Saturday, 22 December 2012

Story 21 - 2 Worms

Two worms were fighting over a strawberry. It was first one to get to the top. One worm battered the other with a magnificent headbutt to send him flying onto the ground. The victorious worm then slid his way to the summit. “I’m the king!” he shouted. “I’m the king.”

Just then the fallen worm spotted, out of the corner of his eye, a starling.

“Over here, over here,” he yelled, before burrowing his way into the mud. Even before he was fully submerged he could feel the beating of the starling’s wings as she swooped down upon his tormentor.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Story 20 - Hungry and Homeless

There’s a sign in front of me saying hungry and homeless.

“How did you come to be hungry and homeless?” a woman asked me.

“Poor girl,” she must’ve been imagining; wanting to say; most probably a Christian; she was certainly giving off a motherly impression of, “There, there.”

I told her I’d lost my job along with my flat but was on a waiting list for a new one. I said there were a couple more weeks for me to get through ‘cause I could tell she was sorry for me and it being a good opportunity to get money. I wanted to make her feel she could make a difference so she’d go home happy; a lot less depressed than the sight of me was obviously making her. Unfortunately all I got was a cup of Starbucks coffee, a toasted cheese sandwich and a phone number.

“If you need someone,” she said. I thought: “For what?”

The truth is a lot simpler; much less dramatic than what I tell most of my mates: I was never kicked out of home, my parents never hit me and I’ve had plenty of chances to go back.

The fact is I’m stuck. At the very suggestion of getting my act together my veins fill up with inertia. I panic, and then tell myself there’s no hurry, that maybe one day.

Afterwards I remember there’s more important things to be thinking about. Like where I’m gonna sleep tonight; where, how, who with, how much, and is there a need for me to be begging for any more money?

It looks like it’s gonna rain soon. I’ll sleep round Steve’s if I can. Unless Tanya and her mates are there again it shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise it’s the launderette on Wicker Street if I’m lucky enough for it to be unlocked tonight; and the doorway to Sam’s Café if I’m not. There’s twenty-seven pounds, thirty-eight pence on me. Two half cigarettes left (will more butts need to be gathered before everything gets wet?)

As the sky now rumbles with distant thunder the shoppers around me speed up, eager to be getting back to their warm homes. If I didn’t look such a mess I’d head for the shopping mall, but the security don’t like me in there. Think I’m gonna cause trouble. Harass the customers. Disturb the customers more like. Distract them from the ambience designed to make them feel rich, successful, happy and willing to part with their money. Perhaps I should dress up all nice and wave a flag saying you’re rich, life’s great, you’re great, and then people would be more eager in donating their loose change.

I need to collect some cigarettes for later; though there’s enough cash to treat myself to a new pack: Could do. Why not? Money is for food, drink, drugs and emergencies. A rule I made up last year. It’s how I’ve lasted this long: However, now as dusk sets in I’m starting to feel cold; and also slightly starving in a passive sort of way.

The folded cardboard hungry and homeless sign goes into the pocket of my duffle coat as I pick myself up from the floor. It’s started spitting now so I pull out my small Mickey Mouse umbrella from another pocket which explodes into life at the press of the magic button. I’m not your typical homeless girl. I have a magic Mickey Mouse umbrella.

The rain gets worse as I head to the kebab shop. Outside there’s a guy selling The Big Issue. He’s wearing a green parker with the hood up and is shifting from one foot to the other to keep warm. I don’t know him; or more precisely, haven’t seen him around here before; and he doesn’t recognise me yet.

We ignore each other as I go inside; ask for two kebabs with lots of mayonnaise please. There’s a TV on the wall but nowhere to sit. The news, but I can’t concentrate fully on what’s going on because of feeling tired and a little spaced out. I drink a Dr Pepper and stand, gazing at the TV screen while my two wrapped up kebabs sit on the counter.

It’s pouring with rain when I exit the shop. I offer the Big Issue guy one of my kebabs, hoping to make a new acquaintance but he refuses; and then disappears into the rain with a shout of, “You’re all good, yeah?”

Sitting on the floor up against the wall, under my umbrella I eat the two kebabs. After that I’m getting my cider at a different offie this time. In the rain everyone often appears worn and weathered; which usually works to my advantage ‘cause I look a little more ordinary. Less shit. On entering I for once can sense that to them I’m just a normal customer.

After sketchily making a show of browsing around I treat myself to a packet of Amber Leaf and get a one litre bottle of White Lightening; on impulse adding some M&M’s and bacon flavoured McCoy’s.

I decide against going to Steve’s but the laundrette is open thank God. It’s nice lying down in the dark - I daren’t turn the light on of course because of not wanting to give away my position - behind the row of washing machines with my little picnic. Outside the rain is pelting against the windows. Shadows of swaying trees dance against the wall while I smoke a rollie and briefly think about how lucky I am: the food, the shelter, the cosiness, the independence and that warm feeling inside brought about by the cider…

Although on waking up in the morning I’m being kicked by two old men. I’ve overslept, you see: a mistake on my part. A dishevelled old woman in curlers and a nightgown is in the background, looking on gratefully.

I hear the word, “Scum,” and there’s a moment when I’m spitting on the floor; and then it’s out into the fresh morning bitterness of a new day.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Story 19 - Black Spots

I’m in a room with four walls of pure blinding white. All of them covered with jet black spots, which for some reason are absolutely terrifying to me. LARGE BLACK SPOTS PULSATING WITH LIFE. I’m naked on the floor in the middle of the room. The black spots are protruding from the walls, seeping outwards, crawling towards me. I’m crouched down screaming with horror. My moans echo against the walls and back to the inside of my head. Black spots are now covering the pure white floor. They’re under me, over me. I need to get away, get out but there’s nowhere to go. I want to run but I’m too busy screaming. They’re here, touching me. Now they’re seeping into my body. I can feel them under my skin, crawling against the roof of my skull. They’re in front of my brain, pushing against my eye-balls.

The black spots on the walls are suddenly reflecting an image of me writhing around in the centre of the room shrieking for help. I’m surrounded by a hundred reflections of myself: each one staring madly at me. Shouting, then laughing; shouting again at an increasingly high pitch and volume. The figures distort as I scratch against my own face. Chunks of skin are under my fingernails; blood is dripping and flowing to the floor forming a dark puddle with yet more reflections.

I’m twisting in agony. I need to get out. I have to escape this room; from the black spots. I look about in a haze. Images are moving and shifting violently in front of my eyes. I’m still screaming uncontrollably but slowly am able to concentrate my vision, scanning for an exit and from nowhere I spot a door in one of the walls. A white door covered with black spots which are screeching my name; warning me not to approach. But they can’t stop me. The black spots think they’re winning, think they can keep me here: but they don’t seem to realise that however terrified I am of approaching the door it doesn’t compare with the horror of staying inside this room any longer.

As I scramble towards the door the screeches get louder. The closer I get the worse the pain inside my head becomes. But I use it to my advantage, telling myself it will all stop once I’m out. This is the motivation I use to escape.

My shoulder crashes through the exit. Black spots attach themselves like leeches to my skin as I make contact with the door but I brush them off as I’m running, running as fast as I can down what appears to be an empty white corridor.

There is no time for any sense of relief however because the black spots are following. I can’t see because I daren’t turn around but I know they are behind me. I picture them sliding along the white walls and floor of the corridor in pursuit.

My shouting and screaming has come to an end now and instead I’m moaning such words as no, no, no, stop, please stop, please, no, please stop, stop, go away, go away, stop, leave me alone, go away… as I run. The corridor twists and turns endlessly in front of me. I begin to wonder why I’m not tired and unfortunately as soon as this thought enters my mind I feel an overwhelming sense of fatigue. I’m unable to run anymore.

At once I can no longer feel my legs. There’s no power in my body. My blood feels thin and weak. I collapse to the ground. I can see the black spots approaching but there’s nothing I can do. I resign myself to defeat, closing my eyes and burying my head in my hands. For the first time I’m quiet.

The black spots surround me, screeching my name with a terrifying anger. They are hungry, hungry for my soul. But there’s something I’m doing, something that they don’t like: something preventing them from finishing me off.

I start to breath more slowly, more calmly because I no longer care about saving myself. For the second time I seem to have fooled the black spots. If I no longer care then why should I be frightened and if I’m not frightened then what is there to care about?

The black spots surround me, mocking me. They tease me with false advances but I can feel a growing strength inside. I have lost the fear and I’m beginning to realise that this is what they were feeding on. I concentrate on telling myself they are only black spots and what is so frightening about a bunch of stupid black spots. In an unexpected turn of events I find I’m laughing hysterically.

Stupid black spots I say. What the hell are you gonna do, turn me into a fucking leopard? Who the hell gives a shit about a bunch of black spots? Fuck off you stupid black spots I say. Go fuck yourselves!

Now I’m really angry. Angry about what I’ve just been put through. Angry with myself for allowing it to happen.

My anger turns to hatred. Hatred of these pathetic black entities. I move towards the horde of black spots shouting insults. They jut around cackling but do not retreat. I’m waving my arms furiously while they remain just out of reach.

I want to kill them; kill them all. Every single one of them. The black spots which are crawling towards me. I’m screaming with terror.

Monday, 5 November 2012

guest story - Unseen by Ray Tullett

For the boy it had been a great Sunday afternoon, the first time he had ridden his bicycle without stabilizers. He could still feel the exitement as he thought back to the moment he realised his dad was no longer holding the back of his seat but better still was the look of pride in his dad’s face. Once he was off there was no stopping him and he spent hours riding around the park until he was exhausted. That was why he had put up no fight when told it was bed time. Now lying under the covers he looked up at the picture on the ceiling of an elephant spraying water over its back from the trunk, he wished he could go on a safari.

He rolled over to reach for his teddy bear but found nothing there. Confusion took him for a moment before he remembered putting it on the shelf. He felt a little guilty but now his stabilizers were off he was grown up and should not have a teddy bear in bed any more.

Watching the boy flick the switch on the bedside lamp, plunging the room into darkness, he allowed his eyes to adjust to the gloom; this did not take long as his night vision was very strong. He looked across the now dark room at the mound in the bed: anger did not come close to how he was feeling. He wanted to cause pain and suffering and could feel the urge building as the rage intensified, he had tried very hard to repress the urges he felt each day.

Waiting now was difficult but his past experience had taught him patience and if he was going to have his fun he would have to wait. The room was quiet; not even the ticking of a clock disturbed the peace. The only sound was the sound of the boy breathing, although it was not yet the slow steady breath of deep sleep.

The day had seen the boy riding solo for the first time and the boy had talked of nothing else since. He had already been in the bedroom and listened to the talk of the day, at one point the boy had come unexpectedly to the room and only some fast reflexes had kept him from being discovered. Thinking about the shock now only added to the anticipation of what was going happen later, he was not fully sure of how this was going to play out but feeling a fresh surge of rage that he barely managed to suppress, he knew it was going to be messy.

Daydreaming those pleasant thoughts made him miss the change in breathing but now he was focussed, the little snores coming from the small bed told him all he needed to know. Soon he would make his move and the fun could begin… but patience was still required as the parents were awake and downstairs watching T.V. He wanted to take his time with this one and make him pay in pain.

Time drifted on and in moments there seemed to be no hope of them ever going to bed. There had been a false alarm earlier when the dad had got up to put the kettle on. Listening to the kettle ping in the kitchen had been a real nightmare as he knew that there was probably going to be another hour of waiting. Passing the time by counting the boy’s breaths he waited and waited until finally there was movement downstairs and the T.V. was turned off.

The parents took their cups to the kitchen, rinsed them out and then came upstairs. This was it, finally the waiting was over and the rage was to be unleashed in a violence this house would never see again. He heard the mum go into the bedroom and the toilet flush in the bathroom as the father finished his business.

Footsteps on the landing and a soft light bathing the boy on the bed as the father opens the door to check on his precious boy. Holding his breath he waits for the door to close so he can make his move but he hears the father chuckle and sees him step into the room.

The father starts towards him and he holds himself dead still, he feels the father’s hands as they pick him up and carry him to the bed. He is tucked under the boy’s arm in his usual place, the footsteps retreat and the door closes and night once more enfolds the room…

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review - Semi Detached by Gareth Jones



Twenty-six years old, bored with the nine to five and looking for adventure, Gareth takes off to South America and into backpacker land. Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile… if you’ve ever been there yourself, you’ll know the routine. Go to a city, wander around feeling bored, then get pissed and have fun. At least that’s the way he does it.

What I liked about the book is that it wasn’t written by a journalist. There’s no in depth descriptions of the history and politics of every place they go to. And there’s no travel program isn’t this wonderful? bullshit. It’s a proper young person’s hedonistic flight into the sort of mad life such “holidays” can bring. A South American On the Road for the modern generation.

Gareth and his mates may not be everyone’s sort of people. Their sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle can sometimes be shockingly over the top. And the way they pretty much abuse the fact that they’re in a poor country by treating it like a playground is not exactly moralistic. But there again, this is what most young people do on their “year out.” (Plus there is a half-hearted epiphany or “realisation” of this towards the end).

If you’re looking for a travel book that doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of dull information or heavy plotlines then this is for you. Nice and simple. And a lot of fun.

This is a self published novel and could do with a bit of editing to tighten things up, but it’s still worth checking out. As with the other books I’m reviewing, this won’t be on the bookshelf of most shops, but will be available to order.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Story 18 - A Single Entity

The package

Cautiously, before opening the door I take a peek through the spy hole. There’s a man standing in the hall holding a brown package. He’s short, wearing dull clothes: a grey jumper and dark trousers. No jacket. His head is balding; the little hair he has left is jumping about in messy; random strands that seem to disagree with each other. He looks around fifty or sixty years old and he’s smiling.

The happy smiling balding man reaches for the doorbell and it rings again, this time loudly in my ears.

There’s nothing about him that tells me he poses any danger. A cheerful neighbour here to deliver something that may have accidentally found its way to his flat instead of mine. Or maybe he’s a postman, off duty but diligent. One last parcel before a welcome cup of Americano and carrot cake at the nearby Starbucks.

I decide to turn the lock carefully but it makes a loud clicking sound as it slides into its new position. There’s no changing my mind now. He knows someone is in. I sneak another glance through the peephole to see that he’s still wearing the same gleeful expression.

Twisting the other latch I pull the door open. Cold air from the hallway rushes at my face.

“Good morning sir,” the man grins. “I…”

After his eyes meet mine I watch them shift to the rest of my face. The natural beaming smile is suddenly changing to that of a forced one. There’s a hint of apology and of sudden awkwardness as he stutters out the rest of the sentence.

“I… I’ve been told that a Mr Christopher Morton is living at this address. If… are you, is…?”

“Yes, that’s me,” I say, maybe a little too aggressively.

“I… okay, great. So, I…”

“Yes, it’s okay, I had an accident last night but I’m fine,” I offer, to make up for my initial shortness. Now that I’m looking at him in the flesh he seems somewhat small; weak, rather pitiful: nothing but a silly old man here to annoy me.

I watch as he gathers himself together. A slight relaxation in his body language. Then there’s a shift from one foot to the other before he holds up the package in his hand.

“I… you see I promised to deliver this to you this morning. A pretty young girl, well I probably shouldn’t say. She made me promise not to say anything…”

“A girl, what girl?” I respond, immediately thinking of Ruby.

“Nothing, no, sorry, nothing.” He’s looking a little flustered now. (Was I being too forceful again?) “I’m only supposed to give this to you and go. To not say anything else.”

He holds out the package nervously. It’s a box shaped object, the size of a thick book that has been stuffed into an A4 parcel.

I’ve no idea what could be in there. After he hands it over I realise it’s lighter than I first thought. I give it a shake and it rattles with a dull series of thuds. I determine that there are at least two medium sized objects inside the box. I wonder for a moment…

What is the thing that I most desire right now?

Could it be my stolen mobile phone? Maybe even my wallet too?

“I have to be going,” says the man suddenly.

“Wait,” I spurt. “Who gave this to you?” I’m sounding aggressive again. I’m frightening him. I can see it in his eyes; he’s beginning to regret that he ever agreed to come on this strange errand. What was it that persuaded him anyway? Was it money? Or the charms of a pretty young girl? I can see that if I’m going to get anything out of him I’ll need to change my tactics.

“I ought to at least offer you a cup of tea or something. Did you have to walk far?”

“No, not so far. I was only across the road when she stopped me.”

“A pretty girl you say.” (I take on the possibility of her still being close by).

“Well, I… No, I swore not to say. And I really should be going.” There’s a new-found firmness in his words.

“Oh, come on,” I give him a friendly wink. “If I’ve got a secret admirer I’m sure there’s a part of her that’d like me to know who she is.” I attempt to put a tone of humbleness in my voice as I shrug my shoulders and continue: “You could at least tell me what she looked like. The luck I’ve been having lately, it’d be nice if there’s someone out there who could put a bit of brightness back in my life. How about giving me something to go on, what do you say?”

I can see him weighing up the arguments for and against him spilling the goods. Once again he takes in the sorry state of my battered face.

“I do apologise,” he answers, “but it’d be wrong of me to say anything more.”

“Tall or short? Fat or thin? What colour hair?” I’m sounding desperate again (what’s wrong with me?). “You say she was pretty. Pretty like how?”

But now he’s backing away towards the outside door. I swear that if he had a hat he’d be lifting it to bid me a good day. Instead he smiles and nods politely while subtly making his escape.

“Don’t you at least want to see what’s inside?” I shout.

But he’s already gone.


Twenty-four

I hop to the sofa, package in hand. I decide against opening it immediately. Instead I make myself another cup of tea and light a cigarette, staring at the thing.

The reason why I’m taking my time? It’s simple. To me it’s like an unopened present on Xmas day when I’ve asked for something specific but still not sure if my parents have got me what I want or are going to surprise me with some other gift. Or maybe it’s like receiving your exam results in an envelope. There’s a moment before you open it that you want to savour. Because in that moment when you don’t know, the possibility remains that you’re about to get exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

The kettle flicks off, telling me that the water’s boiled. I return to the kitchen, grab a fresh tea bag and add a few extra spoonfuls of sugar. As I pour the water I think about the man’s reaction to my face. Not good.

The package is still on the table (of course it is; why wouldn’t it be?). It’s tied together with a piece of string, which I burn with the end of my cigarette. On the telly the gunge has stopped. It’s time for some music. There’s an all girl pop band I’ve never seen before. The lead vocalist isn’t my type but one of her token backup singers has got my attention. Standing around not doing much with a short sequined skirt, high heels and great legs. I think about Ruby again. If things had gone according to plan she could’ve been with me right now. Maybe I’d have cooked up a nice eggs and bacon breakfast. We could’ve been watching a film. A bad one. I imagine us giving up and having sex again. My hand moves up to my swollen face. Fat chance of that happening now.

The brown paper envelope tears easily. Inside there’s a purple box. At first I can’t work out how to open this but finally spot a sliding mechanism. My wallet is inside. And my lighter too; bizarrely.

That’s it. No phone.

I check my wallet to find almost everything intact. Drivers licence, bank cards, my old student ID, Young Person’s Railcard... The only thing missing is the loose change and twenty pound note that I didn’t spend last night.

I go back to the purple box. It’s plain and offers no clues; other than the fact that it has the mystical smell of a girl’s bedroom. (The amber nectar.)

It makes no sense. But also it’s exciting. Somebody knows something about what happened to me last night. Someone who’s on my side. A friend. And if what I’ve been led to believe is true, she’s an attractive, mysterious female.

A casual thought occurs to me and I check my wallet again. Stuffed into the bottom corner of a zip compartment is my sim card. I’m almost laughing. (In fact I do let out a fairly happy set of expletives.)

“This,” I say to myself, “could be the beginning of a beautiful adventure.”

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Welcome to the blog

So, it's been a year now, good enough for me. There's plenty on here to read. Have a look around and enjoy.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Interview with Jonny Gibbings, author of Malice in Blunderland


So this month I’ve the pleasure of interviewing up-and-coming writer Jonny Gibbings. He’s the author of the hilarious Malice in Blunderland, and has been described variously as the new Irvine Welsh; the new Chuck Palahniuk; the new Will Self; the new Charles Bukowski; the new… well, why not judge for yourself?


You’re a surfer, a writer, well travelled, a family man… you had a difficult upbringing, you’ve been homeless, worked for a crime syndicate, spent time in prison… ever thought about writing an autobiography?

I get asked that a lot lately. To be honest, there are a lot of uncomfortable memories and a memoir would mean revisiting things that I’ve invested a hell of a lot of money in booze to try to forget. Lidia Yuknavich [author of Dora: A Headcase - CM] has done some amazing words recently and in light of that I tried an essay on my childhood, but that was enough. Way too much pain in there to dwell on. I’ll stick to making folks laugh.

It’s a fairly routine question but for those who haven’t heard of Malice in Blunderland can you give us a quick summary of what it’s about?

Well I like to think of it as a transgressive nihilistic comedy, written as a farce. I only say that because it makes me sound smart. It’s the tale of a guy down on his luck. He makes some really bad choices and things go from bad to worse: in the farce tradition, his every decision is the wrong one. So from one drunken night, he ends up wanted by the police for rapes he didn’t do, hunted by the Ukrainian Mafia and London gangsters, and violently assaulted by a transvestite. Oh and he accidentally appears in a snuff movie.

I think that in life we’re all just a couple of steps from disaster. So it’s a lot like the bible but with fewer beards.

To make your book more authentic you included a few “deliberate” mistakes. (Mixing up there, their and they’re, it’s and its, with the occasional spelling error thrown in.) Were these left in from the original manuscript or was it a case of them being purposely added to the final draft? Did you have to be careful to not include things that would confuse the reader?

This is a funny one. It all came about because of the actor Christopher Walken! When he gets a script, he has all of the punctuation removed so that when he reads it, it ensures his distinctive unbroken flow. Originally, the manuscript felt too manicured so I took out a bunch of words and it began to sound like the ramblings of a police confession rather than prose:

“Four chairs were fixed by bolts to the floor, the cold reflective plastic, etc” became, “Four chairs bolted to the floor. Shiny plastic.”

I felt it added urgency in places. Paul at my publisher is ex Harper Collins. He loved it and suggested the spelling errors after reading a quick draft update that wasn’t proofed. We even started the first page on the left hand side, which is cardinal sin in publishing, so it’s a sort of ‘fingers up’ to the literary establishment.

I wanted it to feel like you’d found the journal of a man in breakdown, like a voyeuristic peek at private mad drunken scrawls. In that respect I love the spelling. It’s a fun book, so we had fun with it and I wasn’t bothered about confusing the reader. Like with Trainspotting and A Clockwork Orange, it’s good to make the reader do some of the work.

As well as being the comedic tale of an antihero gate crashing his way through one awkward situation to another, there’s also a darker element to Malice. Mostly this is about the protagonist’s fall in self confidence related to the break up with an ex girlfriend who he refers to intermittently throughout the novel. Did this come naturally in the writing or was the back-story something you later added to give the book some extra depth?

Well, having been homeless and in prison, I was hardly a catch (being vagrant you’re about as popular as cock flavoured lollies) so I’ve never had the luxury of being a ladies man. But the protagonist needed a reason to be in a hole and heartbreak seemed as good a lever as any.

As for the darkness (such as considering jumping from a bridge, the violence and drug use), that was important. He needed to be someone who you initially hated but thought was funny enough to make you want to read him. The idea was you’d see him grow, learn he isn’t a bad person and empathise with him. Most people so far have ended up loving the guy.

It’s all as a set up for the ending of the book to be honest. I wanted to write a comedy, but I also wanted to subtly make the point about judgement and writing people off. When I was sleeping in doorways, I’m sure people thought that was by choice.

Word’s getting around that Malice is to become a film. A dream come true for many authors. But I put it to you: if you had the choice of your book becoming a successful but awful Hollywood blockbuster which made you lots of money or a fairly respectable independent film that premiered at Sundance but disappeared into the abyss soon after… well, what’d it be?

Oddly, exactly that happened. My publisher was approached by two film companies. A big group from Hollywood and an independent group from the UK. The American team (I say team, as there was a shit load of them) met in a conference room in London. There was a guy called Luis ‘from legal’ who had so much paper for me to sign, like it was the fucking Magna Carta. I would’ve had to hand over all control. Quickly it turned out they wanted the film to be a 15A certificate. They wanted to take out most of the drugs, violence and shock humour. They wanted to sanitise everything.

When booking into the hotel with them, for a joke I asked if there was porn in the room. When the receptionist told me the porn could be disabled, I said, “That sounds kinky – yes, give me the disabled porn!” They were horrified. That was the first clue that things wouldn’t work out.

If I was in it for the money, I’d have probably written a memoir. It would’ve been all moody and tragic and I’d probably be a shit load more successful because of it. But then, if I wanted to make quick money, I could also throw on a blond wig and start blowing sailors! I’d rather be loved by a few than liked by the many. The London team got it. We left the hotel, went to a vegan café in Camden and got pissed. And laughed a lot. Malice is a massive challenge. Making people laugh was important to the London boys. They want to make something to be proud of first, over the money it makes, and I respect that integrity. So it’s all going ahead with them.

So your blog, as well as being hilarious is often quite political. How about putting your political hat on for a moment and telling us the best (no cheating!) and worst thing that our current Prime Minister has done for this country so far?

Cameron? I despise that shiny faced shitty little twat-weasel. Why is he always so shiny? Is his face buffed up before he appears on telly? Why is his mouth too small for his head? I can’t think of one good thing to say. It amazes me that taxpayers have bailed out the banks to the tune of billions. Yet, if you are wealthy you get free banking. If you are poor or in debt, you have to pay for banking. It is immoral. How can he let that happen? Cameron is full of shit. Full of promises and failed to meet even one. “Read my lips, I do not break my promises,” he pledged. Promised to protect the NHS, even though they have just forced through a bill to fuck it and have enforced massive cut backs. The promise of 3,000 more police officers, instead we have redundancies. The promise to keep the future jobs fund – then axed it. The promise to keep the education maintenance allowance – then axed it. Unlike the promise to scrap tuition fees – and they went up. The promise to keeping the Child Trust Fund – then axed it. It’s bullshit. The UK is the world’s 6th biggest economy; we give £170m to China, the world’s second biggest economy. China has a space program, we don’t. You don’t have to be an economist to work out that is just stupid. He might as well have knocked on my door, and when I opened, just pissed on my feet. I can’t stand these elitist, upper class Oxbridge pricks with no idea how hard it is for most people. These are the people who are supposed to have integrity, the bastions for inclusion and against class and sexist practices. Yet Cameron, Osborne, and Boris are members of The Bullingdon Club. A secret society dining club where women and poor people are not allowed. This is the 21st century for Christ sake, not Dickens. It’s shameful that a Prime Minister would associate with that kind of shit. He has let banks off paying tax to the tune of £19 billion! It’s bullshit. His own government austerity advisor Sir Philip Green, the chief executive of Arcadia, skirted an estimated £285 million in tax through his wife’s tax-free status in Monaco, yet he has a pop at Jimmy Carr? Meanwhile they penalize the poor and the elderly. It is immoral.

Ok, deep breaths. Back to your blog again: the golf cart incident, being arrested in Vegas for pretending to shoot a transvestite, going missing in London, pissing off company executives, and even a few trashed (all be it accidentally) hotel rooms… it seems that some of these are the sorts of situations your character might have found himself in. Is this life imitating art or art imitating life?

Yeah, I must admit, I’m not the best decision maker and have put myself in stupid situations. Though, I believe you should live every day like it’s your last. Because one day you’ll be right. The Golf Pimp disaster was fairy typical, and I’m 40 now. I know I should grow up, but can’t quite stop wandering down the ‘That’d be funny’ path.

My book is an exaggeration of myself in many respects, especially the choices he makes. But I think, if when you died, you had to write an essay on your life, what would you say? “I worked really hard in an office for 60 years and gave up on my dreams.” Or would you say, “I did things, got in trouble, had adventures and laughed?” Cos I prefer the latter.

I have a tattoo: ‘LIT’ (Life is Temporary). We are not white goods like fridges that are here to perform repetitive tasks, then consigned to landfill. Do shit, take risks. You don’t stop laughing because you get old; you get old because you stop laughing.

You’ve said in the past that the gift of being able to tell good jokes has often won you friends and got you out of trouble. Do you have a particularly favourite joke you’d like to share?

This is a great question. You know, I’m not so much a joke teller, just that I have funny stories and see things a bit differently to most people. Things tend to happen. I was in Subway getting a roll, there was a queue and I was with some people from a signing. One guy cut the bread… then everything ground to a halt. I asked what the delay was, and the second guy had walked out. He was the guy who does the fillings. I told the first guy to just put the shit in the roll, but he said, “I don’t know what to do?”

How can you not know how to make a sandwich? Why in Subway does it take three people to make a sandwich? I’ve never been hungry, buttered bread and gone, “What next… I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!”

Till and sauce guy couldn’t help because he was till and sauce. So I went around the counter and dicked about serving people.

I think I just see the funny side of things, and I’m not embarrassed to look an idiot for finding it funny. Most think what I think, they just don’t say it.

My jokes are never mean though. I’ve been compared to Frankie Boyle and Tucker Max recently due to my flavour of humour and that bothers me a bit. Boyle is very funny, but mean about people, making jokes outwardly about them. Tucker Max is the memoir of an arrogant frat guy who got girls drunk, abused them and wrote about it. In Malice in Blunderland, the jokes are all on him, though the subject matter is dark, he is the only victim.

Lastly, being a bit of a whiz at self publicity (don’t be modest!) can you offer any words of advice to authors who are looking to create more awareness for their books?

I wouldn’t call myself a whiz at anything. If I was going to give advice it would be to be humble and be honest. There are too many authors now who feel it’s more important to be taken seriously and respected as an author than for what they’ve written. Sort of an X-factor narcissism. It does nobody any favours. If you post everywhere ‘read my book’ and use social media as an advertising platform you will be seen as spam. You’ll get blocked and hated.

Engage. That’s all I have done. When people do the ‘My book is free on Amazon – help me become a best seller,’ it’s just desperate. To be a best seller it has to be sold, not given away. It’s just a needy want to be a best seller for egotistical reasons. It’s bullshit. And downloads do not mean read!

Also, have an opinion and stick to it. I’m vegan, into animal rights, am political and talk about these things. This will gain you friends by association. I say friends because I hate this ‘fans’ crap. If ever I say I have fans – KILL ME.

Friends. It’s two way. My blog, goodreads, twitter… I’m talking and having fun all the time. It’s never one way, I’m asking what people have read; why they liked it, etc. Making jokes. I’m not pretending to be an author. I’m your average nobody who happens to have a book out.

Since the film thing, I’ve been asked by students in media: ‘What happens at script meetings?’ I was honest and told them I know naff all about film. So I let a bunch of them come along, getting involved in the process. Why not allow folk to piggy-back on your successes for free? It costs me nothing. Share the opportunity I say.

You can’t make anyone buy your book. You can be open, let people hear what you have to say, see if they like you. And if they like what you’re about, allow them to find a route to your book if they want one. My book has all five star reviews on Amazon because the people who buy it are pre-conditioned to the content. There are no shocks. They know it is black humour and very explicit. My efforts of simply being myself, acted as a filter. Like panning for gold. The people, who make it through, like what they read and so word of mouth kicks in. It’s organic. There’s no magic to it.


Some great advice there from the one and only Jonny Gibbings. Malice in Blunderland is available in kindle and paperback from all good bookshops. You can also follow Jonny on twitter, goodreads, check out his blog, and keep up to date with news via his website.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Story 17 - Hardboiled Flipped

The ambulance

As far as I’m aware I don’t lose consciousness before the ambulance turns up. I lie there thinking about nothing at all. They’ve disappeared. They’ve left me alive. Metaphorically left me for dead, but if their intention had been to kill me there was nothing to stop them. Who called the ambulance? I’ll never know because I don’t ask.

It makes perfect sense when the noise of the siren arrives. A nurse hovers above, asks me to say something; to check if I am in fact able to speak. She shines something in my eyes. Asks for my name. How many fingers? Have you been drinking and have you taken any drugs? While she checks my neck and head for serious injuries I explain that I want to piss and I want water and I want sugar. I’ve been beaten up. I need to go to hospital. I need someone to help me stand so I can piss.

I’m whining, glad of the motherly attention. It’s helping. She’s a beautiful angel, come to my rescue.

“Do you think I’m able to get up?”

“Do you think you can manage?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can you move your legs?”

I move my legs with success. I even wiggle my toes; then tell her I’ve wiggled my toes and ask if that’s a good thing. She laughs. She’s kind, compassionate, human and professional. A male nurse is with her. They both lift me up and then the male nurse helps me towards a hedge where, with difficulty, I start to unzip myself.

“Do you need any help?” he asks. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that he’s serious and willing to aid me with such a task but refuse all the same. Leaning my body against a garden wall I piss out a good few pints worth of urine. Then I’m laughing and saying to the nurse that I hope the neighbours don’t mind.

At once he’s behind me, supporting me. Did he catch me? Had I been about to fall over? As we move towards the ambulance I ask the female nurse for water and sugar again. In a conversational way I begin jabbering about my body sending messages to my brain about what it requires in the way of food and drink. They’re nurses, I think. They should know all about it. Did they study this topic at university? Hey guys, what do you reckon? Why am I craving sugar?

“You’re in shock.”

I pause in thought. “So when you’re in shock you need to eat sugar?”

“Ok, we’re putting you down here on the bed. You all right? You feeling much pain yet?”

“No, not yet. Is that good or bad?”

“Well, this may hurt a little when we swing your legs over.”

“Fuck.”

“Just lie back now.”

“Shit.”


The drive to the hospital

Ever so slightly I’m beginning to enjoy myself. I’m on a bed in the back of an ambulance drinking orange juice through a straw. It’s a white plastic cup. Where did this come from? One of them must have handed it to me.

When the two nurses talk to each other I try to make sense of what they’re saying but am unable to do so. I’m phasing in and out of consciousness. A part of me wants to sleep while another part feels that staying awake would be more exciting because this is an experience. Once in a lifetime. Roll up, roll up. Get your ambulance rides here.

I’m delirious. I’m happy, tired; comfortable. There’s a dull pain coming from my right leg. No, both of them. But the right one hurts more.

“Can I sleep?” I ask.

“If you want.”

“Only…” how to get my meaning across…? “I… Is it safe for me to sleep or do I need to stay awake?”

I’m remembering something from a film or TV program. The guy is in the arms of a girl. He’s dying. She’s telling him to stay awake. It’s important that he doesn’t lose consciousness. “Stay with me,” she’s saying, shaking him. “So cold,” he replies. “So tired…”

“You can relax,” says the female nurse.

My head hurts too. All over. There’s a stinging sensation that seems to cover the whole of my face. My body aches. But I don’t yet want to know how bad the damage is; and even tell them as such.

“Not ready to start thinking about that right now,” I laugh. “Would rather…”

“Take some time out?”

“Yes! You’ve got it.”

How do they understand so well? These people are heroes. The female nurse asks me what I do for a living and I feel strangely reluctant to say.

“It’s simply to tie me over,” I explain. “Till something better comes along and… more worthwhile.”

“Oh yeah? Big ambitions have we?”

At once I feel quite young. Barely out of university. They’ve found me drunk and beaten up by the side of the road on a Friday night. Helpless. Lacking in the survival skills needed for life in the concrete jungle. The big wide world.

Or am I just another casualty of the silly, childish shenanigans of a weekend’s binge drinking? What must I look like to them right now?


The male nurse

He’s got short hair. Black. Very short hair; a crew cut. He’s young, like me. But mature. Worldly. Seen it all. Done it all. Knows the score. He has a confident urban voice. Yes, he’s from the city. Grew up here. Lived here all his life.

“Where you from?” I ask.

Manchester.”

Okay, maybe not. But at least I got the city part right. I think.

“You from, like the inner city… or… a small town near there?”

Manchester city mate.” The ambulance goes over a bump as he answers. My bed rocks. His head bobs.

“Which football club do –“

“– only one team in Manchester

“United?”

“City.”

We laugh together. The ambulance is slowing down now. I’d like to talk for longer. It’s nice in here. He asks who I support and I reply that I’ve followed Manchester United since I was a kid. He groans ironically. Ever been? Negative. Seen them play? On a few occasions. Cup games mostly. A couch supporter. You should go up there some time. Maybe I will. Ryan Giggs. Ruud van Nistelrooy. How about you? Why Brighton?

“Moved down here when I was ten.”

The female nurse is saying something. Someone else, or maybe one of them, has opened the doors. I feel a sharp pain in my right leg. Suddenly it’s just me and the male nurse in a room. We’re playing table tennis. He’s telling me about the new house he’s bought. Bay windows. Conservatory. Bright green eyes. He’s friendly, energetic, but also frightening. The way he’s talking. The confidence. And there’s something about those eyes.


The female nurse

“I’m going to need to wake you for a moment.” She touches my shoulder. A strand of hair floats over my face. Her eyes are blue.

“Okay… I’m okay.”

“You’re all right. We’re going to get you inside.” Her tone is gentle, yet firm.

“Will I see a doctor?”

“Someone will see to you soon.” She has blond hair and a pale face. She’s wearing a thick dark jacket. Her hair’s tied back, her cheeks are red. On a night out I wouldn’t look at her twice but right now I feel like holding her hand.

“You were complaining about your leg.”

“Errr… yeah…” (Was I?)

“Do you feel you can walk with me?”

She’s surprisingly strong as she helps me up. We exit the ambulance and almost instantly are in a hospital ward. Everything’s green. A room with beds, curtains; some of them drawn. There’s a cleaner with a trolley of cleaning stuff. He’s in front of me, blocking our way. Two older nurses are sat down on chairs by a door that leads to the A & E waiting room. That’s where the male nurse is. I know this because I ask.

What I don’t ask is their names. It crosses my mind but for some reason I don’t want to know. They’re the superheroes who came to my rescue. Not real people.

I’m helped to a bed. The female nurse is going to leave me here. Someone will be with you shortly. She smiles. She’s abandoning me. Have a nice life. Be on your way now. Good luck.

“Are you going?” I ask.

She hesitates for a moment. Can I sense awkwardness, or is it my imagination?

“That’s okay. You have to go… but thanks for your help.”

“Don’t mention it.” Her voice seems human all of a sudden. Weaker. Less professional. I don’t like it. She smiles and I thank her again. Tell her she has a great bedside manner. That she’s doing a fine job. I want to give her her power back. Great work! Now fly away and save the next person. You can do it. Stiff upper lip.

“Good luck,” she whispers; then bends down to kiss me on the cheek. She brushes back my hair. Feels the sweat on my forehead. Tells me she loves me. Smiles once more, and then she’s out through the curtain.

A door slams from somewhere. Then everything is dark.


The doctor

I doze. I sleep. I’m awake in a room with curtains for walls. Outside there’s the mumbling of voices. I attempt to latch on to a conversation; to listen. I’m bored. Sleepy. But restless. I’d toss and turn if I could but my body is weak. Damaged.

I need to piss again. To get out of here. Finally I sit up in the bed and begin to examine my body. Starting at the bottom I work my way up. There’s pain but no disturbing amount of blood. There’s grazes on my knees and on my right shin. My ankles feel weak but I can move them. I wiggle my toes and then flex all the muscles I can think of to flex. Some hurt more than others. My side throbs: Below the ribcage on the right, above my hip. And below this, my right thigh. This is what’s giving me the most pain.

My hands and arms are bruised and grazed. I feel dry blood on my face. I’ve been hit around the eyes, which I imagine will show up a treat. But my nose, surprisingly, doesn’t hurt much at all.

I hear curtains being whipped across. They’re not my curtains. It’s the bed next to mine; to the left.

“Right now Mrs Jenkins.” The voice is loud. What’s about to be said will not remain private.

“This may not be good news I’m afraid.”

I daren’t move. Do they know there are other people around? The response from the woman is barely audible, I must admit, though I sense a tone of complaint. More bad news. Do you doctors ever give me anything other than bad news?

“We’re going to need to give you a brain scan.”

“I thought as much.”

“Of course there’s a chance that your cancer returning is not the cause. At this stage we still don’t know for sure.”

“It’s okay. I know. I knew straight away…” the rest of her sentence is difficult to catch. Guiltily I prick up my ears, moving my head closer to the left. He’s telling her she needs to sign a form to give them permission to do whatever it is they’re going to do. She’s telling him she knows this. That she’s been priming herself for the news just received. And then her voice changes slightly as she’s admitting something to him. A sign of weakness. I imagine her confessing that all the preparation in the world doesn’t make it any easier.

I no longer want to listen so I faze myself out of the conversation. Stare at my hands. Think about the faces I’ll soon be describing to the police. And then I start to compare my situation with that of the woman beside me.


Waiting

I shift in the bed thinking about the faces. Four faces. I can still see them now. Faces that are gradually drifting further and further away.

I sleep. I dream. Two boys are kicking me. They’re playing a game. Trying to knock me out, like people do in films. It’s not working. Each time they kick my head one of them says to the other, “He’s not out yet.”

“How hard can it be?” the other one replies.

There’s two more now, stamping on my legs. They’re laughing. It’s a game. But there’s anger in their laughter. Bitterness. Resentment.

“Look at him squirm,” says the one with the baseball cap. He’s thin, lanky; with a big nose and wide-eyed gormless expression. He’s from a poor family and has had a rough time of it. His father used to hit him frequently when he was young, tell him he was a stupid fucking waste of space but now that he’s bigger and taller the violence at home has stopped. Now there’s a distance. They barely speak, barely even look at each other. And for the last four years his mother’s name hasn’t been mentioned even once.

“Not so tough now, are we? Ya fucking c**t.”

Another one: The one that’s just stamped on my ankle. He’s short. Stocky. And wearing glasses. He seems like the sort of guy you’d see working in a McDonalds. He’s got greasy black hair and a big forehead. I assess him as a follower; not a leader. The way he’s looking to the others for support. For their approval at what he’s doing to me. I think of him as a loser. A nob. The butt of their jokes. The fact that he’s allowed to kick me makes the experience ever more humiliating.

I wake up again and I’m still in the hospital bed, alone, surrounded by green curtains and waiting. Waiting…


Fifteen

When someone finally does come to check on me I feel a sense of surprise. What? Already? It’s only been about two hours. Are you sure you’ve got the time to spare for the poor, useless, unfortunate creature taking up your valuable hospital space?

Before I even have time to say hello he’s firing a string of questions at me. Headache? Feeling nauseous, seeing lights, dizziness, date of birth, postcode, middle name, experiencing the most pain where? He’s quick and professional, bearing a clipboard.

“Nothing seems to be broken Mr Morton but we’ll need to do an x-ray to be sure.” He touches my nose, mumbling an affirmative sound as his eyes fall to the clipboard again. Then randomly clicks his fingers next to my right ear.

“What’s the damage doc?” I hear myself thinking.

“Your right leg is badly bruised,” he informs me. “You’re going to have difficulty walking on it for a while. We may need to provide you with crutches.” He flashes a smile that lasts barely half a second before sweeping out through the curtain again.

A nurse soon replaces him. (Or is she a female doctor?) She’s standing over me, touching my body in every place imaginable. She’s old so I feel neither shy nor aroused; even when she carefully pulls off my jeans. She’s doing her job, a veteran. I’m merely another in a long line of broken bodies she’s felt up. Her hands are warm, brown, veiny and experienced.

“When will I have my x-ray?” I enquire.

Dismissively I’m told that it’s difficult to guess. Any time between now and the next three to six hours. “You might be lucky,” she then offers in the way of hope; though there’s also a tenor of sarcasm.