Friday, 31 October 2014


Words can misfire, be misplaced or misused
Words can slice through a heart with love
Words can shrivel a hope,
Words can laugh, words can cry,
Words can dance, words can sing,
Words can destroy everything you are or ever will be
Words can fill an empty life with visions of another
Words can build walls or break them down
Words can pin your head to the pillow
Words can lift your eyes to the heavens
Words are beautiful and words are dangerous
Words are from you and words are from me.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Tommy and I Cycle to Shoreham

Whenever Tommy was excited or stressed, which to be honest was most days, he’d put the word ‘chuffing’ in front of everything. For instance, today was going to be a blooming chuffing day with loads of chuffing hills to cycle up and when we got to the ballyhoo top well we’d chuffing have a pick nick. 

You see what I mean?

Tommy was a good egg, a decent sort who would lift a finger to help anyone, a talented tennis player, cyclist and a very good footballer. On the other side, he was a frightful drunk, which thank goodness had only been that once, he was extremely competitive – he would bet you a farthing on who would blink first and he was useless with money. Apart from that he was the kind of gent you would be proud to call a friend.  

So come Saturday morning, Tommy and I would be on our chuffing bicycles, out of the chuffing city and heading for the chuffing countryside (I promise to limit the use of chuffing in future) and this Saturday was no exception.

Tommy knocked at my door at 5.30 (in the morning may I say – I didn’t even know there was a 5.30 in the morning, if truth be told) “Get up, you chuffing wastrel” was the morning cry of the Tommesara Smitheratist bird and it tended to waken everyone else up as well.

“Will you please tell that very stupid friend of yours that it is far too early in the morning for his buffoonery” said my rather grumpy father without opening his eyes (apparently it helped him get back to sleep quicker). Like Tommy, my father tended to hook in a word and then beat it to death with its overuse. ‘Buffoon’ and ‘buffoonery’ were both in the process of getting six shades of purple knocked out of them. Luckily he hadn’t heard Tommy’s current obsession or that would have resulted in me having to leave home and declaring myself an orphan.

“Apologies Holmes but we have the whole of the south east to explore and time is chuffing moving on.” 

Every since he’d read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I had received that name. It was better just to smile and accept my fate because he might come up with something far, far worse. On our cycling trips Tommy wanted to be known as Moriarty because he said the name felt good on his tongue. I know what you’re thinking, Tommy wasn’t the most intelligent of my friends. 

By six o’clock in the morning we were happily cycling over the Thames and heading down the Old Kent road where the world was waiting to entertain Holmes and Moriarty.

“First stop, chuffing breakers” said my pal.  
For those that don’t speak Tommyese, that meant breakfast must be had with all haste.
Toast, crumpets and coffee were the order of the day at Mrs O’Reilly’s tea room in Lewisham, a bargain at one shilling. Mrs O’Reilly had long since departed this life and gone to the big tea room in the sky. The place was actually run by a man with the name of Derek.  

“’Mrs O’Reilly’s’ sounds that bit more romantic” said a very tattooed Derek. “People knows what to expect, with that name, but Derek’s Cafe, well it just don’t sound right, do it?” 

Both I and Tommy left the premises agreeing that Derek was correct in what he had said but that we should avoid the place in future as Derek seemed to be two seagulls short of an aviary. 

Although it had been five months, Tommy still insisted that he wear a black band on his right arm as a mark of respect for the old Queen. I told him that this was a new and exciting time, that this was a new century , this was 1901, after all, and goodness knows what the next hundred years would bring. 

Tommy felt that the new century could chuffing well wait until his mourning was chuffing done. I know I promised to keep the use of ‘chuffing’ to a minimum but it seems impossible when in the company of Tommy Smithers, I will try harder – I promise. 

Just as we left Bromley, Tommy declared that the countryside had properly started and although I tried very hard to see it, I was at a loss to notice the difference. Still Tommy knows what he’s talking about or so he tells me.

After a mile or so I hinted that perhaps an ale might be the order of the day. Tommy stopped so fast that I almost ran into the back of him.
“I have a plan” he said (actually he said ‘a chuffing plan’ but I thought I would spare you that nonsense).
“And your plan is what, Tommy?” that was my contribution to the discussion.  
“I know of a little village in the Darenth Valley where the ale is like nectar.” Tommy was tasting the ale in his mind's eye.

“Why haven’t you told me of this place before?” I ask.
“Because my dear friend, it is not a place for the unwary.”
“Why is that Tommy?” I ask.
“Because my fine fellow, it is a hot bed of liberalism and creativity. People have really let things slide in this village. There are some women who are so close to looking like men, that one might wish them ‘a good morning sir’ without realising.”
“Well I never.” I declared.

“Worse still..” Tommy looks around before whispering “..there are men in this village who do not like the company of women. There I’ve said the chuffing thing. It’s too late but it’s out in the big world for all to know.”
“Don’t like the company of women?” I think I may have look perplexed.
“Really, you know what I mean, stop being an chuffing idiot. They don’t like women.”

So I had to have my say and I mentioned “I don’t know any men who don’t like women apart from Father who hasn’t spoken to Mother since she tried to fry the porridge. That must be eleven years ago, now.”
“Your mother tried to fry porridge?” says Tommy.
“She did, and Father said that any woman who was stupid enough to try and fry porridge shouldn’t expect any conversation to be thrown her way in future and that was that. He never said a bally word to her again. He said she was an imbecile, a harsh word I grant you, but I think that was his word of the week at that particular time.”

I expected Tommy to be impressed with this story but instead he said that I should stop talking chuffing rot and stop acting like an imbecile.

That is why, by the time we got to the little village, Tommy had dropped the word ‘chuffing’ in favour of the word ‘imbecile’. Why hadn’t I said that my father had called my mother ‘lovable’ or had given her money to shut her up? Maybe then Tommy would have done the same.
“Hey, ho, oft we go” shouted Tommy, adding “you imbecile.” 

I do rather make things difficult for myself when I don’t bally mean to.   

The village clock was striking one o’clock as we freewheeled our way down the hill into the centre of this dastardly liberal little village. I had to be honest with Tommy and tell him that I thought the people looked jolly normal.
“Nonsense, you imbecile” was his reply.
We parked up outside a delightful little public house called The Crown. The door was at an angle to the building and led into a small bar for gentlemen.  
“Just in case this pub is over run by liberals let me do the talking” said reliable Tommy, “just to be on the safe side.”
Now to me, the person serving behind the bar was clearly a man but Tommy insisted on calling him ‘Mam’ then winking to me in a very obvious manner followed by him touching the side of his nose with his finger.

“I didn’t want to drink in the place anyway” said a rather surprised Tommy, “the establishment looked totally unsavoury. We are well shot of it.”At least the barman only asked me to leave whereas he caught Tommy by the collar and threw him out of the door. 
 Tommy said that he was right about the place all along, it was a den of liberal minded imbeciles and he would be writing to his Member of Parliament just as soon as he returned from the country. 

We tried to gain access at the next pub, the Two Brewers but apparently Tommy had been there before and was no longer welcome. I didn’t realise that you could use so many cursing words in one sentence but the manager of The Two Brewers must have broken a record.
“Another den of imbeciles?” I asked.
“Just so.” 

That is why we came to be sitting outside the Kings Arms drinking two of the most wonderful glasses of ale. Apparently this was not a den of imbeciles and the prices were exceedingly fair.
Having slaked our thirst we mounted our trusted bicycles and headed towards the large town which sat at the top of the hill, above the village. 

About one third of the way up the hill, Tommy suggested that we dismount and push our bicycles up the rest of the way. Apparently it didn’t do the bicycles much good to be treated to a hill in the manner we were riding them. To be honest I thought maybe Tommy found the hill a little too steep but in fear of being called an imbecile, I refrained.

The climb was worth the effort and the view over the North Downs was spell binding. 

Why people steal bicycles is beyond me, and two of them at the same time. You have to ask yourself - was the thief a member of some circus troupe? However the dasterdly deed was done and it meant that cycling back to London was now out of the question. A train was called for and a train it would be. 

Tommy suggested that we travel back by First Class and that I should foot the bill seeing as I was the last one to see the bally bicycles. I actually think the last time I saw them, I said “Tommy, do you think the bicycles are safe by that public house? ” Whereupon Tommy called me an imbecile and told me in no uncertain terms that if I was worried about people stealing our property, well that sort of thing just didn’t happen in the countryside. Then he said “Grow up man.” The next time I looked the bicycles were gone. 

In the railway carriage, on the way back to the city, a rather plump man and his rather plump wife were playing cards. The husband seemed to have won a round as he let out the most frightening cry of ‘Ballyhoo’. 

I could see the glimmer in Tommy’s eyes as he tried the word ‘Ballyhoo’ out on his tongue. 

The word was not found wanting.


Monday, 27 October 2014

The Haunted Woman

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that everyone is a bit crazy - especially when they only have themselves for company. Okay, when the family was out, she liked to take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and wash them again - by hand. I mean, she wasn’t hurting anyone, now was she? It was an exercise that kept her mind calm and unworried.

What was there to worry about? After all, she had a beautiful happy family and that was as good as it gets. So why did she feel uncomfortable? As if………no, it sounded too stupid to even think about. But still the thought had come to rest in her head and wouldn’t leave, no matter how many dishes she cleaned, or how many clothes she washed: she was being watched. But by what or whom, she wasn’t clear.

As she stood looking out the kitchen window, she was sure it was standing right behind her. She could almost feel its breath on the back of her neck. It caused a shiver to run down her spine, and she felt as if it might end up inside her. She wasn’t sure what IT was, but she was sure it was in the room with her.

She ran upstairs to take a shower and yet, no matter how much she washed her body, she felt unclean and she felt, stared at. 

She took a couple of pain killers and lay down on the bed. From the edge of her eye she thought that she could see it standing in the corner of the room. As if it was pleased with itself, and was just waiting for the right time. The right time for what?

She fell asleep but woke with a startle when she felt something touch her ankle. She screamed but then noticed the time. It was only 30 minutes before the boys would be back from school. This thought always made her feel more secure and in a strange way, more loved.

The days that she would spend alone in the house, always felt dark and depressing and she wondered if maybe she was starting to go back down that road – the one that the family had pulled her out of all those months ago. It wasn’t a breakdown, no matter what the doctor said or even what her husband thought. She knew she wasn’t crazy – wasn’t it just the result of watching her mother die of cancer?

The boys came running into the room which made her jump. After she had given them milk and cake, they went upstairs to play their computer games – she could hear them running on the floor above.


She thought it was David, but he hadn’t called her that name since he’d asked her to marry him. He preferred ‘Al’ or ‘Darling’ but never Alice. And now that she thought about it, she wasn’t sure if it was a man or woman’s voice or if it was a voice at all; now that did sound ridiculous.


She felt sick. The voice seemed to be calling her from in the room but from no particular location. Perhaps everyone was right, perhaps she had finally cracked down the middle.

If she told her husband any of this, he would just say what he always said: ‘grow up, Al’. That would be his total input. Grow up. She could hear his car in the drive and so she started to pour his evening drink. It was a little ritual which they both enjoyed.

By 9pm the kids were asleep, and her husband was working in the study on a presentation for the next day.
As she sat on the edge of the bed, the hand grabbed her ankle and then tightened around her leg. She was so shocked she couldn’t even scream. She tried to call on her husband in the other room, but she was struck dumb. The fingers (if that is what they were) felt cold. It tugged on her leg as if it was trying to check her out for size and weight, as if it was about to drag her away from her family. A sheer drop of loneliness inhabited her whole body. The last time she had felt this much despair was when her mother had held her hand for the last time. She had wanted to follow her mother to where she was going.

Just then her husband came in for some notes he had left by the bedside, he smiled at her, then left. When the door was closed, the fingers tightened around her ankle again. 

The doors to the wardrobe started to bang a little. Not enough to attract attention from the rest of the house, but they were moving – almost vibrating. Another hand grabbed the other ankle and she felt as if she was at the end of something – a finality. She couldn’t explain it, but she had never felt more alive or more dead than now.

When it tugged both her legs at the same time, her head whipped back hard on to the bed. She noticed a spider walking across the ceiling and wished for a split second, that she was that insect.

Another tug and she banged off the bed and on to the floor. The wardrobe doors flew open – and for a second she had a stupid thought – maybe she was going to Narnia. She smiled inside, but as she looked up at what was waiting on her in there, she knew she wasn’t coming back – ever- and it wasn’t Narnia.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Doll

I can’t remember who first called her, ‘The Doll’. If memory serves me well, I think it was her Aunt May

“You, young‘un, are the sweetest, kindest little doll, I ever did see.”
So the name stuck, and although she had two more sisters (just as sweet), she was the one always called The Doll.

When she was a kid, she’d watch ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ on the television which stood in the corner of the lounge, and was never really looked at, by anyone else in the family. This is probably where she got the taste for the thing that would drive her on in later years - fame.

It was all she could think of, to be as famous as Marilyn, or to be as well-dressed as Jackie. But her family weren’t the wealthiest in town, so she had to think of a way to get up there, to get to the top.

In High School, she started ‘putting-out’ for the quarter-backs, who would take her to a party and have their way with her. The only time she would be mentioned again, was in the locker room, when they were having a show of hands on who had been there.

Somewhere along the way, she started dating the geeks, usually the ones who lived up in Lovell Drive (where the mansions were) and whose daddies ran the local industries. Their families were normally pleased to see that their sons could get a girl like her. But soon some of the parents realised that she was just working her way along the drive, and the invitations stopped.

She got what she was looking for – kind of – when she was pointed at in school, but not in a good way. At home, she’d walk in the front door, smile and laugh with gritted teeth. If she made it through a family meal, she’d go upstairs and cry her heart away into the middle of the night.

She couldn’t understand where she was going wrong. All she wanted to have happen, was folks to notice her.

In college, she started to grow into a real beauty and some of the best of the men would ask her out on a date. But they didn’t make her happy, because they couldn’t make her famous.

She started going to parties where she knew the better looking kids hung out. Many times she’d just sneak in and given how good she looked, she’d quickly fit in. But she’d always leave her personality behind at home, and so she didn’t make the impression she felt she was due.

She thought she might be an actress and got herself an agent (not the best of men) who got her parts in stage plays, and ‘walk-ons’ in b-movies. Still, it got her a write-up in the local paper and that made her feel good about herself.

She dated a couple of older actors whom she’d met on set, and who were on the slide - on the other side of their careers. One treated her well, but wasn’t into a physical relationship, the other had a lot of money and took upon himself to beat her badly on several occasions.

It was the same week that she was released from hospital with another broken bone that she decided to head for Hollywood and the big time.

She met him the first day she arrived.
She’d bumped into him as he was carrying a cup of steaming hot coffee. It burned and hurt, but she didn’t complain because she recognized him as a runner who had just won several gold medals in the Olympics.

He looked good too, and she liked what she saw. They looked great together.

Within a month, she had moved in with him up in the Hills and she began to get photographed; some of them even made it into the magazines.

She could deal with his anger rages, as long as she kept getting her face seen about town. Sometimes she cried in the bath, sometimes she didn’t. She was where she was, because she wanted to be.

He told the police that the gun had gone off accidentally.
It had been the one he had used in the movie, ‘The Silent Soldier’. He had been showing some close friends the gun at his mansion, and when they’d left he’d only pointed at her as a joke. He didn’t know (swear to God) it was loaded.

So in the end she got to be famous - especially at his court case when her face was splashed around the world.

As the judge said in the summing up: “sometimes you got to be careful what you wish for”.  


Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Inscription

No one, and I mean no one, had ever seen the likes of the inscription before. It had lain undiscovered in a small cave on the north shore until Roman times.

There were those who thought that it was written by the ancients – whoever they were meant to be. The curious and the deluded, would beat paths to the cave to declare it a work of gods, or for some - that it was from Atlantis.

It was only in the early 21st century, that a programmer from Tennessee, created software intended to break the code. He ran the decipher for almost three years, until it had translated the first five of the six lines – it said:

“We were here, we stood here,
We lived here, and we grew here,
But we made a return to the stars,
From whence we came,
Yet we had to leave them behind…"

There were many attempts to suggest what, or who, had been left behind. Competitions were run, prizes offered. But still the cipher ran for another five years; long after the Tennessee man had gone to meet his maker. 

Then one cold, grey Tuesday afternoon, as a young intern kept an eye on the software, the final line was revealed….

"..Our beloved pets: the humanoids”


Be Who You Are

Be who you are,
Be magnificent,
Be strong,
And except to those who cared too much,
The one who never quite belonged.

Be who you are,
Stand tall, unique
Be grand
The one who smiled at little jokes,
That no one else could understand.

Be who you are,
Let laughter roll the same as tears
Take pleasure in the here and now,
Not in the days or months or years.

Be who you are,
Be loved
And loving everything,
Don’t back away from chance nor dare,
You too will have your song to sing.

Be who you are,
Let happiness and joy
Break through,
The universe was wise enough
To only make the one of you.


Friday, 24 October 2014

The Memory of Water

So if you’re sitting okay, then I’ll start – hell, even if you’re not ready, I’m gonna start anyways; so here goes.

You think of all those people who have strutted their stuff on this little rock we call Earth and all the times they’ve breathed – in and out – in and out – in and out. 

You see what I’m saying? ‘Cause I’m getting excited even if you ain’t – you open your mouth – oxygen goes in and a little oxygen (stop me if this is getting too technical and all) comes out with stuff, like carbon dioxide and water and things.

See, that wasn’t so bad.

And here is when I get to the tickly bit – people like Shakespeare, and Issac Newton, Einstein, and Charles Dickens all breathed – until they didn’t, if you see what I’m saying. But while they were doing their thing, then little drops of water with their DNA and stuff must still be floating around the atmosphere. Things they breathed and sneezed.

Doesn’t it make you want to pop? ‘Cause it does me. So you’re thinking to yourself, why in the name of psychotherapy has he come up with this cockamamie theory? (And if you ain’t, you should).

Because dear friends and readers, until last week my friend Eddie was just that, Eddie. Then while we were all out at the park, kicking around a ball, Eddie started to cough – said he had something stuck in his throat. I said it was probably his tongue, on account that Eddie was too stupid to make it work properly. Which isn’t really all that far from the truth.
When I’d slapped him on his back (probably more times than was good for him), he stopped coughing and then said:

“I honestly think that the Higgs Boson is a derivative idea and it will ultimately be found to not be the particle which is responsible for mass.”

I said, “What?” and I made him say it again, but this time I caught it on my phone, which is the reason I know what he said. I was going to put it on Youtube until he begged me, not once, but thrice (his words) not to be such a scallywag and do something so uncouth and of such a betrayal.

I was just surprised that people didn’t beat him up for talking the way he did.
Anyway, all the way home he explained the Theory of Relativity and its recent shortcomings. I just smiled ‘cause I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. Now you’re thinking, that he probably had a brain thingy which ‘caused all this. ‘Cause some people waken up in a morning and suddenly start speaking in a different accent but this wasn’t that.

Apparently everything he said was kosher and really, really advanced.

His ma decided to take him to the doctor, who told her that he was sure her son was gifted and she said that was the first time anyone had said that. They usually said her son was ‘special’ (and not in a good way).

So she took him up to the university (I’m not kidding here) and the prof guy said that her son was a genius and he should start at his college as soon as he could.

However – come on, admit it, you knew there was going to be a ‘however’. On the way back to the station from the university , my pal, my friend, coughed up an awful lot of spit and got rid of it (if you know what I mean). When he’d finished, he looked up at us and said that he felt better and wondered if, when he was older, he could be a train driver. Now I’m not putting down train driving here, ‘cause I’m not, train driving isn’t easy – I’m just saying, but when I mentioned Higgs Boson to him, he looked at me for a moment and said:

“Oh yeh, that big kid who plays basketball.”


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Just a Minute

It had been a rough week, and for the first time in a long time, he closed his eyes and just drifted away.
“Do you want the usual?” Came a call from another room. I said, do you want a black coffee?” Called the same voice.
It took everything for him to reply. “Just black, please.”

He closed his eyes once more, the relaxation was drawing him in like a drug. She banged the door forcing him to open his eyes again.

“Do you want the usual?” Came a call from another room.
“I said, I wanted black.”
“No you didn’t, besides I’ve only asked you.”

He was too tired to argue. “Sorry, my mistake.”
The rest of the afternoon, he wasted more time, something that he was good at nowadays when she wasn’t there. 
He got up and looked out the window to see if she was coming home. He leaned his head against the glass window and closed his eyes. That was when he heard the screech, he opened his eyes and there was the old woman from the second floor lying in the street. She had just been hit by a car.

He ran down the stairs, even although the doctor advised against it, and out on to the street. But there she was, the old woman, standing alive and well. Just then she stepped on to the road, and that was when the car hit her.
Had he just imagined all that, upstairs?

His life had been really weird since that evening after the party. He had drunk too much and had gone to bed, fully clothed. Sometime in the middle of the night, he had got up to get a drink of water from the kitchen. He had stood at the top the stairs
in his socks and as he started to walk, he’d slipped all the way down. Carpets and socks weren’t a good combination. He thought his leg or arm would be broken but, in the end, he hit his head on the door, on the floor below. He was unconscious for several minutes, enough to get his wife (who had been sleeping in another room due to his drunk snoring) very concerned and she phoned an ambulance.

They had discharged him from the hospital in the morning but he’d still had dizzy spells.
The old woman from floor two had also been taken away in an ambulance. When his wife came home, he almost told her about the incident but decided against it. She was a very practical woman and wasn’t one for any kind of theories.

That evening, the two of them were watching the television - something he enjoyed but she would usually ‘tut’ all the way through the shows.
Just before the woman singer, who had been famous once, picked the lotto numbers, he closed his eyes.
He saw the numbers: 12, 39, 5, 17, 18 and 3.

He opened his eyes again, just as the balls were being selected.

That night, on several occasions, he would close his eyes and see some event on television. He would then open them, and count the time until the actual event occurred – it was sixty seconds.
He decided he would tell his wife, he had to. So he closed his eyes and heard what her reply would be. Her condescending response made him think again about actually telling her.

He therefore changed his mind, and the future and that scared him.


One Day, When You Least Expect It

Bobby Stevenson
The stand-up and be glorious thing about it is:
You’ll never know when or how it happens,
Never know what affect you’ve had,
Or who you’ve saved.
It might be the smile to a passing stranger,
Who was on their way to shout at someone -
A someone who would have driven home in an anger,
And didn’t see the person they knocked over.
Or a face on a train,
The one who was going to get off at the next lonely station
And jump.
But you helped them with their coat, or hat, or bag,
And they saw a warmth in life again.
Perhaps you held the door open for a soul who then
Held the door open for a stranger, who changed their minds
About pulling the trigger.
One day, when you least expect it,
You will change the world,
And you will probably never, even know.