All posts by Mike Walsh

I began this blog as an effort to keep in touch with my children away at university. Basically writing down episodes I experienced over the years. All true, though names have changed out of repsect to those involved. What suprised me was how much I enjoyed writing them down and how many there were. What I regret, are the funniest stories I haven't worked out how to make respectable enough to repeat....

Raging Monkey – Part 2


Dennis didn’t look too happy today.

We’d just had a delivery that was sat on a pallet in front of the job. It was a cold December and snowing. He was looking hard at the pile of boxes that was taller than him,  accumulating a peppering of snow. I went out to give him a lift to load it inside.

“Come on Dennis lad! let’s get this sorted!”

My attempt at enthusiasm was falling on deaf ears. He was obviously really annoyed.

“Cheer up Den! S’just a bit of snow! Look! I’m helping! We’ll get this in in no time! With my brains and your small bit of brawn we’ll get it done!”

Stony silence. In his  annoyance he picked up more than he needed to in an effort to get the job done. There was more involved here than I thought.

This could be good.

I collected a box of ceiling tiles off the pile and followed his angry march inside.

“Come on lad! Suck a breath in and let the poison out! How’s the parole going on?”

Dennis isn’t big and the stiff-back walk only heightened his short stature.

He wasn’t wearing my cheery-mate attempt to find out what was wrong. As we dropped a box each on the growing pile inside, I changed tack and went direct.

“Alright Dennis. What’s going on?”

I asked this with slight trepidation and a glance at my watch. This could take up serious time.

He mumbled something vague and waved a paw in the air. Something had obviously gone on to leave him not just angry but dejected as well.

“Den?  What’s up mate?”

I have to say something here.  I like Dennis.  He’s a genuine character. Considering all the thing’s he’s told me, you’d expect him to have a lot more problems than he does. It’s a credit to him that he leads a normal existence and works six-days-a week constantly.  He tends to wear his heart on his sleeve and  you know when he’s truly disgruntled.  It spills out in a total rush. The information starts in dribs and drabs,  then you get The Lot. But on the whole, he is a completely sincere, genuine person. I think that’s why I like him so much.

Dennis’ grievances  tend to be relayed in :  The World’s Against Me theme.

There’ll be a slight hesitation in passing on what’s actually  happened, but he’ll be that pissed off about how The World has conspired against him that he can’t help it, he has to get it out of his system.

“Got a fine.”

“A fine you say? Oh dear oh dear.”

Inwardly I was thinking ‘Here we go. Jackpot.’ I’m sad like that. I’m easily entertained.

“What was the fine for Den?”

“Fuckin train.”

“Train?  What? You been at the gym? You been training? What? Oh.  Railway train? Ah. Didn’t pay again. ”

This was a common theme at one  time. It had become a kind of competition to get home without paying for a ticket. I assumed he had reverted to type.

I gave his shoulder a shove. I tried sympathy.

“I supposed that was a £50 quid fine then. Bummer mate. You been dodging paying for a ticket on the journey home again?”

“No! I get a lift now!”

“What? Then, this fine…?”

“Its from way back! Two fuckin’ years ago!!”

“How long?? Hang on Dennis. How much is this fine?”


How much! Christ! What did you do?? Rob the fuckin’ train??”

There was a slight shift in stance. An embarrassed shuffle before he continued.

I find that there’s always a hesitation in relaying information when someone feels they’re about to be judged. I realised there was more to this than he was letting on. He was still pissed but also slow to continue. Obviously he had done something wrong, that he knew was wrong  and now he was telling me he realised that I’d know he’d done something wrong.  What was pissing him off was he had committed the cardinal sin of getting caught doing something wrong and now he was having to admit it.

It was like watching a small neanderthal trying to decide whether attacking this mammoth in front of him was a good idea or not.

“No! No. It was just a fine for a  ticket! For not paying my fair! The ticket was only worth a couple of quid! We just ran out of train!!”

Like that explained it.

We walked back to the pallet and collected another box each of tiles. I asked as we walked back out of the drifting snow.

“What, are you talking about Dennis??”

By now he was caught up in the conversation and was trying to tell me as we walked, stopping every other step.

“You know.  When you run out of train?”

“Dennis. Mate. Iv’e never dodged a fair in  my life. I have enough trouble working out how to pay at the automated machine, never mind not paying and working out how to get away from it.”

We’d come to a stand-still.

“You can walk and talk lad. Walk. And please, explain.”

He moved towards  to the growing pile inside the building and dropped his box on top of what we had already brought in, moving to allow me to do the same then stopped to continue. He took a measured look as he outlined his ticket -avoidance-method.

“Well, you have to work out where you sit. See?The inspector gets on at one point, and we used to just, you know, move away from him as he came down the train checking tickets. The bastard used to get on a couple of stops before we got to Liverpool. By the time he gets near  us, we’d be in the last carriage arriving at Lime Street station and, you know  – offski!”

“Ah. You misjudged your starting position then?”

“What? No. The bastards started getting on the train at a station  earlier .”

“What a bunch of arseholes. The devious buggers. Who’d have thought that they’d get wise to it. The rotten shits.”

This had already dawned on Dennis though, and then some.

Something seemed to register then escalate across his face until the final emotion papered there was shock.

“Do You know what? I think they have something against Scousers!”

Whoa. The paranoia. This wa another level.

“What makes you say that Den?”

He looked at me like I was stupid.

“Aww ‘ey mate. It’s obvious. You only ever see them on the train going into Liverpool. You never see the bastards going the other way – to Manchester. It’s ‘cos we’re Scousers!!”

I’ve always been one to poke a simmering fire.

“Well. That’s understandable Dennis. Why would they police a train coming into Manchester?? Ever fucker wants to get out of Liverpool and you can guarantee they’ll pay to do it  No point raiding that train – ”

“Wha’! You cheeky bastard -”

I waved away his outrage and guided him towards the door.

“The story Dennis. Get on with it. We’ll never find the pallet in the snow if this take’s much longer.”

We collected another box each.

“Well. That was it wasn’t it? We ran out of train. He’d got to everyone before we hit Lime Street. We were  there for fuckin’ ages.  We had to wait while he got round  to writing the ticket. ”

“Why would it take so long to get away? How long can it take to write a ticket?”

Then something registered.

“What do you mean ‘Everyone‘?”

“You know. Everyone. All the other people that ran out of train. ”

I had to stop behind him to avoid bumping into him as he halted, with his box cradled against his chest,  gazing off  into the original memory. Almost nostalgic.

“I mean, It could get a bit crowded in the last compartment before we arrived at Lime Street.  You know?  When those  Nazi bastards got on at the old stop?  But when they started getting on earlier, well,  it was rammed in the last carriage and we hadn’t even come near Lime street!

I had come to a complete stop myself as realisation dawned. I placed a hand on his shoulder to turn him towards me as I addressed him.

“Dennis. Mate.  Are you trying to say that no-one payed for their ticket? And everyone was galloping up the train trying to stay in front of the inspector? It must have been like a fucking stampede of Scousers!! It’s a wonder the fucking train could stop by the time it hit Lime street with the sheer weight of everyone in the front carriage!!  No wonder they raided the train every night!”

” Yeah, but the bastards – I mean!  £2400!!”

“- Dennis. If no fucker pays for a ticket going home, and every time the inspector looks up as he comes down the train,  every man, woman, child and granny is heading in the opposite direction, then what the fuck,  do you think they’re going to do. They must have thought ‘There’s no way we can process this lot. I know. Let’s get on at Manchester , it take’s 45 minutes. We can start issuing tickets as soon as the doors shut…’-”

” – They just hate Scousers -”

I had a mental image of the train arriving in Lime street and the effort put in to avoid the inspectors.


“- Fuck me Dennis. they should have started at Birmingham!! Obviously they underestimated the size of the task they were taking on if you had to sit and wait to be issued a ticket at the end of the journey!!  When they finally bottle-necked you all, they couldn’t even shout  ‘All you’s Scouser spread ’em against the walls!‘ There wasn’t enough walls to go round!!!!”

“Aww ‘ey mate -”

“Alright. Alright. So tell me. How did a £50 fine turn into £2400?”

He softened somewhat as we approached the pallet for the final time,  picked one of the remaining  boxes and continued.

“Well,  I lived with me bird.  So I gave me Ma’s address.”

He looked at me like this was an Ultimate Master Plan.

I sucked a breath through my teeth in an effort to gain time before I asked. I could actually feel a headache coming on. I brushed the snow off and I picked up  the  final box before continuing.

“Ah. I see. Obviously this  was fool proof decision. How could  it go wrong?”

“Aww, you know.”

He spoke matter-of-factIy , like he was relaying a common occurrence.

“I fell out with me bird. You Know? Went home? To me Ma’s? They caught me.  There.”

“Oh bugger. The tricky fuckers. Who have thought they’d be so persistent over so long. There’s only one answer. They must have felt you were a master criminal!

This was wasted.

“I know. Right? I couldn’t believe it! Anyway, with all the letters that had been sent and interest and what-not, well…. it all added up.”

“Added up? Jesus Den!  For £3 or what ever it was, you could have bought a ticket and got home scott-free. I mean, For fucks sake! For £50 quid even, you could have put it to bed and forgot about it!!”

“Yeah I know! I knowwww! but mate, £2400 quid!”

I sighed, looking for a positive.

“Well at least you’re nearly done with the sentencing., the parole thing? That’s a plus!”


It was said quietly and quickly, so I almost missed it.

“What now? Go Where now?”

“Counselling! A’right! COUNSELLING!!”


I felt like I was having a different conversation. I gave my head a shake.

“Counselling?? What the fuck for? Avoiding paying for a train ticket?? Jesus! They must they must be really pissed that you dodge-”

“No! No! No! Not for a train ticket!!”

“Alright! Alright! Calm down Tiny! What for then??”

“Fuckin’ Anger management!!”

I just looked at him. I didn’t know where to start asking..

There’s always a part 3 with Dennis..





Raging Monkey – Part 1 — Mike Walsh – What The Mop Lady Saw…

“You away on holiday this year Dennis?” I threw the question over my shoulder, making conversation as I carried a sheet of plywood into a building with Dennis, a five foot five ball of varying degrees of angry Scouse. The height difference made it difficult as the board tended to have a lack of […]

via Raging Monkey – Part 1 — Mike Walsh – What The Mop Lady Saw…

Raging Monkey – Part 1


“You away on holiday this year Dennis?”

I threw the question over my shoulder,  making conversation as I  carried a sheet of plywood into a building with  Dennis, a five foot five ball of varying degrees of angry Scouse.

The height difference made it difficult as the board tended to have a lack of control as he tried to lift it to a height that matched my own. It wavered and bobbed along behind as we negotiated our way into the job.

It felt like I was carrying it all on my own with Dennis hanging onto  the rear,  like a kites tail,  bobbing   along  completely  at odds with what was going on at the front.

“Yeah. I booked to go to CanCun. In Mexico!”

I have to say, I was surprised.

I puffed my way round a corner before I asked.

“Cancun? Well. That sounds great Dennis. But – And I hate to bring this up – Isn’t there the small matter of finishing your community service?”

“Yeah. I told her – the parole lady –  at the meetings, I was off to Mexico. And she said something like that too. But  I said,  straight to her,  I said,  ‘listen love, ‘am off on holiday in September,  I’d already booked it before all this parole thing see, so you can’t really stop me. It’s all paid for.’

I let this scene wash over my minds eye.

” Oh aye? How did that go down then?”


And he stopped  again before he continued, halting our forward motion like a small anchor,  forcing me to come to a stand-still.  We lowered the sheet, resting for the moment.

And the indignation spilled forth,

She said – and you won’t believe this Mike – She said, ‘Young man, you may find it difficult to understand this,’ – All hoity-toity-”

And he paused, his eyebrows meeting in the middle and he looked off into the distance then added –

” Honestly,  I think she was being a bit sarky  Mike ..”

His attention and indignation snapped back to me as he continued.

“She looks me straight in the eye, right, and she goes ;

Dennis. Your’e being punished for a crime. That’s why you”re attending these parole classes  Forget. Your. Holiday. In. Cancun..

“Honest to God Mike. That’s how she said it. To my face!! To my fuckin face!!!  I paid four grand for that holiday!”

I picked up the front end of the sheet with Dennis doing the same at the back and we continued on our way. I mulled over what he had said, listening to him panting behind me  before replying, gauging how this was going to go down.

I waited until we reached another level and stopped for another breather.

“Dennis. Son. Considering what happened You were lucky you didn’t get time lad.  You only avoided prison because the other party didn’t turn up and went on the run because he was in trouble for something himself!!”

“I Know!!”

The scouse accent was getting thicker by the minute. As he said it,  he leant  forward, eyes wide, mouth open, disbelievingly, as if to stress the point,  in a way that went;

Can you fucking believe what she said??

Like it backed up his argument.

I gave up. I looked for a positive.

“Well, at least they’ll ship you back for free.”

“Wha’? Ship me back where for free? Who?”

“The Mexican  customs. Surely,  when you land,  in breach of your parole, those sharp-eyed Mexican chaps at passport control will  scan your passport,  shout ‘Ay Caramba!!” set off all the alarms  and they’ll strong arm Tiny Tim the scouse crime lord   and fuck you off on the next flight back.. Suck in that Mexican air while you can.”

We puffed our way up another flight of stairs with Dennis stewing along behind.

Finally his voice continued from the back, having digested what I’d said and deciding it’d be safer to  head off on another track.

“D’ya Know what my little lad said to me last night Mike?”

I paused to think briefly  before answering.


“Wha’? No. No!! ”

“Well go on then. What did your young five year old son say to you Amigo?”

He panted as he continued, holding onto the corner of the plywood as we negotiated another flight of stairs.

“Well, we’d just finished watching The new Planet Of the Apes film – You know it? All those gorillas that try and take over the world? And the credits were rolling up and he takes a really long look at me like, and the cheeky little bugger say’s ”Da’, You look like a monkey”

This time I stopped to lower the sheet to the floor,  forcing Dennis to do the same and turned to face him, resting my chin on my arms while I cast an eye over him. A mental reshuffle of my perception of Dennis.

Realisation dawned on Dennis’  face as he looked back at me.

“What the fuck have I just told you that for??”

I momentarily  ignored the latest utterance, my mind was still focused on Mexico.

“We’ll address that shortly.  Cheetah.  Just repeat after me, ‘Areeba. Areeba.  Hello my friend, how are you?  Can I have a helping of chilli and chips  please? Oh, and a hammer to go.’

He looked at me suspiciously then translated into  near perfect Mexican-scouse,

He lost it straight away. The scouse accent spilled into overdrive and he couldn’t help himself.

“‘AreeeeebaAreeeeeba! ‘Ey  ameeeeeeeego, ‘ow ar’ yoo?  Can I ‘av a ‘elping of chillee and cheeeeeps pleeeease?  (He lost it completely there) ‘O, and a ‘ammerrrr to go.”

“….Why am I saying that Mike?”

“Well I was just weighing up, with you being scouse, you sound half fuckin’ Mexican already. I just wanted to see what  a Scouse, mexican talking monkey sounded like in person. I have to say. I’m impressed.”

“Wha’?!! You cheeky bastard! I-”

I didn’t give him a chance to continue,  I picked up the sheet and lurched onwards, dragging him along in the wake.

I decided to blind side him.

“Seriously though Den, with all due respect, I have to say you’ve missed a massive opportunity. And lets be honest, chances like this don’t come round very often. In fact, you could have been making fantastic money.  With someone as vertically challenged as you are, an opportunity like this  beats carrying these plywood sheets upstairs and trying to keep up with us normal sized humans to boot. You’d have made a fortune lad.”

He was caught between being still outraged by the original insult and the current one, while still  battling his curiosity regarding the money opportunity.

The money won.

“Wha’ money? ‘Ow would I ‘av made a fortune? ‘Ow? I know you Mike.  You’s taking the piss. Go on then. ‘Ow.

They were holding auditions. In Liverpool. For that new film, with – whatshername – Margot Robbie  -”

“She’s well fit she is! I’d like to -”

“Yeah, yeah I know Dennis. you and every other dwarf.  But you know the film?  Her and that fella? Thingy? You know. Whatsisname? A bit foreign? First name Alexander?”

“Dunno Mike. when were the auditions?  Whats the film about?”

“Skarsgard! Thats it. Well the films a bit of a romantic action packed block buster.”

“It is?”

“Yeah. All go. And this fella, his bird -”

“Margot -”

“- Yeah -”

“- Cor I’d like to -”

” – Yeah. Alright. Calm down Casagnome. You’d need a ladder. Anyway, this fella – his bird gets kidnapped by these baddies. Right fucking Not-Rights. Your parole lady? Who has to deal with you? Well after all the time she’s spent with you she’d  probably recognise them before they got off the boat – ”


“Yeah. So this fella, Skarsgard chap? Right strapping lump he is. Built like a brick shit hous -”

“- Wha’? And you think I should’ve auditioned to play him? What did he do? Did he rescue her?”

“Actually Dennis, he did. But to answer your question, no,  I don’t think you could have auditioned to play him. He was probably three-foot away from you tallest point. No what I was thinking about – and I have to stress that these characters make a Bomb for their performances, with loads of food treats too – was playing the dependable side-kick.”

Dennis stopped again and I was forced to lower the sheet. We were almost at our destination.

“Really? Side-kick helps save the day?  So who was this big strapping  fella playing?”

“Alexander thingy? He was playing Tarzan -”

“- Tarzan -”

“Yeah. The Jungle Lord. You know? Raised by apes – ”

“And who’s his side-kick then?”

I looked him earnestly in the eye.

“Its only after what you said before that made me think. You, my little scouse friend, would have nailed the part of his dependable companion  – Dennis the monkey – with your eyes shut -”

The outrage was back.

“- Fuckin’ Dennis the monk -”

“Yeah honest mate. I kid you not. I can just see you finding Jane, His bird, surrounded by the Not-Rights, and swinging off through the trees to  find Tarzan to tell him the news! He’s be like –

Dennis! Whats up boy? Tell me Dennis! Get it out lad! Whats up??

“And you’d be hopping up and down on your little legs and giving it -”

Ey mate! Calmdowncalmdown! ‘A found ya’bird! Jane! All’u Baddies ‘av ‘er mate!! Come on! You gotta’ save ‘er big lad!!

Dennis was mesmerised by this point.

“And off you’d swing Dennis! Like a little furry ball of vengeance! Leading the way for the hero!! You would have been mint mate. Mint!!  Shame you missed out to be honest. I’d have paid a  fortune to see you on the big screen as a monkey..”




Ripping Yarn



There is something definitely satisfying about the sound of tearing fabric. Either the slow, gradual rippppppp, or the swift, rapid tear, both paint an definitive image in the mind.

The old Laurel and Hardy films were, and still are favourites of mine.  There is so much conveyed in those movie shorts, originally through expression, but even more so with the advent of sound. That satisfying explosion of sutures always left one or the other of the duo trouser-less.

Let me tell you about Tony.

I’ve just spent the last year ferociously busy with work. Non-stop ridiculously hectic and  it’s made writing or completing any blogs difficult. But I had to pass this one on.

One of my close friends has worked with me this last year, which has made for an entertaining time because, well, he’s very self deprecating,  extremely easy going, very funny and, one of the few people who make me laugh without trying.

He’s also a Man City season ticket holder and relives every tribulation, real and imagined his team goes through.

(Count your blessings he doesn’t sit behind you at games Viv )

I, on the other hand, support a proper team – Man UTD – so it makes for entertaining Monday mornings. But I can say, he’s very passionate about his team in his pursuit of watching his confused idea of perfection. To be fair, he’s quite honest in his opinions about his team. He wants them to play exciting, entertaining football. Anything else is a disappointment for him.

In fact, he’ll  criticize his team when they win, for playing badly.

The last job I worked on went on for some ten months, with quite solid completion times in order to hand it over  to the incoming client. It meant we had targets to hit all year in order to allow this business to open. So, from day one it was high impact work. organised in a way to be continuously rolling along and completing targets. I kept a team of lads I trust implicitly together in order to achieve this. They’re the only people in the trade I would ever recommend if anyone asked for top quality labour.

Tony was part of this team.

I think it’s fair to say, Tony had put a bit of weight on before the start of this job. But, with the way we were shifting each day, I think we all expected it to drop off.  What we didn’t  expect was him to gain a stone  and a half after some very hectic weeks. I was impressed. It was only as we neared the end of the job that the issue was really raised.

It was a lull in a busy period and Tony was breaking a piece off a Toblerone, something he seemed to have a supply of at odd times like this.

“Blimey Tony. Have you put some weight on this year?” I asked my friend, as I looked at his body profile with one eye closed.

He’s strained to looked down at his own body

“Nooo. Welllllll, maybe a bit. I think I just have a slow, whaddya call it? Metabolism.”

“Slow? Jesus. I think it’s stopped. In fact, you only have an ‘ism”

“Yeah, yeah. Funny.”

“Seriously, You’ve actually put weight on.”

“A bit. Maybe.”

“Mate. Elasticated trousers aren’t a fashion statement.”

It’s fair to say he takes some ribbing. But to be honest that’s what makes Tony funny. The amount of – there’s no denying it – abuse,  he actually gets is phenomenal. Over anything. He’s actually too good natured. It’d break a lesser person it really would. And if he wasn’t getting verbal abuse he would be ambushed in other ways.

One ideal situation would be to block him  on his way to the toilet when he would get his daily two minute warning. This was a moment in his day when the toilet was a immediate necessity that could not be stopped. But obstructing his route as he was spotted trotting along  and have him hopping on foot to foot in slight desperation while you talked to him,  became another form of entertainment.

I must admit I can sit here right now  and find myself actually laughing out loud when I think about some of the things he’s come in work and told us about that have happened to him over that weekend. And expected everyone to just carry on and not even comment.

The building trade is not, I repeat, NOT that kind of compassionate environment.

Jesus. Its like handing over a  gun then passing on the bullets.

As he began to gain weight we actually took to watching Tony arrive of a morning and make his way over to Greggs bakery. He would meander back with what looked suspiciously like a twelve inch pastry and a coffee.

He kept claiming he went for porridge to start his day off right. But I’ve never seen anyone walk back from Greggs with a large coffee and look like they were trying to deepthroat a bag of porridge…

We’d be sat in the van upon arriving and there’d be  a nudge and an “Aye aye. There he goes!” Then we’d sit and wait to watch him walk back to see  how he would struggle manfully to get a bag of “porridge” down his neck by taking sips of coffee so it would be soft enough to swallow..

Then morning brew time would come. Tony would wander off with  one of the other lads, Sean,  to get a bacon and egg sandwich. Sean,  who I hate to admit had a metabolism like a humming bird, just ate what-ever, when-ever with no impact.

I  think unfortunately Tony saw this as a challenge and – Whooah Nelly! – did he lose that deluded competition.

He’d match Sean’s bacon and egg, or bacon and cheese, and  he’d even raise the stakes and order a toasted tea-cake for afters.

It’s not like he’s even tall and can carry it off. His head  just seemed to get closer to his feet.

This went on all year. And in between  this, there were odd days I would walk out of the room I was working in to pass on some measurement, and find him  chewing on a piece of Toblerone that had suddenly appeared from somewhere. It happened to be a particular favourite of Tony’s.

So, as the job drew to an end, I happened to take a sidelong glance at Tony and realized with a jolt he’s really packed a bit of timber on.

I thought it was time to give him a break and try a lighter tone.

“Honest mate, this time I’m not taking the piss or anything. You really have banged a bit of weight on.”

Tony was quite adamant – blinkered even – it was nothing to worry about. Certainly not as noticeable as I was trying to express anyway. I have to hold my hands up here because we had  been quite merciless in ribbing Tony all year, on anything, so for him to doubt my sincerity was, in my  honest opinion,  a good move.

“We’re going to be having a Christmas night out soon and you don’t want to be looking like that kid,  Chunk,  from the Goonies do you?”

Tony just turned his nose up slightly.

“Actually I’m not sure if I can make it. I have other invites on the night, so I may not get out.”

What! Your’e ducking our piss-up?”

Tony instantly blustered trying to defend himself.

“It’s my cousin’s do on the same night! Family! And my last employer has invited me out! There’s too many invites! I don’t know what to do !” He wailed.

“But Tone! We’re your mates!”

But Tony carried on without hearing.

“I’ve got the match on Saturday too! City are playing at home! I can’t handle a heavy session on a Friday when I’m expected to go on the piss before and after the game the next day!!”

“Ah well when you put it like that it’s completely understa – I can’t believe your abandoning your mates you fat bastard!”

“Thats it! I’m defo not going out on the Friday with anyone! I’m going to the match on the Saturday and having a pint then! No! Thats it! My minds made up!”

He held his hand in front of my face in a dramatic gesture to stop me interrupting.

(for the record I wasn’t even trying to speak)

“You can’t talk me out of it! I’m going to the game!!”

“Well if your mind’s set fatty,  I obviously can’t talk you round . Tell you what. See how you feel on the night. I’ll pick you up if you change your mind.”

“Alright. I’ll think about it.”

The next day I walked over with Tony to get myself a sandwich.

“I’ll walk over to your shop today Tone. What are the sandwiches like?”

“Yeah they’re  ok.”

He sounded somewhat subdued.

” Whats up with you?  What you eating today?”

“A salad sandwich”

I actually stumbled.

“A what now?”

“A SALAD sandwich. Are you deaf?”

“No. But, well. Whats with the salad?”

“Wellll. I hopped on the scales last night -”

He snatched a look at me.

I ‘d made a noise.

“Sorry. I have “snigger reflex”. It must be  genetic  or something. Sorry. You were saying. You broke the scales…?”

“Yeah. Ha. Very funny. No, well, I jumped on last night and – ”

It came out in a rush,  his revelation disgusted himself even.

“Well it was a bit of a shock I knew I’d put a bit on – butnotTHATfuckingmuch!!”

“Alright chunks. Calm down. Lets just clear up exactly how much you’ve put on shall we?”

“A stone-”

“- Fuc -”

“- And a hal-”

“-  k ME Tony!! A stone and a half! Jesus!!”

Alrightalright! Iv’e got to start somewhere. So. I’m cutting stuff out.”

“Stuff? Stuff?? You want to cut out anything you can get in your mouth mate.”

“Seriously. I’m off the bacon and egg. That’s it! I’m being good!”

We talked it through as we walked over,discussing the merits of eating better types of food,  while Tony led the way to his regular nose bag shop. It was a back street cafe, the type I hadn’t seen in a long time. These days It’s a modern, multi -selection of coffee/tea and  special-bread sandwiches and wraps, with strange flavours of crisps. What happened to all those full English with a cup-of-tea cafe’s?

Anyway, walking into this place was slightly nostalgic.

We were greeted by a cheerful, thick set, middle aged  lady who was obviously a firm believer in the attributes of cooking with lard.

“Hiya Tony! Bacon and cheese day today love?”

I snapped a look at Tony who had the good grace not to meet my eye.

“Your’e on first name terms-”

He completely ignored me and replied to the lady.

“No not today. I think I’ll have something new today. A fresh start! How’s about a chicken salad with mayo and cheese  on – ”

He stole a glance at me,

Brown bread?”

I recovered from my shock to close my gaping mouth.

“Whoah whoah whoahhhhhhh! Tell you what love. Give him a chicken salad. NO cheese. NO mayo. And NO, butter. He CAN have brown bread.”

The lady in question looked from me to Tony.

“Is that what you really want Tony?”

Tony turned to me.

“Can I have a Toasted teacake for later?”


He turned back to the lady with dejected eyes, shoulders slumped.

“Yeah. Just the chicken thing please.”

It was left for the lady to stand momentarily with her mouth open. Then she slowly turned away reflecting Tony’s body language completely.

Obviously profits were going to take  a massive hit.

We got back to the job, and sat in our adjacent van’s eating our sandwiches, Tony without the usual enthusiasm. I just kept honking my horn and rubbing my belly and mouthing “Yum Yum?” at him.

He was a bit dejected.

The next day we headed over to get a sandwich again, this time with another lad in tow, John. we decided to try a new-ish looking cafe for a change.

Tony was first to the counter. He took a long look at the menu then licked his lips and addressed the lady.

“Can I have a cheese and ham panini please and -”

“Hang on, hang on hang onnnnnnn! ”

I interrupted from behind. Tony shoulders slumped. I continued to the nice lady.

“Tell you what. Forget the cheese, no sauce’s, and he’ll have tomato there instead. He can have the  bit of ham. And if he ask’s, he can’t have a toasted Tea-cake for after.”

Tony shoulders drooped even more.

The lady looked from me to Tony and raised her eyebrows with a silent question.

“Yeah. That’s what I want. What he said please.”

He turned briefly to me.

“Can’t I just have one toasted Tea -”


“Yeah. Just what he said please then.”

We sat down to eat, me with a toasted buttered bagel and John with a toasted cheese and marmite pannini, and I have to say even that looked more appetizing than Tony’s dusty and very, very dry ham and tomato panini.

Twenty minute later, back on site, I was congratulating Tony on doing well, when my phone rang. I was needed downstairs to take care of a job.

“Right. Well done you. I’ll be back in a bit.”

I turned away from a hungry looking Tony  to find out what I was needed for.

Ten minutes later I was calling Tony on his phone.

I could hear the ring tone nearby.

“Hello? Tone. Listen.Where are you? Down stairs?”

I headed toward the fire exit door leading to the car park where I had heard his phone ringing.

“Have you got your foam gun with you? Mine’s at home.”

“Yeah, it’s in the van – I’m just near it now.”

He sounded muffled.

“Yeah I heard your phone I’ll come and get it off – ”

I pushed open the fire exit door as I spoke to find Tony stood on the other side.

He threw his hands in the air and turned away in disgust heading to his van, unable to talk.

The reason being he had been stood in this out of the way place with a six inch piece of Toblerone in one hand and a fair chunk in his mouth. All he managed was a muffled –


.”Awwwwww! ‘Um ooonnn -”

“Tony what the fuc -”

He managed to swallow.

“Your’e having  laugh! I can’t even have this on the quiet -”

“Have you seriously snuck off to eat a load of chocolate -”

You wouldn’t let me have a toasted tea-cake!!”

I couldn’t stop laughing. I was immediately on the phone to John, the lad who had accompanied us to the cafe.

“You’ll never guess what! Iv’e just found Tony hiding outside eating a bar of Toblerone!”

Even Tony could hear John laughing as we reached the van.

“Yeah! I Know! Toblerone!! So much for ham and tomato!! Hang on a minute!”

Tony was surreptitiously trying to open the sliding  door on the side of the van to reach the foam gun.

“Hey! What have you got in there??”

I reached past him to open the door fully. A large bag fell forward.

“What the fuc -hang on John,”

I tipped the bag  out to reveal its contents.

Tony literally threw his arm over his eyes in shame. This was  going from bad to worse for him.

“Whats this?”

My voice was going up in octaves I didn’t realize I had.

Out of the bag had fallen the other half of the large Toblerone, A six pack family sized bag of crisps and a large party size tube of fruit pastels.

I turned to Tony.

“I was throwing it away today! I forgot it was there! It’s not even mine -”

“John! John! Your not going to believe this…”

As you can imagine Tony’s ribbing took on a whole new level.

The end of the week couldn’t come quick enough for Tony, which only remained to see if he was coming out with us for a beer or not. But he was adamant.

“No. Defo not. I’m not even going to my cousins do tonight. And I bought a ticket for that!”

“Ok mate, no worries. Tell you what. If you change your mind later I can still pop over and pick you up.”

“No, seriously I don’t think I can go out tonight and face tomorrows game and have a beer then too. So I’m just going for the beer on match day instead.”

So, that’s where we left it.

Next day, feeling, I have to confess, somewhat tender myself, I checked the scores to see City getting beat by Chelsea. I couldn’t resist it. I texted Tony knowing he was at the game.

The reply came back understandably subdued and then I didn’t have the heart to carry on after the week he had already had. I could add to his misery in person the following day as I had some wood to drop off for his wood burning stove.

I sent a quick text.

“Never mind mate.Worse things happen at sea! I’ll see you in the morning.”

There was a muted reply.

I turned up at Tony’s the next day ready to  pick at his disappointment.

“Ok Tone? Bit of a hammering yesterday?”

“Yeah, and some. But, I’ve got to admit. I never actually watched the game.”

“What? your’e joking?” I know you’ve left games early  before they finish but – come on! Your’e a season ticket holder! When did you leave? When the third goal went in?”

“Well, to be honest, I left before kick-off.”

“What Your’e joking mate! Why??”

“Well you know I said I wasn’t going out on Friday? Yeah. I went out. I didn’t get in till half four on Saturday morning. I went to my cousins do. I knew It’d get messy!”

“Oh mate your’e kidding!”

“No. And to top it all, I was blind drunk!  I felt terrible when i got up on match day!”

“You didn’t carry on drinking did you?”

“I tried a half but I have to say -”

He looked green as he continued,

“My stomach rolled as soon as I had a mouth full! There was no way that was going down!”

“So what happened?”

“I just thought I’d give the beer a miss. But on the way down, on the coach , honest to god, I thought I was gonna barf up on the old lady in front. I kept having to swallow it back down!”

I winced at the image as Tony shuddered and carried on,

We got to the ground and the lads were all for a pint before the game, but there was no way I could face it. So I figured I’d head into the ground and sit and watch the warm ups.”

“Oh mate – ”

“Well I sat there for a while and my stomach was just rolling all over – there was no way I was going to get through the game without chucking up so that was it.”


“I went home.”

“What?? Without seeing a ball kicked??”

“Yeah. But that’s not the worst part.”

“There’s  something worse?”

“Yeah. quite a bite worse to be honest.”

He looked extremely sheepish.

“What? Well? Get on with it!”

“I’m walking away from the ground and I only go and get my two minute warning!”

I began to laugh. I couldn’t get a breath to ask what happened.

It was his two minute warning.

“What could I do. I mean? What??” I had to go!!” I HAD to!!”

There was a note of hysteria creeping into his voice as he tried to defend his actions.

I could feel an asthma attack coming on. I was almost breathless as I asked,

“Where Tone? Where did you go?? There isn’t anywhere there!”

“There’s that open land at the bottom -”

“The Asda! there’s an Asda at the top of the hill -”

“I was at the bottom of the hill!! At the bottom!!!! I Looked like I was trying to walk along to a Bee-Gee’s track!!!  I’DHADMYTWOMINUTEWARNING!!!!”

Like that explained everything.

I have to admit I was caught between horrified fascination and a morbid need to know what had happened.


“I ran down this path onto the waste ground, and , well, there was this mound..”

“Tony. It’s a lump of soil in a wide open area. It only shields you from the other side of the fucking mound! Anyone on that side of the mound can see you!!”

“I know! I know!! But I’d had my two minute warning! The sweat was pouring off me! Pouring!!!!”

What had followed wasn’t pleasant, with Tony circling the mound trying to pick a sheltered spot in a open plain. In the end, unable to contain it any longer he just had to drop his trousers and go for it, bobbing up and down like a demented Meerkat.

I was opened mouthed trying to take in what he was telling me when another thought struck me.

“But Tony, what about, I mean, Toilet paper Tony! Toilet paper? What did you use??”

“My underpants! It’s all I had!”

This painted another picture on my already scarred mind and I tried to comprehend the mechanics of what he was describing.

“Your – you mean  you – What?? You stripped off your trousers in the middle of an open field to take off your underpants to use to wipe you –

“No!! Jesus! No!! Don’t be stupid!! I RIPPED them off and ran like fuck!!”

I swear, till the day I die.

The sound of tearing fabric will never, ever be the same again..












Ben’s Itch.




“Have you noticed Ben scratching more often at the moment?”

Came my daughter Holly’s query over the phone.

She had taken Ben the family dog to stay with her for a couple of days. My wife was working nights so it meant Ben wasn’t going to get a decent  walk until she finished this three night shift. Ben is a rescue dog who we have had for six years.

We picked  him at the dogs home after some serious manipulation on Holly’s part. She forced me to drink beer until I said – nay – promised she could have a dog.

Holly has always wanted animals in her life. She is a fourth year Veterinary student and  she lives and breaths it. Ben was the culmination of a lot of determined effort on her part, which I had withstood for a number of years. But, six to twelve bottles of Peroni – I have to admit I have little recollection  on the correct number –  just tipped the balance. And she made me promise. Bugger. I was out-maneuvered  by a fifteen year old.

And I wouldn’t mind but I was paying for the beer.

Anyway, off to the dogs home we went, and I was determined to pick a dog I wanted.

I had a number of stipulations I managed to insert during the foggy negotiations prior to promising.

The dog had to be a reasonable size. It had to be a quiet dog. it couldn’t be a hairy dog that malted all its body fur in one go. We would take our time choosing it, until we (I) found the one that fit us (me).

And he was going to be called Steve.

As I figured it, I might hate the dog but every time I shouted at it the comedic value of its name would entertain me..

I think I gradually warmed to the idea of having a Lassie-come-old yellow-come-Timmy relationship with our (my) new companion

Anyway. Over the next few weeks we made repeated trips to the dogs home. Most of my stipulations seemed unobtainable. Each time we walked in we were met by a wall of sound. The quiet dog scenario seemed unobtainable.  Each compound had a number of neurotic dogs in it either barking  dementedly or bouncing or tearing around with the same unerring vigor  they put into barking.

And as each week arrived I went to view these animals with trepidation knowing I had made a promise I had to keep, but couldn’t seem to find an acceptable middle ground.

There were a lot of large dogs. I mean BIG bastards. No way was I having one of those sitting in the passenger seat next to me. These things could have car jacked me at will. The majority of the other dogs were Staffies. You know? Little barrel chested, bow-legged, squared headed little things, like a poor mans pit bull. You usually see them being strutted around by some chavvy scroat and the poor animal has a piece of chain link for a collar. Quite unfairly portrayed actually. They tend to sleep most of the time.

But they didn’t fit with my ideal vision of a new furry companion either. I think Holly was beginning to despair. She would have taken the biggest, loudest donkey she could have got her hands on and been happy calling it Spot. But there were just no smallish dogs to be had.

Then, we found out that all the small dogs were snatched up early on. We had to get there at opening time.

Sure enough, the following week we were there twenty minutes early and first in the queue. As soon as the door opened  and the queue surged, I was off and running,  elbows going to create space,  galloping along past each compound quickly scanning what was inside and as quickly dismissing them as – Too big – Too loud – Too hairy – too small – Too – wtf is that?

I was almost at the end of the corridor looking behind me to where my family were at the first  compound, oohing at what i had already ruled out, when I turned and my eye fell on a small, miserable looking terrier, sat hunched at the back of the compound alone, with a cone round his neck after having his balls chopped off and an under-bite that made his bottom jaw stick out beyond his top.

I had a “That’s the one” moment. Then I was frantically trying to get somebody’s attention so I could claim that dog before some other calculating bastard robbed him. They finally took him out  for us to meet and greet, and I have to say he was a bony little thing, undernourished and very, very sad looking.

We (I) chose Ben. We took him through to sign the paperwork and pay his fee, and as we were stood there with him on the lead, a lady came in and did a double take and turned to her companion with obvious excitement and said,

“Here he is! This is him! This is the dog we saw yesterday!” Then turned to me and continued, “Who do I speak to about him?”

I was caught between two reactions. First of all I actually took a sly look at what I was wearing  thinking cheeky bastard thinks I work here, and then my mind quite uncharitably thought Ha. Too late. It’s mine. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha

So the poor woman missed out. ( Hahahahahahahahahaha)

But I have to admit, Ben was the right choice. Well, I say right choice. He was the only choice  really.

It was Ben or something that could have killed me. Everything else had looked likely to rip my throat out.

“I’m not sure whether he has some irritating mites.”

Came Holly’s voice again.

“What? Really? Really?? What sort of mites? That little bastards been on the bed!”

“Well you might want to think about washing the bedding. They can be transferable to humans.” said Holly. “But I’ll take some samples and have them checked and let you know tomorrow.”

Aw crap. I thought.I had noticed him scratching and trying to reach his underside and had even given him a good scratch at this unreachable point myself, thinking I was doing him a favour, the little riddled bastard! My finger nails could be rife with unseen bugs!

I almost gnawed a knuckle then remembered who I had been scratching. I had arrived home from work the other day and Ben had been on his own for a number of hours with free access round the house. He normally stretches out on the end of the bed but when he’s on his own and sure enough, when I had walked into my room  I discovered he had actually dragged my pillow  onto the duvet and used that to create a kind of nest.

Oh bollocks! I could be walking round with a plague of parasites!

I had  this conversation with Holly in the evening and  hadn’t even had time to tell Jane as she  had already gone to work.

The first thing I did that night was sleep on Jane’s side of the bed then swap her pillow with mine the following morning. If I was going to be infested I might as well make sure we shared it…

When we finally took Ben home from the dog sanctuary,  it was with mixed feelings on my part,  mainly because no one would call him Steve, but this turned into serious reservations when he immediately developed kennel cough and was firing out dog sputum every third step. It was a hygienic nightmare for me. He was like a pneumatic gobbing machine.

But I have to admit he was miserable  and I was torn between pity and disgust. And really, he must have felt absolutely lousy. There followed a couple of weeks of antibiotics which turned him round and he gradually gained weight.

Then there was a long period when we would walk him in  the park and he would see another dog in the distance and tear off to play with it. While I would be gradually frothing at the mouth shouting  “Ben! Ben! Ben! BEN! BENNNNNN! BENBENBENBENBEN!!!!” then finally have to run after him like something demented. (If only we had called him Steve, I’d have laughed about him running away.)

So that took a bit of sorting out. I tended to let him off the lead with a bit of trepidation and try and put him back on if I saw another dog before he did, otherwise the little bastard was off and you had to walk 400 yards back the way you had just come. Ben was definitely not one of those dog’s that was going to come to you at a sharp command and stand awaiting his next order quivering like an arrow.

But, he finally found his feet in our home and has become very firmly established.

I have to say he is an unusual dog. He is very quiet. He very rarely whines or barks. If he wants to go in the garden he just stands and eyeballs the door with a megawatt stare until someone notices and lets him out. And you have to be careful you don’t forget about him (Jane) because he’ll be on the other side of the door staring at it until someone remembers he’s not around inside. He’s doesn’t like fuss, he rarely stands still for someone to stroke him unless you’ve just arrived home and it’s very rewarding to have that exuberant welcome to be honest. If he wants attention he’ll sit at your feet and rest one paw on your foot until you stroke him. Then when he’s had enough he buggers off and stretches out.

He has a blanket on the sofa next to my wife which he occupies most evenings while I’m on the PC and Jane is watching TV. The sofa has an L-shaped recliner that Jane normally claims of an evening and lets just say she’s not one for sharing. I tend to sit down with her later on and stretch across the angle and attempt to purchase a foothold.

It’s usually at this point that Ben – until then comatose – lifts his head from the new position at the end of the sofa that I’d just slid him to, while I strained to gain a toenail-hold on the recliner point of the settee, and he looks at me with, I have no doubt whatsoever, complete disgust.

Within moments he slides off his blanket to the floor and disappears behind the sofa. As we hear him slump to the floor this noise is actually followed by him grumbling..

I’d just pulled up in Tesco’s car park when the phone went again the following day.

“Hi dad. I’ve taken Ben into the Vets to have him checked for mites today.”

I was immediately all ears. I hadn’t yet told Jane she had my pillow.

“And? Whats he riddled with?”

“The good news is he’s not. He’s all clear!”

“Well thank Christ for that. I was on the verge of burning the bed! So what was he scratching at”

“Well, he has an absolutely huge anal gland!”

Momentarily, and it was a confused moment I admit, I swelled with pride.

Our dog has a HUGE anal gland.

“Is that….good? ” I was thinking Guiness Book of Records you see. ” What is an anal gland by the way?” I queried slowly.

“Well, all dogs have them but your’e probably better off not knowing to be honest.”

Good girl. She obviously remembered my reaction to Ben coughing spit all over the shop.

“But seriously dad, it was huge. Huge. No wonder he was scratching away. He probably couldn’t get any relief. It would have been causing him a lot of discomfort. ” continued Holly. “And, I have to say,”

I heard the frown in her voice,

” – and it was very out of character – but he really snarled at me when I cleaned him out.”

Well I’m not one to judge,  but i think I’d snarl a bit if I’d had to have  someone two knuckles deep in me.



Razzle Dazzle

Mike Walsh - What The Mop Lady Saw...


Growing up in the 70’s has quite distinctive memories for me. There was a certain visual flavor to that period for a small boy. Attitudes, clothes, and from a kids perspective, toys even more so stick in my mind.

Everything seemed garishly bright. Or patterned like a carpet, so you looked like you were wearing a weave people could wipe their feet on.

My (purple) Raleigh Chopper bike that I loved, was one of those items that must have been designed by someone taking LSD when it was on the drawing board. It was a step up from the Chipper I had had prior. My bright yellow chipper. Both bikes had been developed with that 70’s affliction of terrible colours.

Dreadful,  but still, I have to say, incredibly cool in their own way.

A boy on a Raleigh Chopper, 1970s

Then there was the bionic man. The boys doll. Steve Austin. The six million dollar man, almost killed in…

View original post 3,322 more words

Great Balls Of Fire

Mike Walsh - What The Mop Lady Saw...


“Kevin! Get that rubbish together in the compound and burn it. Save some space in the skip.”

This instruction shouted to the site laborour. Kevin, was a 27 year old simple lad. Quite easy going, happy to help, and like I say, a bit simple.

Now I’m not saying he was stupid. No.  But there was an absence of focus. A distracted air about his personality that made you think he was never quite on the same page whenever you had a conversation with him. His mental approach to anything made you aware that very clear instructions were needed to prevent any misunderstanding.

His level of attention wasn’t brilliant either and if left alone too long you would find the concentrated brush strokes in the dust leading off, in one long, meandering sweeping line, to where you find him, nose pressed against a window steaming the glass up with…

View original post 2,598 more words

The Fiddler Plays A Tune


“Honest Mike. I think that man on the top balcony hasn’t got any clothes on! He’s got his legs wide open!!”

Jane was plainly scandalized. It wasn’t stopping her furiously trying to see over her book though.

I was still lost in the haze of heat, part stupified and half asleep. Facing the opposite direction, I only managed to open one eye and roll my head over my shoulder for a obligatory glance. There was an over weight man on the top floor balcony, but my view was blocked by the towel over the handrail. I let my head roll back.

“Good for him.” I mumbled. ” At least he won’t have sweaty balls. Mine feel like treacle on a radia -.”

“Mike! Seriously! He can’t just sit there like, like –  that!!”

The end of our holiday was drawing to a close and to be honest, I didn’t have the energy to worry about this chap with his tallywacker hanging out.

It really had been an odd break, not as peacefully relaxing as I had expected and it had  begun  with our initial stressful journey to  catch our flight here.

I finished my last post The Fiddler On The Balcony having arrived at the airport en-route to my holiday destination after a some what traumatic experience getting there. As we waved my daughter off, we did so with one eye on the entrance doors, desperate to just get inside the airport and check in so we knew we were actually going to make the flight.

This wasn’t an ideal beginning to our holiday. I like a nice early start, arriving at the airport completely relaxed and ready for the flight. As it was there was a definite air of anxiety about the quick steps that finally took us through the doors into Terminal 2 to face The Queue.

My immediate impression as I hurried through the entrance doors  was;

Blimey, every check in desk is busy.

That was the initial impression until the reality of the situation struck me and I stuttered to a stop, the automatic doors closing behind me did a double take and swished back open.

This wasn’t a number of ragged queues to various check in desks.

This was one. One huge queue snaking left to right from one end of the desks to the other, then zig-zagging back the opposite way. The volume of people simply filled the floor space. And it didn’t stop there as we found out when we headed for the back of the line.

We eventually discovered that it disappeared  down a corridor on the way to Terminal 1

“Seriously. What is the point of on-line check in? Seriously??”

Was what I heard from the couple in front.

And they were quite right. What is the point of on-line check in when it doesn’t save any time what’s so-ever? We never seem to avoid a huge queue in order to get through to the departure lounge, where, insult to injury, during the time it takes to get there, there are enterprising staff constantly wandering through the crush offering to “fast track you”.

For a fee.

We weren’t late, we were just later than we would normally get to the airport for. We still had two hours to get through check in, security and into the departure lounge. I just accepted it with a mental “Wellll, at least we’re on our way“.

It took us 45 minutes to reach the front of the shuffling line to check our bags in. You know what its like. Shuffle along a couple of steps with your case rocking on its wheels because its not actually moving anywhere when you take one step, while someone behind you – in this case the most impressive Mono-brow Man I’ve ever seen –  is getting too close for comfort because of course, they think that will make the line move faster.

Little Jonny in front with his own miniature case. Really bright and shiny, embossed with characters from  The Avengers.  Oh, and a teddy shaped back-pack strapped to his shoulders, loaded with so much shit that’s he’s having trouble walking and dealing with the laws of gravity. It’s touch and go whether or not he’s going to topple over backwards.

So, there’s a five year old given the responsibility of pulling his own case to the check in desk, trying to keep his balance and remember to pull his luggage each time the line moves. Then, when he forgets, leaves it behind and blocks the line behind (me) from moving forwards. He’s then  gently berated for not doing so, while dad takes hold of the handle,  rolling his eyes at me as if to say “Kids eh? Ahahah“. Then when dad lays a hand on little Jonny’s luggage, the child begins a professional strop and begins to vocally insist, (punctuating each point with a stamp of the foot) hewantstopullhisownfuckingcase.

Of course, then mum steps in and tells dad to let Jonny pull his own luggage in order to keep him quiet. We catch up with the back of the line  and then begin the process again next time it moves forward.

And during this I find I’m doing exactly what the person behind me is doing that’s irritating me. Edging closer to the slow moving family in front. Like I can make the line go faster with my close proximity. Every one is doing it. It’s like one massive bottle neck behind  Jonny.

The little bastard.

Honest to God, if it wasn’t for airport security, the next time I felt my neighbor’s case behind me bump my legs, I’d have turned round and ripped his eyebrow off then I’d have drop kicked that little fuckers case in front to the other side of the check in hall, then trampled him  just to gain ten uninterrupted feet.

Eventually, we reached the front. I immediately felt my worries lighten as I fired my case through to where-ever it goes to reach my aircraft. I almost skipped along to head  through the doors that led to security.

I only got as far as opening the door to reach the back of the next queue. Jesus this was unbelievable.

What followed next was an hour or so of the same intrusive shuffling to reach the security check point. I lost contact with Mono-Brow Man but found myself still directly behind Little Jonny. Fortunately one of the senior staff must have realized that two out of six X-ray machines (d’oh) just weren’t shifting the congestion and decided to open another two.

We were guided to one of the newly opened machines, peeling us away from Little Jonny. I have to admit I have trepidation over this point in our journey as it didn’t go well last year. (See Nikos And His Cocktail Shaker)

I went through the motions of placing my hat, watch, belt,  camera and hand luggage into the proffered box, then slid it into  the inspection area. Then I moved through the X-ray machine to wait for my tray of belongings.

After watching so many airport reality shows, I must admit I’m always a bit paranoid at airport security. All those people who get stopped who are adamant they have nothing illegal in their case’s, even though there are readings of various drugs/illegal food/TNT from swab inspections, that they have no idea how they came to contaminate their luggage

So, it was inevitable that I was left clawing at fresh air as  my bag went off at a tangent just before I could get a grip on it and a guard waved me over to him.

The only small consolation I had was seeing five year old little Jonny’s teddy back-pack do the same thing in the adjacent inspection counter. Ha.

Lay on my sun lounger  by the pool, I reflected on the journey. I looked over to Jane who had slipped into the water out of the heat. She was resting at the far end of the pool, her chin on her arms talking to the older lady who was sunning her self at the opposite end. They were both surreptitiously  eyeing the balcony where our over weight nude was tanning himself in his private sun-trap.

The conversation at the end of the pool was almost conspiratorial. Obviously Jane had become disappointed at my lack of interest in the 17-stone or so of chiseled naked lard  three floors above us and had gone out of her way to tell someone else.

I saw them both stiffen and muffled shocked laughter. They must have had a better view from over there. Obviously Brad Fatt had done something new.  The lady Jane was speaking to turned to her husband to frantically get his attention.  Jane  peeled away from her new friend and began swimming like Jonny Weismuller across all 10 feet of pool.

Obviously this was important. I wasn’t in any rush to find out mind. I turned my  face back to the sun’s heat and thought again of aggravation involved in getting to this point in my holiday.

I was back in front of the security guard.

“Anything you need to tell us about in here sir?” Asked the deadpan faced guard, gesturing into the box with my belongings with a ready swab on a stick.

I’m not good in these situations I must admit. I just have an immediate attack of guilt. Like I have something to hide, because my imagination is already running various scenarios through my mind. And they all end up with me  spread-eagled, naked against a wall gnawing my bottom lip and whinneying. While behind my unseeing eyes I can hear the Snap of latex gloves  and a Gloop of applied jell.

My attention turned to my wife. Jane,  waiting for me, met my eyes. She just mouthed Shut up. She had been there the year before and seen me crumble under the pressure of remembering I had a pen knife in my hand luggage as we had approached security. To say I blabbered my way through that experience is an understatement.

Just comply. Don’t antagonize the nice man. Be helpful.

“Sir?” He was staring at me with eyebrows raised.

“What? Oh!  Ahahaha. No. Nononono. Of course not!”

The guard just let his eyes linger on me as he began swabbing through my inspection box. I just smiled back weakly hoping to Christ I hadn’t come into contact with a drug runner in the congested entrance hall while queuing.

While next to me little Jonny was demanding his case off the bad man. My case! Want it! NOW!!NOWWWWW!!

That kid had balls.

The guard dealing with him was becoming uncomfortable with the noise being generated by the child. I could see straight away how this would unfold.

Yeah. You’ll be sorry kid when they show you the gloves.

My attention slid back to my own predicament. The guard was hovering over my camera case.

“Is this yours sir? Did you pack it yourself? Has anybody else looked after it while you’ve been in the airport?”

My eyes darted  from the guard to the camera case and back to the guard. I looked at Jane. Her expressionless face conveyed more to me than if she had spoken any words.


All of us turned to look at little Jonny next door, who was getting physical and trying to pull his Teddy bear back-pack from the grip of guard No 2.

I could hear the lid being unscrewed off the tube of jell.


My attention snapped back to my own guard. Shit. Is this a bluff? Please don’t let there be horse steroids in there. I don’t remember packing any. Oh fuck. What’s he found? How do I answer? I must confess I was on the  verge of throwing Jane to the wolves and saying her name in answer to all his questions. And I would have done but eventually they would have let her out and she’d neverletmeforgetit.


Then reality kicked back in and I confirmed it was mine.

He opened it  and checked out the contents. Then the stoney expression changed to a friendly one, and in an almost cheerful tone of voice he said,

“Ok Sir. All good here. If you’d like to repack your belongings you can go through. Have a nice holiday!”

I was almost disappointed. It was a complete anticlimax to what my imagination had been picturing for me. Next door, little Jonny was escalating his own situation and was now a whirling dervish in the arms of his father.

I had to  take my hat off to the kid. He wasn’t taking any messing about with his teddy back-pack. I stopped for a moment to watch his long suffering father and our eyes met again. And over the flailing arms and legs his father managed another, eye-roll and a – Kid’s eh? Ahahaha – look.

Yeah. I readdressed my first thought.

Please God. Let them find ten pounds of cocaine in his back pack.

I wasn’t allowed to linger to find out. Jane was already pulling me towards the doors leading to the embarking area.

“The time. Look at the time!”

That got my attention back. I glanced at my watch and realized we had 25 minutes  before the plane actually left. We hurried through the doors into the departure lounge and were met by the announcement that the gate to our flight was now open to board.

Seriously. This had not been a relaxing experience.

Ten days later,  lay on my sunbed, listening to my wife swim like an Olympian across the small pool, I could afford  to smile about the experience.

The sudden drops of cold water across my chest brought me back to the present.

“Jesus Jane! What’s -”

He’s touching himself!! He’s only sat there, spread eagled having a fiddle!!”

Jane was sat next to me on her own sunbed, bent almost double with her arms folded across her lap, leaning forward vibrating with an urgency to whisper hoarsely at me. She was happily scandalized at the prospect of this fat bloke thirty foot above us knocking one off.

“Maybe they never allowed him to play a recorder at schoo-”


Really. I didn’t want to know. My mental imagery sensors balked at the idea. My attention remained stoically fixed on the  hills in the hazy distance.

“Look! Look!! ” She was now giving frantic head gestures, trying to make me look in the direction she kept indicating.

“Jane, really, I don’t think I want -”

“You can just see between the towels. He’s not half  giving it a yank!”

Her lips suddenly  ceased to move and she began whispering like a ventriloquist, with her eyes now fixed on me, refusing to let her gaze be drawn upwards.

“Oh ma Gog. I “ink ee’s ‘een me ‘ooking! Gon’t ook. Gon’t ‘ook!!”

Yeah, like I was just about to..

I didn’t even have to consider whether or not I was turning my gaze where she had  been encouraging me to look. I most certainly was not disturbing my current repose with the actual visual of the picture Jane was painting

At the other end of the pool, I realized the lady Jane had been speaking to had been having a similar conversation with her husband. It was obvious from her sudden attention to tidying around her sunbed that she had been caught looking too.

Jane suddenly began speaking in her normal urgent whisper again.

“It’s ok. He’s going inside -”

“Well he probably needs a hanky -”

Stoppit! Omg! can You believe what he was doing?? Right out in the open!!”

“Not really Jane, no.” I answered. ” Not on a day like today. It’s roasting.  He deserves a medal really.  Which is why you should have a bit of consideration for the poor bugg – ”

“Bit of consider – what? What? What are you talking about? Don’t you realize  he’s having a bloody wan -”

“Well, you know when I go on a long bike ride?”

What? Yes? And??”

” You know I go loaded up? Spare inner tubes, mini tools, drinks, snacks-”

“What the hell are you talking about??”

“Well, my point being, you know when I forget to take the jelly – baby’s out of the back pocket? Of my jersey?”


“And they’re all sticky and soft and gluey? Sweaty almost. Yeah. that’s a good description. Sweaty.  Stuck to your fingers. Because of the heat? And it’s not nice handling them? ”


“Well, Have a heart Jane. Think of how much determined effort that poor fella is  putting in. Straining to reach the finish line. In this heat! What he’s having to work with! Having to  fiddle  with  his very own jelly bab-”

“Oh my God! Michael!!”

I must admit, the disgusted reaction was worth it.

This one’s for Viv. Hope all’s good with you.

Fiddler On The Balcony


‘Who’s that on the top balcony? I haven’t see them at the pool yet. Are they new?”

Jane’s question reached me through my comatose state me. I cracked open one eye to peer at her and weigh up whether or not to move. She was facing the balcony she was staring at while I was lay in the opposite direction. I was sprawled in an almost stupor in the afternoon heat, only moving to shift my sun-bed around occasionally to maintain some contact with the small amount of shade off the umbrella. It seemed like an awful lot of effort to turn to look where she indicated. I was very comfortable.

This state was light years away from the start of our holiday.

I have to say, my recent encounters of trying to pass through airport security en-route to my holiday destination sure-as-hell wasn’t the relaxing start I want the beginning of my break to be. I’d had enough the year before on my way to the same holiday destination. (See
Nikos And His Cocktail Shaker – Part 1)
The trip to the airport didn’t help I must admit.

My eldest daughter had very kindly offered to drop us off in the early hours. My immediate reaction was Brilliant. Then I began weighing up the pros and cons as my wife began to change things.

Initially it was a weight off my mind. look at it this way. Now, I don’t have to worry about whether or not to take the car or get a taxi. Do I get a cab and worry that the very chatty driver is fishing to find out how long we are going to be away so he can pop back and break in at his leisure. In a vindictive move, try all my remaining shoes on knowing he has chronic athletes foot, walk round with my spare underpants on his head, and, a particular dread of my wife’s, turn a light on and leave it on(!!)

Or do I drive and leave the car in an airport long-stay car park, then, spend the 2 weeks dealing with an increasingly fevered imagination until I can collect it.

Has some young chap who worked there
A. Damaged it parking it.
B. Damaged it each time he moved it closer to the collection point as my holiday came to an end.
C. Four hours before I was due to arrive back, become disillusioned, decided it was a crap job, taken some entertaining drug, nabbed the first keys he spotted (mine) and fucked off on a high speed race round south Manchester with various body parts dangling off, creating an fabulous trail of sparks that the police helicopter didn’t need thermal imaging to follow.

So, when Em offered to drop us off I was all for it. Until, my wife told her not to collect us at the time we would have left for the airport because she didn’t want her getting up so early. So, where we normally arrive at the airport three hours before we fly, get through security, and just relax for a couple of hours or so until we board, now, we would be a good hour later. I mean, that early arrival is all part of my holiday routine. I like being there so early. I finally feel like I can forget about work. I’m actually on holiday.

When Jane told Emily to pick us up an hour later, then turning and asking me what I thought, well, then I know I’m not really being asked an optional question.

Its like being asked a hypothetical question by your wife. I always weigh up my answer. Ask, if its a trick? Does she want my honest – more importantly I hasten to repeat – hypothetical answer. Of course, she says Yes.

I always get the answer wrong.

I should know better, when her eyes narrowed just before she said Yes. But in this instance, for the sake of my own peace of mind, I felt I had to disagree and try negotiate a better departure time.

“What about just doing what we normally do? Three hours early? Peace of mind. Breakfast! Hooray.”

“Oh no. Think of Emily. She’s doing us a favour. It wouldn’t be fair to make her get out of bed any earlier. She needs her sleep.”

Now I know Em, it wouldn’t be a problem. This was just her mum worrying about her. I shared a glance with Emily and she recognized my discomfort. She immediately offered to come at the time I wanted to leave, bless her, but Jane was determined not to put her out.

To cut it short, it was agreed Emily would collect us later than I wanted to leave but not as late a Jane wanted to depart at.

I like my routine when I go on holiday. Finish work a day or so before. Immediately wind down knowing that’s it for two-and-a half weeks. Pack haphazardly the evening before departure (it drives my wife mad) then do nothing until it’s time to leave and get to the airport three hours before the flight, completely relaxed.

I like to let Jane stress for both of us.

Now, My comfort zone was destroyed.

I was immediately filled with foreboding and faced a battle with  my own form of OCD knowing in my mind  that my pre-set routine for  getting up, dressing in my carefully-selected-for-maximum-travel-comfort holiday outfit, load cases to car, listen to wife check, check,checkcheckcheckcheckcheck passports, boarding tickets, doors, cooker, windows, taps, plug sockets, curtain position – open/closed/partly open – Jesus, it goes on and on. 

I knew I was going to be sat twitching with nervous energy trying to looked relaxed on what was supposed to be the beginning of a relaxing holiday.

As you can imagine, I was up extra early waiting for my daughter to arrive, cases positioned, handles set just-so, poised with sweaty palms, so I could rush forward, grabbing said handles, dash out the open door to the waiting car. Dash back inside, perform a fireman’s lift on my tap-tigtening wife and force her in the car. A quick sprint inside the house again for hand luggage, pulling the door closed as I headed back to the waiting vehicle. In through the open door and pulling away from the kerb before I tugged it shut.

I was at heightened DEFCOM 2 ready to tip into DEFCOM 1.

So. We were due to be collected by 4.20am. And my calm exterior began to unravel at 4.05.

Because, I received a text  at 4.05.


Just left! You excited?! :):)


Don’t text just drive. Yeah really excited. Are you driving now? Don’t stop driving to reply. Just drive. :):):O:D:P

The phone rang 10 minutes later making me jump as I stared out of the window where I was stationed, willing Emily to arrive.


(The exclamation mark sank my hopes further)

“I’ve got a puncture!! The wheels a funny shape!!”

(The wheels a funny shape??)

I must quickly explain my thought process at this point.

I looked at my watch. Calculated what would be quicker. Phoning a taxi right now and seeing how long it would take to arrive, collect and drop us at the airport, and how late we would be. Or, dash to where my eldest daughter was stranded, in the dark, with a flat tyre and struggling to get the nuts off the wheel. Mmmm. What to do. Did I know a good taxi service? I could always order Emily a taxi too. After ours.

Then normality clicked back and I told her I’d be right there. I grabbed the car keys and galloped out shouting up to Jane briefly what was happening and to be ready to leave!

Be calm, I thought, when you get to Emily. This, as I leaned over the steering wheel tipping sixty.

Don’t let her see you stressing. It’ll stress her out more. Lets be nice and calm. Like Clint Eastwood. Icy calm.

While the real me was running round in circles in the privacy of my own mind pulling my hair out wailing:

The flight! The flight! We’re going to miss the flight!! I knew I should have driven! No one fucking listens to me!!!

I spotted Emily hovering in front of her car as I drove towards her on the deserted road. She was hopping anxiously around her disabled vehicle waiting for me. I went past then did a quick U-turn pulling up behind her car. As I jumped out of the car striving to look the personification of Calm, Emily came towards me greeting me with,

“It’s ok Dad – I got the jack set up – the wheels ready to come off!”

She looked at me with those haven’t-I-done-well eyes and made me feel bad all over again. I looked down at the drivers side front wheel and realized it wasn’t just flat, the hub had impacted on something and actually bent. It really was a funny shape. Then I spotted that the wheel was off the ground.

“Well done Em, but we need to loosen the nuts before we jack the car up. Just step off the road chick.”

I bent over to wind the car back down only to discover she had forced the jack under the door and had cranked the seating of the jack into the door itself.

(Be calm)

“Ohohoho. Look Em. You jacked the car door instead of the car. Ahahaha.”

Em walked back round to look.

“Is that the wrong Place?”

(Be calm. Be. Calm.)

“Ah – Yes. Look here?”

I showed her where the jack was forced into the door.

“Just wander over to the pavement Em.”


“Not to worry.” I threw her a smile. “We’ll just lower it back down.”

I attempted to wind the arm of the jack which completely failed to move.

“Is it not going down?” Emily was by my side in the road again.

“No babe. Its a bit stuck.”

I took a ragged breath.

“I’ll just have to use a bit of force. Juststepbackofftheroadqueen.”

My anxiety levels had gone up an all new notch. (Jesus I think I’m getting pains up my arm)


I exerted some considerable force all the time aware of the minutes sliding past.

“Are you sure I really managed to put it in under the door?”

Em queried, back leaning over me.

I gave a final eye-popping wrench at the jack, rapped my knuckles on the floor and deposited skin as I lost my grip, completely failing to move the lever.

I stuck my knuckle in my mouth, tasting my oil covered fingers. Any pretence of calm I was maintaining finally disappeared.

Yes! Yes! You jammedthefuckingjackinthedoor!!!!GETOFFTHEFUCKINGROAD!!!

I did one of those jump-up-turn-round-throw-your-arms-in-the-air maneuvers, that you do when shit really hits the fan. This was followed by a quick goose stepping routine round the middle of the road gesticulating at no-one in particular.

You know the moment?

One of those “We’re-all-fucked-women-and-children-first-my-arse” reactions that occur after you finally realize, your not Cool Hand Luke after all. That moment, when the veneer of calm you’ve been papering over the nerve jangling anxiety that, actually, with every Tick of the clock, is pretty obvious to everyone else who you thought you were kidding but who, were just watching for that wafer thin amount of control to blow away with the gentlest puff of wind.

I’d gone from Clint Eastwood to Frank Spencer.

Then striving for calm, chest heaving with my exertions and seeing Emily looking at me like it was the end of the world, I struggled to think clearly.

The jack. The jack! My jack!! I ran to my car to grab my jack. Sorted! I’ll just jack Em’s car with mine high enough to take the pressure off her jack and remove it. There you go! Some people need to take a chill pill!! Think it through. Problem solved!! That’s what a clear, calm thought process does for you.

I lifted my boot and leaned into the back of the car, pulling up the cover over my spare tyre, with, at this point, considerable urgency. Not seeing it immediately I lifted the spare tyre and fumbled underneath for my jack. This became more frantic as what I blindly felt for was out of reach. The whole thing degenerated again with me ripping out the spare wheel cover, then the spare wheel and feeling round the empty space for what I could plainly see wasn’t there.

No jack.

I think I actually screamed but it came out as a wheezy whistle. Jesus. I needed a paper bag. Better yet an oxygen tank.

I ran back to Emily’s car and turned into Basil Faulty and began kicking the jack, then took to hitting it with the wrench. What I was saying eludes me now. No doubt it was encouraging and colourful.

It suddenly popped free from under the door and I think I whooped a bit. It was a matter of moments to correctly position it, tighten into position, release nuts, jack up remove nuts, change wheel blahdeblah and so on. I didn’t even stop. I grabbed the damaged wheel – and it was knackered, the whole metal rim of the hub was bent in – I dashed to the rear of Em’s car throwing it in. Turning back to Emily ushered to the drivers side striving to come across completely cheerful.

“Okaydokey Em! No problem! In you get! Off we go!”

I sprinted to my car and jumped in, fumbled the key into the ignition and started the engine. I looked over my oil covered hands on the steering wheel to give Emily an encouraging wave, only to see her already accelerating away with a slight sqeal of tyres.

It didn’t take long to get home, rush in and grab the luggage, using the cases like pig boards to guide Jane complaining and still trying to check things as I steered her to Emilys car. Back In, switch the light off and dash back to the waiting vehicle, slamming the door behind me. I never expected to feel G-force in a Corsa but was thrown back in the seat as Emily launched us up the road before the car door was closed behind me.

“I’m so sorry! I can’t believe this has happened!”

Was all Em could utter for the first five minutes as she gripped the steering wheel, trying to focus on her driving but continuously turning to me in the front seat and looking at Jane in the mirror. In the end I had to tell her to stop when other reassurances didn’t help, concerned after all this she would kill me before I even got to the airport. I have to hold my hands up though, my heightened stress levels hadn’t helped Emily and may have contributed to Emily feeling so bad. I felt incredibly guilty.

But not enough to worry about it too much at the moment. We still had a plain to catch.

“No problem Em! Don’t worry about it! we’ll be fine!”

I gave a slightly manic laugh.

“I’m sure we’ll get there no problem. We should have almost an hour and three quarters to get through security. No worries! Please. Just look at the road and not me?”

We arrived at Terminal 2 relieved just to actually be there. We gave hurried hugs, trying to reassure Emily in a distracted way to be careful driving home. Then, waved her off as we crossed to the terminal entrance.

We abruptly stopped as we walked through the automatic doors. The queue to check in desk snaked, zig-zagging across the floor and off down a corridor heading off to Terminal 1.


This was just the icing on the cake.

I felt my shoulders completely drop.

I looked at Jane. Nothing else for it. Deep breath.

We rushed off to find the end of the queue. Just in case someone got there before us and made it longer.. We now had Ninety minutes to get through security.

Surely. Nothing else could go wrong..

The Dating Game..


dating game 2

This will probably be one of my shortest blogs. I must add that most of what I write about is true and matters to me or has had some significant impact upon me.

I try, I mean really try, to paint a picture of other peoples lives in the most understanding, reflective way that I can. I often surprise myself with  the dawning insights I discover as I write about particular stories, how easy it is when you really take time to consider their circumstances.

I wouldn’t say I’m the most understanding person – I’m not. At times I’m impatient, bad tempered. Irritable. Grumpy.

But what I believe I am, is a good dad – I try sincerely to do the best I can for my family or friends. And not to waste my time regretting any decision I’ve made that may not have worked out as well as I had hoped, because I honestly believe I did the best I possibly could under what-ever the circumstances were at the time. I hope my children grow up with the same mentality. No regrets. You can only do the best you can at that moment in time.. I only hope I reach the end of my life and think, I did do the very best I could to my keep my family safe and on a happy path.

Blimey. Very dramatic.

What I am is interested. I like to know, understand, the circumstances of a persons situation that I write about..

There But For The Grace Of god..

I’m right on the brink of my silver wedding anniversary as I write this tale which, in a round about way made this blog significant.

I’m lucky to have gone through this life to have been blessed with a loving family and three fantastic kids. I don’t take lightly for a moment all the effort that has gone into  creating this unit. I know first hand the ups and downs of what is actually a twenty seven year relationship how much has gone into making it as solid as it currently is.

We have three grown up children currently making their own way through the world. Callum is away in America on a four year football scholarship at collage, majoring in Computer Science. Holly is in her third year at University studying Veterinary Medicine while Emily is newly qualified and working as a Speech Therapist working with children who have severe issues. She’s teaching me sign language.

I can now fluently sign “Sit Down“, “Bullshit” and “Bell End“. Not necessarily in that order.  Any time I disagree with someone now I don’t even have to speak… well, least said best mended I always believe.

My wife is my very best friend. She seen my up’s and my downs and supports them. She is without reservation, my strength. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Saying all that, When our eyes met in the Pie And Ale House all those years ago, all I think about now is her smile. It just hit me. but also lets be honest. She fell lucky. I was a catch after all. She did badger me as I phoned for a taxi to take her number. In my blind naivety I was chancing upon bumping into her the next time. She took matters into her own hands.

Really though, She was just lucky I had no pride and phoned her the very next day. The rest is three kids and history.

But that was way back then. You caught someone’s eye and gambled. It worked out or it didn’t.

The reason I mention all of this is due to conversations I have with my children and their out look on dating and relationships. That generation see it completely differently. In some ways it seems cosmopolitan how they view getting together with someone. The actual journey they take to forming relationships. The internet is the answer to everything it seems.

Tinder,, Match, Zoosk to name but a few. All looking for that silver lining in life.

The reason I raise this issue is due to a friend of my daughters dating experience.

She went down the Tinder path in the hope of a happy ending – I mean, the home page greets you with images of proposals, ideal mates – hell –  The ultimate happy endings.

All, at the swipe of a mouse cursor. left, right – your choice.

And this is the route that Lucy went down.

With a swipe one particular way it led to a Friday night date.

In an effort to have a safe blind date, Lucy decided to keep in contact with my daughter Emily via text. The first message arrived from Lucy and read like this:


Being picked up at 8pm. I’ll send reg  of car – he’s driving.


Ok, stay  safe! Have a good night! Fingers crossed!!

Then there was the nail biting wait, hoping her friend was actually picked up and didn’t fall at the first hurdle.


He’s outside! His reg is @#4 ***. Hope its a good night! Bit nervous!! Going to *%^$ bar. Nothing ventured and all that!!


Good luck chick!! You’ll stun him!!

As you can imagine, it was a bit of a nerve wracking  night for both of them. Lucy, having never been on a blind date – and trust me, she’s a stunning young woman, she shouldn’t need to – messaging Emily every step of the way. While Emily,  spent an evening gnawing finger nails hoping her friend has the luck she deserves.


At the bar – he’s not drinking. Seems like a nice bloke! 🙂


Fingers crossed babe! Deserve a nice BF!!

So you can see how it was going. Both trying to reassure each other.  Both on pins. One over her friends happiness and hoping the leap she had taken was rewarded with a nice relationship, and the other in the actual situation, out there, dealing with the front line realities of Blind Dating.


Off to another bar. having a good time(!) Seems like a keeper(!!)


Aww babe!! You so deserve a nice bloke!! Stay safe and play it cool!!

I don’t think I would have the confidence to go blind dating. In fact after being married for so long I wouldn’t know where to start these days. I mean, to take that chance – blind dating! – seriously. I’d be outside my comfort zone.

For example. I have a friend who is the same age as myself who regularly went on blind dates through various web sites. She admits herself it can be a mine field. She has been on dates where the actual profile of who ever she was meeting had no true reflection on the reality. One chap she met was in fact several inches shorter and minus a head of hair. Others were posting pictures of themselves  from 20 years previously, or actually photo-shopping their images to trim off a couple of stone or disguising the hunchback  and clubfoot in the extreme situations.

That’s what I would do. I’d defo take off the eye patch for the picture too.

I don’t think I could have gone through all the malarkey needed for a successful date. Its not that I think I’m  an ugly bloke but the stresses  and effort of dating these days, well, I would hate to have to start over.

I mean. How honest would you be with your profile? Seriously. Have a go. I’d be a right lying lothario. In fact I’d be verging on Brad Pitt in my description. Maybe a touch trimmer…

(If my wife is reading this : Don’t think I wouldn’t manage – Damn right I would! I wouldn’t have a problem being the good looking chap I am!! I’m just saying. It’s a lot of effort. Like changing the smoke alarm battery or dropping the toilet seat. Unnecessary effort.)

It’s just that everything seems so much more serious when you’re younger.

Anyway. Date night was actually going swimmingly:


Home safe! Good night. He’s a keeper! Defo like to see him again. Dropped me off with a peck on the cheek! He went for a full on smooch but left him wanting more!


Oh babe! Well done! Don’t put out! So happy for you! When you seeing him next?


Defo not!! Make him keen! Seeing him during the week. Wednesday! He’s very eager!!


Witwooooo!!! Hope you’re happy chick!


:):):) xxxx

Ten minutes later came a more defining answer.


OMFG. Just looked out the window – he’s sat  in the car outside the house having a wank!!!!!

Obviously this chap was really geared up for a more action packed ending to the evening. The unfulfilled promise of the night was too much for this fella. He just couldn’t drive another foot without letting off some steam. So he was sat where he had dropped Lucy and looked like he was frothing at the mouth while having a thrashing fit behind the steering wheel.

Like I say, I couldn’t go through the effort of this modern day blind dating. The nerve wracking gamble to be yourself or not be yourself as the case may be, and worry all evening if you’re impressing the person opposite. I’d spend the date watching the lady for positive indications the night was going well. I’d be crap. I just wouldn’t be up to speed with modern dating and read the signs well at all.

It’s been explained to me that people use these sites as a quick way to meet, using the interlude prior to date night as the flirting period. Sleeping with someone on a first date is therefore a distinct possibility.

But apparently, having a frantic, epileptic-like wank in the car is a bit of a no-no.

Go figure.

I find the modern day perceptions of dating a trifle contradictory. I mean, if Lucy’s relayed experience is anything to go by… I’d be in dire straights.

I wouldn’t be surprised to discover after a short period I’d more than likely have forearms like Popeye on steroids if I tried the dating game.

There’s something to be said for a secure,  long term marriage after all..





A christmas Thought..



I haven’t written a great deal this year. To say it’s been full is an understatement. Amongst other significant things my eldest daughter has completed her journey through university and landed on the other side a qualified Speech Therapist. She can now gently, but firmly, berate and  correct my speech deficiencies as a professional rather than an amateur. Her final dissertation only reflected the dedication she  applied to her profession by receiving a resounding well deserved First.

(How utterly proud of Emily am I?)

After spending the last four years waiting for that day to arrive, when I believed she would be treating small children to manage a reasonable “S” as they spoke with – in the scenes in my mind – brilliantly comic results, involving covering their enraptured audience with saliva and lots of slurping, imagine my  surprise when I discovered her job entailed so much more.

From treating a variety of neurological disorders, dementia, stroke victims and adults with learning difficulties, it was a vast distance away from what I believed she would be involved in – taking off a water proof smock  and  mopping up a small child’s spittle after a session of teaching him to say

“Ssssammy Sssnake.”

I actually felt slightly cheated when I realized how in-depth and serious  her job was. Not, I hasten to add,  that I take any of these conditions  lightly, but like any normal healthy individual  leading a busy life, it never really crosses my mind much until it’s placed firmly in front of me.

Meeting some of the people she has befriended during the last four years in Sheffield completely humbles me. But I wouldn’t have met them if Emily wasn’t Emily and had taken the opportunity to embrace friendships that I would have shied away from, because,  I’m honest enough but also ashamed to admit, they were so far outside my comfort zone of dealing with.

If we come into contact with someone with a significant disability we automatically treat them as slightly invisible because we don’t know how to relate comfortably with their illness. So instead having a normal conversation, we end up slightly patronizing, or talking far too loudly to them because, of course, the natural assumption is they’re slightly simple too. After all, everyone knows, If you shout a question SLOWLY BUT CLEARLY, they’re going to UNDERSTAND IT…

It was only through Emily that I  met such a person to find – and I have to say it does actually distress me somewhat – he was a perfectly normal person trapped in body he couldn’t control and communicated by blinking his way through the alphabet. But what a sense of humour!

There’s been many a Christmas I’ve been half drunk and some genius always shouts out to play a party game. You know the one? Label stuck on your forehead while you take turns to guess who or what you are by asking questions. As soon as you get a “No” your turn ends. Then you have to wait 10 minutes for your turn to come back round. By which time, I have no idea what I asked in the first place and begin a deja-vu existence of asking the same questions for the next hour or so.

So I’m sat with him and I know eyes up mean A to L. Eyes down M to Z. He lets you work through the alphabet and blinks to stop you at the letter, eventually spelling the word.

I sat and weighed it up. This man, his situation. The cage that was his body and how he had to communicate. And I had to warn him upfront.

I told him I thought I must have a concentration deficiency  and to please bear with me because I would ,

A. By the third word have lost track of the previous two and

B. By the 4th, have forgotten wtf the question was in the in the first place and

C. It was just a small mercy that I wasn’t dyslexic.

I can’t even begin to tell you, how humbling it was to meet such an inspiring person.  How much he laughed in the space of time I was lucky enough to spend with him. He saw the humour in almost everything we talked about. And the most animated expressive part of him was his piercingly blue eyes.

Emily has since returned to Manchester but is in regular contact with him and she either travels to see him or he travels here with his helper. That’s for another story.

But that’s Emily. She is probably the kindest, most patient person I know and I don’t know another person who enriches others so much just by giving them out-and-out committed, unsolicited attention.

It completely took away the comical, thigh slapping images I’d spent four years streaming through my mind of what her future job would entail.

Yet again I had a life reminder of how unfortunate some people are and how distressing some of these conditions can be for those involved. As much for those suffering as for those surrounding the patients and being forced to witness a neurological illness or devastating decline from one.

But for all the devastation there are  soaring displays of bravery,unselfish kindness, humour and – even – laughter that shines during such terrible set backs.

I have a relation who is suffering from early dementia and I have to say it makes me look at my own life differently. I love seeing her because she’s one of the few people in the world always pleased to see me. And, she always greets me with,

“Michael, you were a such a  beautiful baby!”

Not even my own mother tells me that. (But I was.)

I have to say I have a dread of reaching a point in my own life and discovering such an ailment in my self.

The plus side is – and I seriously don’t  mean to treat this lightly – there must be moments of total obliviousness to the decline in mental state for the stricken person. But then there must be totally distressing times when you are aware of what’s happening.

My Auntie’s family keep it as light hearted as possible with a wonderfully, and at times black, humour.

For instance they have a bench table dining set in the  kitchen and get her to lie on one of the benches. Then, they  carry her round the kitchen on it.

Practicing her funeral procession.

And give her a running commentary. They love it.  My auntie most of all actually.

Some of the instances that arise are sad but funny.

I was at a wedding recently and was not drinking so offered to drive my Auntie, her daughter and her husband home so they could leave their car and have a drink. As we left the venue my cousin  collected their coats from her car then waited at the reception while I brought my car round to collect them.

We settled my Auntie in the back, made her comfortable and strapped her in. My cousin sat in the back with her while her husband was up front with me. We set off and made our way some 8 miles down the A34, onto the M60 ring road that runs around Manchester. We were talking quietly about various things and it was probably another 8 miles or so further on in the journey that my Auntie, who – up to this point had been silent in the back – pipes up and the conversation went like this:


“Yes mum?”

“Where’s your car?”

Chris and I shared a glance up front.

“What mum?”

“Your car love. Where’s your car?”

There was a moment of silence  while I caught Debbie’s eye in the mirror then she replied,

“Its back at the hotel mum. That’s why I took you coat out of it.”

“Ooooh. Right.”

There was a few moments silence as we all tried to weigh up how her mind must be working. Then,


“Yes Auntie Shelia?”

“Where’s your car??”

I have to admit I actually took a moment to look out of the window trying to see the exterior then down  at the steering wheel in my hands.


I was definitely driving my car.

I then shared a glance with Chris sat next to me and he answered for both of us as Debbie and  I began to laugh.

“Jesus. You’re sat in it Shelia. He hasn’t hot wired this car just to drive you home..”

The next time I heard from her it was via my mum, who had had the story related to her from Debbie.

Apparently Debbie and Chris had taken Shelia to attend the funeral of Shelia’s close friend’s husband. At the reception afterwards Shelia’s friend was obviously tearful and Shelia had made her way across the room to her side with – the most oblivious to her surroundings wonderful question I could imagine –  and put her arm around her tearful friends shoulder and said,

“Aww. Betty. Why are you crying??”

The best of it was, as Debbie guided her gently away, explaining where they were and why they  were there, another elderly friend with a similar condition made a bee-line for the widow  with, at this stage, some serious tears streaming down her cheeks. He placed his arm around her shoulder to comfort her and asked,

“Aww. Betty love. Why are you crying…… ??”

I think it was like a dementia convention.

You couldn’t make it up.

But seriously I don’t  mean to treat these circumstances without any depth of respect or to belittle these situations which people are attempting to deal with.  But only those suffering from one of these illnesses or those dealing with the decline of a loved one can comment. And I happen to believe my relations – for all the distress that what they have to witness  causes them – deal with my Auntie’s situation with incredible rapport and good nature. Reflected by my Auntie’s fairly consistent outward display of contented good humour.

But in my own mind I wish I could roll back four years or so to  my totally shielded obliviousness to these ailments, before Emily had to go and qualify and get all serious and explain things..

And still run the lispy kid images through my mind.

My favourate would be an Oliver Twist scene with the unfortunate raggamuffin having to make his way to the front and have to ask for more food with a tongue like a slurpy party streamer.

“Please  Thir. May I have thome more..

(and you can only wish)

..thauthage thurprithe?”

Merry Christmas…



A Babys Arm


In the film Pulp Fiction, there are particular scenes where various characters intermittently come into contact with a briefcase of some importance. Each time the case is opened, the camera is situated in front of the person who currently possesses the expensive, leather trimmed hold-all, so that you are looking at their faces as the lid is raised.

Their eyes widen, as their faces are bathed in a golden light that the open lid exposes. There are a few moments of awed silence before the case is finally and reverently closed, and the source of the light blinks out of the scene, with the suddenness of the latch snapping shut.

It leaves everything at that moment immediately darker and emptier – only increasing the impact and mystery of what ever the object was in the case.

The people who view it are left momentarily stunned when the case is closed and the light shut off, unable for a time to comprehend what they have witnessed.

Because, all the way through the film you never actually find out what is actually occupying the case.

But you do know that its special.

You know this by silence as the case is opened, by the expressions on the faces of those who examine the interior, and by the way they lean in and almost, huddle, that bit closer to observe what that raised lid has exposed.

But the golden glow, well.

The beautiful golden glow from the open lid is the beginning and end that the visual impact has on those clustered around it.

The same goes for the scene where the Arc of the Covenant is finally opened in the Indiana Jones film – Raiders Of The Lost Ark.


When the lid is slid across to open the Covenant, there’s the growing atmospheric music, the almost rapturous initial expressions on the faces of those exposed to the objects within – the glow that seeps out as it is cracked open, giving way to the incredible flash of pure light that shatters the surrounding darkness from the exposed interior of the Covenant, leaves you in no doubt of its heavenly importance.

The light reflects the purity of the interior objects. In fact, that light is a pre-cursor to the fact that your soul isn’t actually fit enough to view it.

But people have to look. They can’t help themselves.

But then it kills them stone dead.

Now, you can’t get better visual impact of the effect that a mysterious yet important object can have on those witnessing it, than that.

Its the images of those people with varying expressions on their faces. Stunned, staring down while crowding round those objects. Just opening and closing mouths as they tried to speak but stricken momentarily dumb. Seeing what lay before them but unable to describe or take their eyes off it – that was the image that took hold in my mind when a friend of mine relayed this story to me recently.

He had been working on an exclusive housing site in North Yorkshire. Not your run of the mill homes. These were individually built, with clients requesting particular refinements or high tech fit outs as the properties were being developed.

Big, detached homes aimed at people with large wallets and expensive tastes.

So when one client became aware of a faint, tinny electric buzzing noise that she could hear of an evening when she was trying to go to sleep, it became a area of concern for the developer.

If there was an electrical fault with properties as exclusive as these, then it was a matter of urgency that it was identified and resolved as soon as possible.

“I’m not saying it was loud – it wasn’t.’

Explained Mark.

“But d’you know, when you go on holiday? Or when we actually get some hot weather, and all the little bugs or mosquitos appear? And the bastards are either making a meal out of your arse, or just irritating the life out of you just as you’re about to go to sleep? Whizzing round your head? You know? That whiney buzz as they get really close to your ear and you’re like -”

And he demonstrated by ducking, flapping his arms around his head to ward off an invisible entity while looking around sharply, trying to locate the source of a miniscule sound – then his eyes met mine again as he straightened up.

“Yeah? You know what I mean? One of those irritating little fuckers buzzing round your ears! And you can’t actually see it!?”

I nodded my head emphatically. Who hasn’t been in that situation when you’re just dropping off to sleep and suddenly there’s a kamikaze flea dive bombing past your ear. You actually hear it coming from a distance and all of a sudden you’re jumping up trying to ward off what sounds like a tiny motorbike from driving down your earhole.

I always imagine a tiny bug dressed as a Japanese Kamikaze pilot – helmet and all – circling above, weighing up how long an hour actually is to be alive. Then, seeing a person just nodding off and thinking –

Jesus, only 15 minutes left. Fuckit here we go..”

and seizing its chance to scream,


Kamikaze 1

Then nose-diving down and whipping past your ear half-a-dozen times, then zipping out of range to continue circling and waiting for the leviathan below to lie back down again to line up another run.


continued Mark,

“It was that sort of noise. There but faint. You wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t told about it, and even then, it had to be really quiet. I mean really quiet. But as she’d be in bed , about to nod off, the noise was noticeable in the quiet of the night.

It was driving the client mad.”

The client being a well heeled professional lady, very hoity-toity, a high level legal job and she was very clear – and rightly so – that she wanted it sorting out. She would be going to bed and this indistinct faint buzz, un-locatable, would be on the edge of her hearing in the silence of the room, and the more she became aware of it the louder it became.

“Well how did she notice it? Was it some sort of back ground noise? Water filling a tank? Or the house moving?”


continued Mark.

“It was definitely there. But it was impossible to actually pin-point the source. But she wasn’t happy. For one thing, over the sheer cost of the property then discovering this fault in the middle of what should be bespoke perfection. This noise. And secondly, she was flapping about a possible fire risk.”

“Did they turn the electric off? See if that stopped it?”

“Mate, they tried all sorts. Half a dozen times they went in. Everyone. You know Matty the spark? The old boy? Retired after that job?”

“Yeah, yeah I remember Matt. Smashing bloke. He was getting on a bit anyway. Thought he’d never retire.”

“Yeah, he didn’t hang about after that job. Well Matt went in, worked through the house. ‘Cos we couldn’t source it he had to check every room. Every socket. Every appliance. Anything electrical. I mean, he stripped every socket off the wall and checked all the wiring to them.”

“And he found it?”

“Christ no. What hair the old bugger had left on his head he was almost pulling it out in frustration. Then they sent the plumbers in -”


“Yeah, they had to check everything they had been involved with, boiler, fittings – taps, toilets, joints to pipes – anything they had fitted.”


“Yeah. I know. Everyone was sent round to have a listen to see if they could locate it. Then, they decided. Everyone was going in together.”


“Everyone. Plumbers, sparks, joiners, agent and foremen. Even laborers – just to see if anybody could source it. We all ended up in the bedroom where she mainly heard it when she was trying to go to sleep. About 12 of us, all stood round trying not to make a sound, whispering to each other, straining to hear it.”

“And what happened?”

“We took everything apart in that room and the en-suite. Sockets off again, sink and toilet out. Vanity dismantled. Tiler stood ready to re-tile the new vanity I had ready to re-fit when we were done. Everything out. Don the plumber was going mad.”

“I bet he was.”

“Kept ranting on about ‘Never heard a fucking toilet buzz in all my years..'”

“Anyway we’re at that point. All pissed off and we’re stood in the bedroom trying to listen again and we can just about catch this faint buzz.

“Then Matty says –

‘We have looked under the bed haven’t we?’

“Well we all turned to look at the bed, at each other then back at the bed. I mean. We’d all wandered round it each visit. It was a big room but still, this was a big bed – massive mate – super king size. Paul the agent says – ”

Are you telling me,”

“A bit testy like,” adds Mark,

Are you telling me that not a one of you dickheads have looked under that fucking bed??”

Mark continued,

“Dom dropped down on his hands and knees pulls the old for-lock and says – “One sec Massa, I’s a lookin..” has a nosey under and adds-”

“Seriously. Do we have to move this thing? There’s only a couple of boxes and a suitcase under it.”

Mark continued,

“I mean – he was right. It was enormous. Who in their right mind would it occur to, to try lumping that big bastard thing around the room?”

“So I said –

‘Well I’m a joiner – what would I be looking under a bed for..?’

And Don gives it –

You don’t see many beds plumbed in, so – No. I’ve not shifted it. why would I? look at the size of the fucking thing!”

“But Paul’s stood there looking right pissed off. So that’s it then, Nothing else for it – Paul wants the only area of floor that hasn’t been checked, exposed. The beds got to move.”

He paused for a moment as he stared off into the distance, revisiting the scene again in his own mind.

“So. We strips the bed, tries to keep it all tidy, ‘cos she’s going to go mad if we make a mess of this bed – no two ways about it. It’ll be the icing on the cake. The vanity’s in bits. Toilet, sink – all need plumbing back in. New vanity will need re-tiling, sockets hanging off the wall all over the place. And here we are stripping the bed…”

“Heavy was it?”

“Man. It was solid oak. They must have assembled it en-situ. We got the mattress off it and it took 8 of us to lift it across the room.”

“And what was under it” Any bare wires sparking away?”

“No. Just a couple of box files and this expensive looking, heavy duty designer suitcase. But..”

And he’s looking a bit sheepish,

“But the faint buzz actually did get louder.”

“Really? After all that?”

“Yeah, I know mate. All this time of looking and its coming down to some boxes under the bed.”

“So what happened?”

“Everyone came in to see, sort of bunched up round it. So I leant down and opens the box files but all they have in them is paper. So its just the suitcase.”


“Well I unzipped it and stands up weighing up what might be in the case.”


“Paul’s tanting on in the background giving it –‘Come on open the thing then!’ – so I stick’s the toe of my boot on the lid and flips it open. And straight away the noise goes up ten fold and everyone jumps back. Then we can’t help ourselves, we all lean back in to look at what’s in that case buzzing away. I’m not kidding mate. Everyone was gob-smacked. But Matt’s a bit blank and says -”

What is it?”

“So Don leans over – with out taking his eyes off the meaty object buzzing away – and tells him.”

It’s a what now?”

“Don lean over again – again with out taking his eyes off it – and explains, and Matt is stood gaping at Don for a couple of seconds and then -”

You’re fucking kidding me?”

“”And that, as far as I can remember was the only time I remember him taking his eye’s off the thing – to look at Don to ask that question. Because then his eyes went back down and all you could hear in the silence was old Matty saying -”

Fuck. Me. I mean. Look at the size of the thing. Fuck me. Fuck Me!”

“At this point, ”

continued Mark,

“We’re all stood there staring down at this thing in the case, heads turning to different angles to take on board whats it is, with Matty blathering away at this point. And who walks in but the owner of the item in the case. And she’s not happy at all.”

Oh dear god. Now you’ve wrecked the dam bed. Wonderful.”

Mark carried on.

“Everyone, has stopped staring at the thing in the suitcase to swivel their eyes to the woman. I’m not kidding – no one could say a word. Except Matt. Matt can’t stop staring at the thing, and can’t stop talking. And while the woman’s demanding answers, oblivious to anything but the destruction and disarray, Matt is completely focused on the open case and as oblivious of her. He’s was verging on an asthma attack at this point! All you could hear was her heavy breathing through sheer temper, Matt panting like Lassie, and this bloody thing buzzing like a Flymo!”

“And he can’t shut up!”

Fuck me. Its like a Subway foot-long.”

How wonderful! You’ve took all the bloody sockets off again I see. Oh! Yes! And Yes! You’ve now destroyed my bathroom!!”

Look at the size of the fucking thing.”

Oh tremendous! The beds on the other side of the bloody room! How spectacular!”

Mark continued the tale,

“Matty was actually clutching his chest at this point, I think he was on his way to a stroke. And he’s still not taken his eyes off the case or even realized the woman is in the room. Everyone else is too stunned to talk. We’re looking from the case to the woman to each other to the case again, while she’s stood there with her hands on her hips, waiting for answers getting more pissed off by the minute. So I turns to her, and had to say something, ”

I think we’ve found the problem love.”

“Honest to God pal, I’m not joking. All you could hear at this point was this thing buzzing away because its so quiet, and Matt breathing like a steam engine, gripping his arm because he’s tipping into a cardiac arrest, with his mouth going like a goldfish.”

You could rob a fucking bank with that thing!!”

Are one of you imbeciles going to tell me what you’ve found then?”

All haughty demands from the lady.

Sweet Jesus its like a fucking baby’s arm!!!”

What is that buffoon talking about? Get out of the bloody way?”

And she shouldered her way into the semi-circle of lads to come to an abrupt stop and look at the source of the buzzing noise in the case.


The wind was well and truly gone from her sails.

Oh its my..its..Well..Oh..What?…Christams.”

“Matty had the final word mind..”

A fucking donkey would be proud of that thing!!”

She was almost as breathless as Matt as she searched for something to say to fill the heavy silence.

Mark continued,

“I’ll tell you what, I didn’t know where to look. No-one did. Apart from Matt. He’s suddenly realized she’s there along side him and is looking at the doo-dar in the case and back to her, and man, his eyes are popping out on another level. The only good thing was he had hit the point where he just couldn’t speak any more.”

Mark took a breath then continued,

“I felt right sorry for this woman mind. I felt like giving her a pat on her arm or something, try and make her feel better. But with this thing buzzing away in the case I couldn’t think straight. Anyway, Paul beat me to it.”

“What did he say??”

“Well he looks at her all fake cheery like, and just chirps out,”

Ne’er mind love! Nothing to worry about! This sort of thing is always happening is this!!”

babys arm

On retrospect though, I wasn’t surprised Old Matty finally retired after that job…

Razzle Dazzle


Growing up in the 70’s has quite distinctive memories for me. There was a certain visual flavor to that period for a small boy. Attitudes, clothes, and from a kids perspective, toys even more so stick in my mind.

Everything seemed garishly bright. Or patterned like a carpet, so you looked like you were wearing a weave people could wipe their feet on.

My (purple) Raleigh Chopper bike that I loved, was one of those items that must have been designed by someone taking LSD when it was on the drawing board. It was a step up from the Chipper I had had prior. My bright yellow chipper. Both bikes had been developed with that 70’s affliction of terrible colours.

Dreadful,  but still, I have to say, incredibly cool in their own way.

A boy on a Raleigh Chopper, 1970s

Then there was the bionic man. The boys doll. Steve Austin. The six million dollar man, almost killed in a rocket launch into space, almost. But not quite.

But they managed to drag his mangled arse from the wreckage, minus one arm, eye and leg, then rebuilt him with bionic parts.

With his super strong bionic arm, his superduper bionic eye that gave him super vision, and his amazing bionic leg. That very leg that enabled him to jump incredible heights and run at 60 miles an hour. With only one bionic leg mind.

I never quite got my head round that. Wouldnt the other one plough a furrow in the tarmac trying to keep up?

And what sticks in my mind most significantly was he knocked the shit out of Big Foot. The American equivalent to the yeti. Why? No idea. But I remember being glued to the television waiting to find out. Steve always managed to overcome the odds. I think they became friends.

Big Foot and Steve.

Again. No Idea.


It could only happen in the 70’s.

There were different attitudes to an awful lot of things back then, and it wasn’t all for the good.  Punishment back then was much more casually dispensed. And it was meted out to a young age by people in authority. An accepted..

School and church were also significant in my life during my early Catholic upbringing. I’ve already mentioned this in Bless Me Father. Being interrogated on the Monday at school over whether or not I’d been to church on the Sunday and had I been to confession before hand? As a young boy, of course this was a priority in my life.. Go tell the priest all the bad things I’d done that week. Before I was sent to Hell for my sins.

Well. I think I went a ways towards reserving my position down there in the eyes of some people during this particular week.

Oh. And the other thing I remember.

The cane.

A kind of bamboo stick that you would get across the seat of your pants or palms of your hands for some misdemeanor.

I found myself seriously considering how much it could hurt this particular morning, sitting on one of the four chairs lining the wall outside the headmasters office, reflecting on the last 24 hours. Wondering how things managed to go so bad, so quickly.

Because in a small boys world, lets be honest, from their perspective its always bad.

And, stationed on the furthest chair from to me, just to highlight how bad thing actually were,  was my friends mum. The thunderous frowns of distaste she kept throwing my way only adding to the pressure.

And just to add to all this, my mum in her wisdom had decided today,  I was wearing short trousers. Short trousers. Short trousers  my mother chose that I felt were too tight, too short and too revealing. I honestly believe my lower buttock cheeks were on display.

Having the build of a sturdy sumo as a kid always left me feeling as I grew up that clothing  was just, tight.

Nothing  ever quite fit. My mum was usually taking up trouser legs after buying something bigger to fit me. But, this was the 70’s.

Everything was either tight, ridiculously flared or florally psychedelic.


(Above a typical outfit to go to the shops in.)

Everything I wore fit in the “Tight” zone. Even my flared stuff was tight. Bythe time my mum took the legs up, the flares became drain-pipes anyway.

I actually believe my shorts were flares she took up too much but was determined she was going to get her money’s worth out of.

Knowing what I was facing at school today, I felt I could have done without the anxiety of making my way around the playground being the only young kid wearing hot pants.

When she gave me my clothes for that day, my lip had dropped in preparation of a dispute, but the warning look from my dad dissuaded me from any utterance. I was already in enough trouble as it was.

Roll back a day.


Its amazing as a kid, just how quickly your easy-going no problem day, can turn upside down and find you in – to your young mind – the worst amount of trouble its possible to be in.

On this day at school I was wandering around the school yard with my friend Martin Greavy – AKA Groovy Greavsy. Our school had two playgrounds, one either side of the school buildings. The older kids, 9-10 year olds,  were placed in the yard at the front, where the main road was situated just the other side of the fence that separated us from the rest of the world.

The younger kids, the 7-8 year olds were placed in the yard at the back of the school. In between the two playgrounds was a sort of middle ground, a small square area that you was accessed by a walk through from either yard. It was kind of out of sight of the dinner ladies that patrolled the two yards, and kids from each age group tended to bump into each other there.

Today Greavsy and I wandered around there to find three girls huddled over something, whispering between themselves. I knew them all, two twins and their best friend. It was impossible not to know everyone in the school in one way or another. It was a small place. They were some two years younger than my friend and I, 8 year olds, all in my younger brothers year.

“Oi! What’ve you got there then?”

I shouted over. The girls  jumped at the sound of my voice,  from the way the three of them bunched up facing us, hiding whatever they had behind their backs made it clear it was something worth seeing.


“Behave. Come on. show us what you’ve got.”

They shared a glance then one of the girls brought forth a damp looking magazine.

“Here.  Just this. We found it over there – its not ours!”

Greavsy and I took the proffered magazine and both stood looking at the cover.

There was a moment of silence. The three girls stood, staring at us, staring at the magazine.

“Is it yours?”

One of the twins asked us.

“What? No! Its not!”

What we held in our hands was a kind of paper gold to a small boy. It was an adult magazine of the day.

We’d just been handed a visual promised land.


Not that we were any the wiser about Razzle. But it was full of semi-clad and naked ladies. Where else was a 10 year old going to see something like this.

We began to turn the damp sheets breathlessly, even reverently. Pealing back each page carefully from the one below it. And each page brought something new into our lives. Complete absorption followed. Two small boys huddled over this magazine. Turning the pages to different angles to better observe what was before us. looking like a pair of siamese twins,  joined at the shoulder, heads turning in complete sync following the viewing position.

Probably unaware we were making slight Ooooing and snorting noises, and occasional

I say old chap that’s just not cricket

I came out of my daze to hear a determined tread coming towards us, and looked up to see Mrs. Abbot walking along the pathway from the young kids yard. I have to impart at this point that Mrs. Abbot was the head dinner lady, who brooked no messing about. She was a lady of firm, clear beliefs and rules and you crossed her at your peril. I’m sure she was a very nice lady. But as a young boy there were certain people in the world you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Your dad being one. God. And Mrs. Abbot was another.

She was  flanked by the twins and their friend, with one of the twins leaning around the iron lady to point and whisper something urgently to her. The steely gaze that took in the scene as she marched towards us was enough for me.

With a slight whinny I passed my share of the magazine sideways to Greavsy without taking my eyes off the assembly marching my way, and stepped sideways, trying to put what little distance I could between myself, and what was the focus of Mrs. Abbots fixed gaze.

Greavsy never lifted his eyes, only taking a firmer white knuckled grip on the magazine and becoming that much more absorbed now he had full control on the paperwork.

He even went to nudge me, elbowing fresh air, mumbling incoherently,  leaning slightly to display the page with his gaze still fixed, with me bending away like he had the plague.

Christ I wanted nothing to do with it!

Martin! Greavy!”

She shouted at him.

He almost shredded the magazine out of hand.  Mrs. Abbots voice was an instantly recognizable sound. The colour drained from his face and he automatically tried to pass me the mag. Only to find the short gulf between us unbridgeable as I swayed out of reach, leaving him proffering  it into fresh air while his attention was firmly rooted on Mrs. Abbot.

Greavy! What have you got in your hands?!”

“I don’t know Miss! Nothing Miss! I found it Miss! With him!! He found it first! I didn’t even want to look!! He made me look!!

(contrary to the avid concentration he was  displaying when Mrs. Abbot arrived)

He wailed, looking at her and pointing at me with the magazine  in hand, like a kind of lewd pointing stick, its pages wide open to the world.

I stood facing this very visual denial, recoiling each time he waved it in my direction and flinching each time he appealed to Mrs. Abbot with it flapping in his hand.

Mrs. Abbot, her shoulders back, hands on hips, a look of disgust on her lined face, like this here, was the lowest moment in her long and proud  career of service to small boys and girls. These two boys stood before her, fighting to make the other hold the dirty mag. What was also interesting in my detached third person observation was, she also managed to convey that she wasn’t at all surprised

“That’s it you two! Come with me!! You’re going to Mrs. MacTaggart !!”

Oh for fucks sake.

I thought things were bad being discovered by Mrs. Abbot.

Mrs. MacTaggart was a  teacher at the school. She was old OLD school. She was one of those old teachers who ruled with an iron fist. No discussion. No mercy. Probably coming towards retirement age. she had seen it all and dealt with everything.

And crushed all before her.

There wasn’t a kid in the school who didn’t shudder when her name was whispered.

I actually felt some pee pass. I think Greavsy went straight past Go and filled his boots.

“What? Noooooo! He gave me the magazine! And Them!”

(Pointing at the girls, still, using the magazine)

They just went into round eyed denials, supported by Mrs. Abbot.

“How dare you accuse these young girls Greavy!”

While Greavsy,  goggle eyed himself at this point, continued to wave the magazine at me then Mrs. Abbot, spouting vehement denials.

(Please God just put the fucker down and back away I kept wishing every time he flourished it)

Mrs. Abbot decided the matter for him and snatched it out of his hands, tucked it under her arm, gripped both of ours and marched us off to see Mrs. MacTaggart .

I looked at the girls as we were dragged past, Greavsy wailing as we went. The smug smiles said it all.

We had just been rolled over.

The only good thing to come out of it was firstly, Mrs. MacTaggart wasn’t in.  (She was probably on call at some death camp)

Neither was Mr. Conlan the headmaster. But that just delayed what was coming when he was the next day.

As a good catholic lad, I was enthused with guilt. On top of what was coming I had the fear of going to hell already burned into my bones by our local church over the slightest miss-step in life.

I mean. Fuck knows where looking at a ladies beaver and busters rated on the punishment scale knows with the church.

And the cane.

I’d never had it before. I didn’t even know for sure if I was going to be strapped to the wall and whipped with gusto by someone dressed in an Third Reich uniform, or if it was a couple of strokes across the hands. The uncertainty only added to the anxiety.

I spent a long, sweaty day, waiting to go home. Confess to my dad or not? Stay stum? After all, he was going to find out all the sordid details when I saw the headmaster the next day and received a call describing the filthy thing I had done. And this would only happen after he had caned me, expelled me, then passed me over to the clergy to be excommunicated and my head shaved.

I was going to look a right state when I got home.

The thing was, it wasn’t that I was going to be battered all over the house by my dad. But I’d just spent a day have looks of disgust aimed at me by all the dinner ladies and listening to every kid in my class tell me what was going to happen tomorrow.

I was going to see the headmaster for looking at PORN!

I didn’t think my dad wasn’t going to slap me on the back and say,

“Well done son!

I decided to come clean that night. Get it over with.

“Dad? Can I tell you something?”

He stopped what he was doing to focus on me.

“Yes son? And…?”

“I got in trouble today at school dad. I’ve got to go and see the headmaster tomorrow.”

It came out as a torrent of words.


Right.  (Deep breath before he went on) And what have you done?”

I hesitated. How to break it to him?

“I got caught looking at dirty pictures dad.”

He did a double take.

“What now?”

Again the words spilled out.

MeanGreavsygotcaughtlookingat ladies Nellieeeeeees dadddd!!”

I wailed at him.

I got a crack round the ear.

“Don’t do it again then! You dirty bugger!”

I think the crack round the ear was a token gesture.  His face was unnaturally set as I received the lecture.

“Your just going to have to take what’s coming son. You got caught. That’s it. Now. You wait here. I don’t know how I’m going to tell your mother…”

I sat there ruminating how it had gone. At least it was over, just the cane tomorrow…

There was a muffled conversation from the other room. Then it sounded like someone spat their tea and I heard my mother laughing hard from the kitchen and trying not to.

My dad reappeared round the door pulling it closed behind him, muffling only slightly my mother in the other room.

He took a long hard look at me while I avoided his eyes. Finally,

“She’s as disappointed as I am son. Devastated in fact. ”

From the sounds coming from the kitchen, I begged to differ. But I felt I was getting off lightly. Stay quiet and keep in front while you can. It was as an after-thought that he seemed add, as thought he thought he better punish me for what I thought was a terrible thing.

“And bed. You can go to bed after your Tea. There. That should do it. And don’t do it again! You’ll go bloody blind!!”

And he went back in the kitchen with my mum.

The next day I went to class to confer with Greavsy, only to find that he had ducked. He wasn’t in school. I was left alone to wait for the call to see the headmaster. I was finally  summoned and walked past my classmates like one condemned. They all knew what had happened the day before and had probably started a sweep to see how many strokes I would receive.

I had a seat pointed out to me by the elderly secretary outside the office and was told bluntly to

“Wait right there.”


I sat down resigned to what was coming wondering if I would be able to sit down again at the end of it. With these shorts on probably not. I felt like I was getting a wedgie just trying to find a comfortable position. I was left squirming around on the plastic seat.

And obviously as a Catholic I was destined for confession this week. There was no  way I was telling the priest what I’d been caught doing.

Fuckit. I’d tell him I was rude to my mam.

I’d worry about  the consequences  when I died.

When Greavsy’s mum arrived and sat as far away from me as possible, my worry went up a whole new notch. If my friend had sent his mother in because of what was due to happen to us, then things must be really bad. I mean a catholic kid, looking through a porn magazine, on school property. Jesus, they were going to nail me to the  school gates.

Mrs. Greavy certainly didn’t wait long. the secretary ushered her in not long after she arrived. And she didn’t waste much time in there either. She was out not long after, door held open for her by the head master, almost deferential in his goodbyes.

I followed her progress past me and away down the hall, only to have my attention snapped back by the head teacher.

“Walsh. In. Here. Now.”

I almost dragged myself into the room, passing  the man who was to thrash me. I stood before his desk eyes down as he released the door behind me, allowing it to close as he made his way to his seat and sat, looking at me.

“So. Michael. You’ve been looking at fithy pictures I hear.”

“S’ sir.”

“And did you enjoy looking at them Walsh?”

I sometimes think these are trick questions.


“No sir?”

“But look you did, didn’t you?!!”

“‘Yes sir?”

“And have you learnt a lesson Walsh? Would you look again?”

Christ. Here we go again.

No? Sir?”

“No Walsh! You’re bloody bang on!”

I could see the cane stood up against the wall behind him, almost bathed in a righteous halo of light from the single window. And all I could think was, I didn’t know where I would  prefer to be thrashed with it: on my arse or across my palms.

“Well Walsh. This is your lucky day. I’m going to let you go with a warning. I think we understand each other here. It won’t happen again will it?”

Not where you can catch me I thought.

“Definitely not Sir.”

I answered breathlessly. Still wondering what part of this interview was going to trip me up.

Mr. Conran continued.

“Then we’ll say no more about then. I mean boy, can you imaging what you parents would say if they knew what you had been doing??”

I have to say I stared at him for a moment slightly goggle eyed, as the previous evening raced through my mind.


“Yes! Sir!”

“Well! Have you any idea how your parents would react boy!?”

“Oh! Yes sir! I think I do Sir! SaynomoreaboutSir!!!”

I answered, almost at attention, staring earnestly at Mr. Conran. While the previous evenings events still skipped across my minds eye.

You bastard.

I actually felt cheated.

Yeah you’re dead right I had an idea how my mum and dad would have reacted.

I wouldn’t have got a crack round the ear and early bed if I’d kept my mouth shut for a start.

But to be fair my mum had done me a favour.

Mr. Conran probably couldn’t bring himself to thrash the young lad with his buttocks hanging out of his high-cut lederhosens..







Sleepless in Rotherham – Part 2


My back was killing me. I just couldn’t get straight. It felt like it had a  knot right in the middle of my spine. How I felt was reflected in the others as I hesitated before entering the pub where we were staying, looking back across the street at them making their way towards me. They were all in distorted shapes.

It was like watching a cripple convention on a walk-about..

Looking further down the street was Tommy. Looking dazed in the morning light, not quite sure where  he was.

My mind swept back across the previous evening and how it had panned out.

Hours earlier, (a lifetime ago it felt) we were stepping out into the night, from the bar  I was about to re-enter, feeling  relief to be away.

(see Sleepless In Rotherham – Part 1)

Having witnessed the unseen argument that had rolled across the ceiling above us, then seen the end result when the landlords girlfriend appeared in the bar, mascara streaking her cheeks. After listening to her loud description of what had happened in an almost indecipherable accent, well, it was nice to be heading into town.

We had decided to cut short our evening in the bar and leave our hosts to sort out their differences. So, it was step smartly forward, bumping each other as we discussed what had happened and (I won’t lie) laughing about the indignant way the girlfriend had described what had taken place up stairs which had ended for her with – as she put it –

A smack right in tha’ kisser“..

Our party for the night  consisted of six. Tex, Gaz, Dennis, Tommy, Colin and myself.

We landed in the first bar we could find, still laughing about the events, wondering how the evening would progress back at the pub.

“Well, lets face it. She’s finally seen the light! That 26 year age gap has come home to roost!”

said Gaz.

“Yep, that 46 inch waist difference may have come between them too!”

Added Dennis.

“Anyway. Lets not let it get in the way of our night lads! It our last night and time for a party!”

Said Gaz, with his usual enthusiasm. Gaz was a short, stocky lad. Around 35 and thickset –  hairy is a word closely associated with him. Black hair seemed to cover him like a light mat, giving him a kind of swarthy look – he reminded me of a small, stumpy monkey. He always seemed to be filled with an unsettling amount of energy.

This was reflected in the way his attention jumped from pillar to post.


In this instance his attention zoomed in on   Tommy, the young myopic apprentice trailing along at the back. Gaz threw over his shoulder as we made our way into the city center bar.

“Right lad! You know what night this is? No? Let me tell you son! It’s Gaz’s pulling night! I’m going to trap off tonight I can feel it in my water!”

Tommy just continued to stare blankly at him, deciding that silence was the best option.

“Your sharing Gaz’s room aren’t you Tom lad?”

I asked him.

A silent nod answered the question.

“Well, you’re in for a long night. Have you got any cotton wool?”

“Cotton wool?”

he asked.

“Yeah cotton wool.”

The mute shake of the head was all that was offered.

“Well. Not to worry. You’ve got clean socks? Yeah? Yeah, course you have.”

“What do I need clean socks for ?”

He asked.

“Well if Gaz brings a monke – lady back to your room, and she’s screaming her head off as he’s throwing her all over the  shop, you can stick your socks in your ears.”

The myopic gaze  grew, if it was possible,  wider behind the dense lenses, his mouth a round Ooooh  as the image of  Gaz performing with a lady friend around the shared bedroom painted an image in his young mind.

It’d be like sitting ring side in a zoo.

“Mind you,”

I added,

“If the action spills onto your bed you might need a fucking blindfold too. Have you got any clean underpants..?”

Tommy’s shock gaze snapped to Gaz who interrupted.

“Never mind a blindfold lad.  I just want you to know something.”

And he paused for effect,

“If I don’t pull tonight and we get back to those digs and I’m on my own, you do know what happens then don’t you?”

Tommy’s mute shake of the head was as much as he could offer,

(He must have been running through his minds eye what state his underwear was in.)

“If I don’t pull tonight then you become stand-in. You know what a sub is? Yeah? You’re tonight’s sub.”


It was almost a whisper from the young lad, his  binocular like gaze a tad unsteady.

“Yeah. Sub. If I don’t pull I’m going to ride you round  that room like a blackpool donkey!! Like this!”

And he span Tommy round and onto the bar, holding his hips and began  bumping him from behind.

Tommy was left clutching at the bar as Gaz simulated thrusting  behind him.

“Like this! (Thrust) I’m going to get lucky! (Thrust) one way! (Thrust) or another!!”

I swear, Tommy’s nails were drawing curls of varnish from the bar as he clawed at the surface, his glasses askew across his face, while Gaz hung on behind, banging away.

As quickly as he began Gaz’s attention switched and he suddenly released Tommy and turned his attention to his pint.

“But not to worry lad – I normally pull.”

I have to add here, building site banter can be – and is – quite raw at times. We did laugh because we knew the situation Tommy thought he was facing later in the night, would never happen.

(I feverishly hoped this was the case)

Dennis turned to the pale Tommy,

“I’d cross my fucking fingers if I was you son.”

The night progressed in high spirits. A good group of people to be out with. Its a strange situation to be in at times to be honest. You work on a variety of jobs for fairly short term periods, meeting different blokes on your travels. It’s not all peaches and cream and you don’t get on with everyone you meet. But on the whole, considering the short time scale you spend together, you can make some great friendships.

Tommy, on the other hand was young, naïve and worried he was in for a good bumming if Gaz didn’t have a successful night.

His answer to the prospect was oblivion.

“Whooa son! Slow down! its not a race lad!”

Said Tex as he watched Tommy pour his pint down his neck like he was on  a mission.

“Gaz was only joking you know lad.”

I offered, meeting Tex’s eye, then all our gazes sliding onto Gaz, animated at the bar, still full of excess energy as he descrided something to Dennis and Colin, all the  gestures busy and massively exaggerated.

I looked over Tommy’s head at Tex, both of us feeling that sense of relief knowing we weren’t sharing his room.

“Tell you what son, its my shout. Let me get you a pint lad.”

Tex offered,

By the time we reached the last bar of the night, a small club somewhere in Rotherham, we were helping Tommy along.

“Col! Colin! Don’t you think its time you took him back?”

“Whats? He’s not my responsibility!”

Everyone turned on him.

He was breaking an unspoken rule.

“Whoooa. Hang on pal!”

Interrupted Dennis.

“Yeah, hold your horses there  Judas!”

Added Gaz. (!)Then continued.

“That lad cane from the workshop. With you. An apprentice. Your responsibility.”

Colin was faced with four fellas looking at him and suddenly started to sober up realizing how his comment was being interpreted.

“Hey hang on I didn’t mea-”

“Yeah, yeah, we know what you meant pal.  But here it is. He’s your responsibility. You make sure he gets back safe! He’s a kid! He needs looking after!”

Continued Gaz, his indignation loud and vocal. As ever that bundle of energy was very animated in showing his displeasure.

“Wha? Yeah bu-”

“Yeah you bastard! Look at ‘im! You’ve let the poor bugger get hammered!”

He’s pissed because he think’s your going to bum hi-”

“Whoaaa!  What do think I am? Thats banter!!  He’s just a kid! Your supposed to be making sure he’s ok!”

“What? I can’t stop him drin-”

“So yeah! He is your responsibility! So lets have you! Get him home!”

Colin’s shoulders dropped as he  resigned himself to what was being placed before him and made a move to support young Tommy.

“Come on la-”

But  something suddenly occurred to Gaz and he interrupted with a shrewd, if drunken look in his eye.

“Here, hang on. Its your round.”

Colin paused in the process of getting Tommy straightened up,


“Well that’s nice you skint-flint bastard! Put that girl back down and go get the beer in!”

“But you just sai-”

“Never mind what I said! I can see your game pal! Come on tight arse! Get to the bar!!”

Colin dropped Tommy back in his chair where he slumped forward onto the table,  his cheek pressed onto the surface, oblivious of everything at this point .

Colin made his way to the bar resigned to getting the beer in. I have to admit the rest of us were struggling to keep up with Gaz. His focus was jumping all over.

I took a quick look at Tommy as I made my way past him to the toilet. He was well away.

Minutes later I came back to my friends to hear Gaz again remonstrating with Colin over Tommy.

“Look at the poor bugger! Lookat’im!”

He said, relieving Colin of the beer he held.

I peered past the group at Tommy slumped on the table. He appeared to have belched once and followed through by throwing up across the surface, his cheek still pressed onto the varnished top, oblivious to what had happened.

Dennis sat him up, wiping him with a napkin.

“Come on Colin! are you taking this poor bugger back or what?”

Said Gaz, taking a pull on his pint.

Everyone stood and stared for a moment.

“Do you know what?”

Said Tex.

“I’ll come with you Colin. Lets get the lad back.”

“Yep. I’ve had enough myself. I’ll come with you.”

I added.

Dennis pulled Tommy to his feet, Colin getting a grip on his other side.

“Hang on lads. What about the beer. The nights young yet!”

Gaz’s voice had taken a wheedling  tone. I think he realized he had gone too far.

We took Tommy briefly to the toilet, gave his face a quick wash and made our way out to the exit half carrying him  as he stumbled along, his head rolling around as we made our way back to the B&B.

It wasn’t long before we heard Gaz behind us.

“Lads! Hey! Lads! Hang on!”

He caught up, puffing slightly, looking sheepish.

It wasn’t worth saying anything so we continued on our way, the conversation vague, everyone tired by now.

We arrived back at the digs to find all the lights out. Exchanging glances Tex took a step forward and tried the door.

“Fuck me. Its locked.”

“What? Your Joking!”

“No! It’s locked!!”

There followed thirty odd minutes of banging on the door trying to rouse the manager. But all we could hear was the pony of a dog going mad somewhere in the back.

“What are we going to do?”

Asked Colin.

“I know!”

jumped in Gaz.

“My car! I’ve got my keys!”

“Actually, so have I!”

Agreed Colin.

“Thank Christ for that! Lets get in!’

I said.

Tommy burped gently.

Tex and Dennis who were supporting him, took a softer grip, gently holding him further away from themselves. It looked  was like they were handling a hand grenade.

“What about Tommy? ”

Queried Dennis, as the lad in question belched again, a slight bubble appearing at the side of his mouth then popped and disappeared.

Everyone exchanged glances.

It was like we reached a mutual silent agreement.

“Right. Fuckit. Tommy can sleep it off in your car Colin.”


“We’ll sleep in yours Gaz.”

“Hang o-”

“Right-oh I’ll open up.”

Agreed Gaz.

“I’m not having that in my car. What if he goes off??!!”

Began Colin.

“Oh, here we go again!”

Fired up Gaz.

“Didn’t we just have all this about your responsabil-”

“Alright! Alright!! Fuckit!! Get him in the fucking car!”

Shouted Colin.

We eased Tommy gently into the front making him comfortable.

“Right. Where’s your motor ?”

Asked Tex, turning to Gaz.

“It here. Right behind Col’s.”

We turned to look behind to see  a rusty looking dented, small, Mini Metro.

mini metro

We all turned to look at Tommy gently slumbering in the front seat of Colin’s Escort Estate.

“Are you taking the piss? ”

Dennis shouted  at Gaz.

“Why didn’t you say you drove this at the start?”

“Well you can all fuck off if you think we’re moving Tommy now – he’s staying in there. He could go off if we disturb him!”

Shouted Colin, having reached breaking point.


I shouted.

“I want the front seat!”

Flared up Colin.

“Sorry Colin lad, Mike shouted it. It’s like, The Law.”

Dennis explained.

What followed was one of the longest, most uncomfortable nights of my life.

Five men – all pissed but rapidly sobering up – jammed into a small space, cramping and attempting to find a comfortable position. I resigned myself to having someone’s legs dangle over my shoulders as they attempted to find a manageable position in the rear seat with two other fellas to contend with.

What kept waking me up was having said person use my cheek as a scratching post for their sock-clad foot.

The morning couldn’t come quick enough. And I assure you  – it didn’t.

I think the most rested person in our group was Tommy, who slept like a baby with myself or Gaz getting out every twenty minutes or so to check him.

Our Landlord and his young girlfriend had in fact spent the evening drinking in the pub, making up it appears. Upon settling their differences they had made their way to bed and slept the sleep of the devoutly drunk.

Making it impossible to rouse them.

We, on the other hand, spent our final day on the job walking around like we should have had a wheel chair each reflecting what it must be like to travel in a third world country.


I hate Mini Metro’s.

And I couldn’t say goodbye to Gaz quick enough..

Sleepless in Rotherham – Part 1


We were sat around the bar in the  pub nursing a beer each, exchanging glances then rolling our eyes back to the ceiling,  listening to the rumble of an argument going on above our heads.

It was just the start of the evening.

I have to admit, I hesitated about writing this one.  Not that it was a terrible situation. It was just that I was trying to work out how I could actually portray the whole set of circumstances. Sometimes, what is incredibly funny is difficult to get across. Part of this problem is actually capturing the mentality of the moment, not the smuttiness.

I instead try to share the ridiculous circumstances that we can find ourselves in, reflect back upon them and laugh. I hope, (I really do every time I write one  of these ) that I manage to get that across and not have someone sat reading it thinking,


In this case, waking up intermittently to find someone’s legs dangling over your shoulders, using your cheek to itch the itch on that persons sock clad instep was verging on the ridiculous but I’ll get to that.

I had been working on a nightclub refurbishment over in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham.  It was a typical shopfitting job – 12 hour, 7 day weeks – and I had been there some several weeks already, but the end was in sight. The job was drawing to a close and a group of the lads had decided to go on a night out, let off some steam after a fairly intensive work period.

We were staying in a pub B&B a short distance from the job. The digs we were staying in were quite tired looking. A pub that let out the upper rooms of the property. These were basic bedrooms, 3 – 4 to a room with one box like wardrobe taking up space, a tiny sink, a small table, a tiny kettle (no cups or brewing gear) and one window.

Jammed into this room were the beds.  The pub had maybe 4 rooms available, all quite similar. The lads staying here shared two toilets and one bathroom, all situated at the end of the corridor that ran in between the rooms. The bathroom had one of those doesn’t-quite-work-showers that has no real pressure behind the water.

It just spits intermittently at you. All you could do was  jump in at the end of the day and get clean as best  you could.

The landlord, it has to be said, like to imbibe with the patrons, so that come bed time there would be a slight sway to his movements. Then he would throw the light switch and worry about cleaning up in the morning. This lacks-a-daisy approach was highlighted to me in the middle of my first night.

I made the mistake of getting up to go to the toilet in the early hours, opening the door to head off down the corridor to relieve my bulging bladder. Only to find  this huge, donkey of a dog, illuminated by a faint night light on the other side as I opened it.

I managed to slam it shut as it launched itself at me, its meaty weight thudding against the door as I  landed in the open wardrobe behind me with a muffled Whinny.

My urgent need to pee retreated immediately.

Then the shock hit me and I needed to go even more.

I clawed my way out of the clothes and hangers, panting and whimpering in turn, with the urgent need to go now ten fold. I was fumbling around in the dark crossing my legs trying to decide where I could relieve myself, while listening to the beast snarling and scratching away at the door.

Mmmmmm. Whats going onnn?”

Came the muffled question from a room mate.

“There’s a dog! Its not a dog! There a fucking werewolf  outside the door!! I need to piss! I think some piss is coming out!!!”

I replied, a slight hysterical edge to my voice as I stood clutching myself, hopping from one foot to the other, wondering how much pee a  toy kettle could hold. I wondered frantically what every one else had done before me. I do remember coherently  thinking through my panic,

If I get through this, don’t ever brew up in the kettle



Nnnnnn. S’just the dog. Don’t go out. Piss out the window.”

I have to admit I actually stopped hopping around to momentarily  peer at the invisible person in the dark.


Mmmnnnn. S’window. Piss out the window.”

And the indistinct half asleep figure rolled over, burying himself in his duvet. I stared at him for a few moments then the urgency of my situation came pressing back.

Ah. Well. When in Rome…

It was a matter of moments to open the curtains slide the window up and – sweetbabyJesus – instant relief.

I had a quick moment of almost drying up again as the dog  – obviously feeling cheated – threw itself at the door briefly. But to be honest, nothing was interrupting that flow for long.

Eventually, the stream petered out, the relief indescribable. I climbed back into bed and took a deep, ragged breath and attempted to  settle back down. It took a while for the adrenaline slowly easing away.

The following morning after complaining to the landlord as he brought the breakfast through, and listening to his deep apologies, and knowing he wasn’t taken my near death seriously when he described his pet, saying,

“Aww, nay lad. He’s nobbut a big soft dog!”

I left the pub shaking my head, promising myself I wouldn’t get caught out again, only to see Dennis stood by his car, distracted, looking skywards then back to the vehicle, sniffing and  gingerly touching the roof and windscreen.

“Alright Den?’

I asked.

“Yeah. I think so. looks like someone’s poured something all over the car, Its all tacky…A bit sticky.

I had a moment where I gnawed a knuckle, thinking

Please God don’t  taste it,

but i’m happy to say  he managed to restrain himself from that next step.

The trouble with this kind of work is you tend to live out of a suitcase and never really settle. It becomes a blur of get up, go to work, back to digs, have your evening meal, beer and bed.  The real hard core would spend the  evening drinking which I never understood. You would literally be drinking away the money you were working away  to earn in the first place.

The accommodation was never the best either. Basic in the extreme and you always ended up sharing a room. This wasn’t so bad if you were there with a work mate you knew. But if you landed on a job as a new face, it was pot luck who you ended up sharing a bedroom with.

Initially it was four I didn’t know, a situation I hate, but more familiar faces appeared as the job progressed so that I ended up partnered with a good friend of mine, Tex. The room situation changed as the job progressed with people coming and going. The four sharing the room at this point were one guy I worked frequently with, (Tex) (See Tex, The Amazing Memory man and Fred West The Carpet Layer) one I knew (Gaz) and the other I didn’t very well (Dennis), who was the remainder of the four I started with in the room.

Due to the intensity of the work as the job neared its conclusion, the firm had sent extra lads up from the workshop to help give a final push. Two of these were Colin, an established bench hand joiner and Tommy the young 18 year old apprentice.

Tommy was a slight figure, a nervous quiet kid who hardly spoke. He wore the thickest, heaviest looking lenses I had ever seen on a young lad. He had that myopic way of tipping his head back to look down his nose through the glasses to really focus on something. It looked like he was trying to balance the glasses on his nose – which I wouldn’t be surprised about considering how heavy they  looked.

The overall impression left him looking at things with a slightly vacant expression, his mouth partly open each time he did it.

Every time I saw him he reminded me of the character Dustin Hoffman played in the film Papillon. papillon-1973--00

“Come on boys it our night out tonight!”

Shouted Gaz, throwing an arm around young Tommy’s shoulders and giving him an enthusiastic squeeze, as we made our way back to the digs to get ready. Gaz was enthusiastic about most things to be honest. His attention would flit from one thing to another in rapid succession.

It was hard keeping up at times.

Added to this was the site humour.  Which, was at times caustic even merciless. You just had to know how to handle it. Never show a reaction and if you did be damn sure you gave back a lot worse than was coming your way.

Gaz seemed to thrive on it.

He was quite ready to rib anyone he could. And Tommy, who I think  was just about getting through puberty – found himself fairly consistently in the firing line,  just because he didn’t know how to react.

And he was one of those kids that you just know, I mean really know, has spent most of his life being ribbed in one way or another and never been quite sure how to react to it. We all took turns to make sure he was ok. I mean a joke was a joke as long as it was funny but you didn’t want to make someone a victim.

Back at the digs and it was have something to eat, up stairs and wait for your turn for the shower, back to your room and dig something out of your case to wear and get your last pair of clean underpants out, handling them like they were the Holy Grail.

Quick spray of deodorant and it was down to the bar to wait for the others and a quick pint before heading out.

Which was where the evening began.

Lads began to filter into the vault, in good spirits looking forward to the night out. We scattered ourselves along the bar, a group of young couples at the other end of the room the only other people in the pub, friends of the landlords young girlfriend.

The land lord was a fifty-something big beer bellied chap. In complete contrast was his young twenty-something blond bimbo of a girlfriend.  In very trim shape if somewhat dizzy, it left you shaking your head  watching them together trying to understand the relationship.

The argument only became noticeable as the noise of it rose above our heads. As it became louder it became quieter in the bar as every one strained to listen in. I mean, you couldn’t actually hear anything. It was just the general undecipherable rumble of an obvious argument and punctuated by the heavy steps across the ceiling, slamming and banging of objects.

You only knew who was shouting by the change of octave as the young girl threw her obvious dissatisfaction  in.

The argument came to a final close with a solid THUD on the ceiling. Followed by the  stomp of steps away to one side and opening and slamming of a door.

We sat exchanging glances, laughing quietly. I think that’s another thing that we fail to admit at times. We do laugh at other peoples misfortune. Not necessarily in a nasty way but in a sniggering kind of observation.

It’s never as funny when your in the situation, but its always entertaining to watch someone else deal with it.

The young girl suddenly appeared amongst her friend, mascara runs on her cheeks and obviously unhappy. She was surrounded by her friends and whispered words of concern were expressed but all we could hear were her loud replies.

Ah only said, I didn’t agree! ‘E’s a bastard e is. Ah Bastard!”

(whisper whisper?)

Ah don’t care! Ah told ‘im! Ah’m no dolly bird! Ah’v a mind of ma own!”

Contrary to evidence.

(whisper whisper?)

‘E said ah was lucky to ‘av ‘im! The cheeky fat bastard! “E’s tha lucky one ah said!

(whisper whisper!)

Ah told ‘im – ah did! Ah said  -“A diet wouldn’t go amiss for tha’ likes of you!”

(whisper whisper?)

That’s when he smacked me right in tha’ kisser…”

We made our way into the night shortly after..