather. No-one likes rude awakenings, I suppose. Although I’m now quite pissed-off also.

Me: Have you been drinking?

Stupid question, really. He nods a bit. The white trainers were a red-herring – they’re actually filthy, as is the rest of him. Alcohol is not the only stink now apparent. He’s a young man and hasn’t shaved or washed in at least a week.

Me: We need to get you out of the rain, ok? You’re going to get pneumonia.

Despite his unhappiness at been aroused from his slumber I hook an arm under his right armpit and attempt to haul him to his feet. I think of Colleague#2 who plays rugby at weekends and is warm inside and not dealing with someone who could stab me at any moment whilst all nine-skinny-stone of me is out in the rain dealing with this cracker.

Me: Put your feet down. PUT YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND. PUSH UP WITH YOUR LEGS.

It’s fucking pouring down.

Me: UP!

Between the two of us I walk him the twenty yards to a small precinct. It contains a Ladbrokes and not much else. He slumps to the ground once more.

Me: Sleep it off, eh?

He’s already unconscious, but at least there’s a roof over his head. I head back to my building and update the Reception ladies.

Me: He’d just had a skinfull.

Reception Ladies: Awww thaaaaanks Tired.

I don’t tell them his drinking binge probably started weeks ago, that any spare food money he had he’s spent on white cider and that it’ll probably be weeks until he stops, at which point he’ll realise he has nothing at all.

I press ‘2’ in the lift and go and wash my hands. I stink.

And it rains and it rains.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Unsavoury Conversations With Taxi-Drivers Part 2

Twelve years later and I’m not late for work but I have just completed a long train journey.

I work in the North-East of England, it’s not a good job, I don’t do well and I live in a terraced house I can barely afford – small back yard, tiny garden, shitty kitchen, all that – and I’m penniless soon after I’m paid.

I grab a taxi outside the station. I’ve just travelled several hundred miles to the South-West and I’m not keen on the fifteen-minute walk to my lodgings.

Random Taxi Driver: FUCK ME! BEEN A WHILE. WHERE YOU OFF TO?

He’s one of those over-familiar sorts who pretend to know everyone. Brilliant.

Me: I’ve forgotten the street name. If you go to Name Pub, take a left up the hill and that’s it.

RTD: THAT’S IT, PAL – IF YOU KNOW WHERE IT IS, I’LL FUCKING GET YOU THERE!

That’s now two ‘fuck’s in as many minutes, it’s all a bit unsavoury and I’ve had a long day already.

RTD: STILL AT THE PAPER ARE YOU, CHIEF?

How does he know where I worked twelve years ago? And why is he speaking in Caps Lock?

I stare at the side of his face. It’s only bloody John The Taxi, isn’t it?

I try and figure-out the chances of this. It’s a small town in the South-West so I suppose it is quite likely.

Me: No, I left a few years ago. Moved away as well.

John The Taxi: FUCK ME. THOUGHT IT HAD BEEN A WHILE. HOW LONG, YOU RECKON?

Me: About twelve years I think.

JTT: [Briefly hitting the brakes] TWELVE FUCKING YEARS? USED TO LIVE IN THAT BIG HOUSE, YEAH? WITH THE FUCKING PRIVATE CARPARK, YEAH? WHERE YOU MOVED TO THEN?

Me: Christ could you just watch- Erm. Back up North.

JTT: WHAT YOU BACK HERE FOR, THEN?

Me: Well, I have a son and a daughter now. They live here. Me and their mother didn’t make it, she moved back here, so, you know….

JTT: [Briefly hitting the brakes] HOLD ON! WHERE YOU STAYING? NOT FUCKING WITH HER FOR FUCK’S SAKE?

Me: Really, could you just watch before you do that? The road, I mean. Behind us…I just want to get there in one piece.

JTT: YOU AIN’T FUCKING STAYING WITH HER THOUGH?

Me: Ah, no.

JTT: THANK FUCK FOR THAT. YOU DON’T WANT TO GO DOWN THAT FUCKING ROAD, CHIEF. TAKE IT FROM ME. FUCK.

Me: Ok, then.

I don’t ask him to elaborate. This is, after all, a man who prefers a bowel movement to actual sexual intercourse. God only knows what stories he has to tell.

JTT: FUCK. ANYWAY, HERE WE ARE THEN.

Me: Yeah, ah, thanks.

JTT: TWELVE FUCKING YEARS!

It’s like that scene in Grosse Point Blank but without the inherent likeability of all involved.

Me: Ah. Yes. Eight quid? It’s been five minutes. That's gone up.

JTT: Everything changes.

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

mumsnet

Oh leave me alone. They asked really nicely.