There are too many other things that I wish to consider; take betrayal for example.

Close calls.


Big group friendships are not my thing, they never have been. Like the rest of what happens to me in this life, I didn’t realise how much of a believer I was in friendship and trust. Trust, not the hospital or academy version, though they do serve to point out the irony of the word’s application.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. “

Steve Jobs  

Trust is a big bet. It’s a wager on a person or idea that may come in, or may fall at the first. I want to trust. I want to believe that the world is secretly a good place, that all the crap that flies around is just a temporary shower. It will get better. But, as the saying goes, before things get better they must get worse. 

Things can get very bad. Count your blessings, many of you may say. You live in a free country that obeys the rule of law. The Conservatives may be in charge but they’re not Nazis. Infectious diseases are not very common and there hasn’t been an outbreak of the Black Death for quite some time. Terror attacks do happen but nobody has had chemical weapons deployed against them…yet. Child mortality is not even an issue. People live longer. Poverty is bearable for those who have the money to ignore it. Britain’s Got Talent is not always on telly. What’s not to be happy about?

That stage has now past. My membership of the miserable old gits society has lapsed. The search for happiness is as futile as the search for the Grail; it would have once existed and it may still exist somewhere but the truth is that there are lots of vessels to drink from and lots of things to drink. Blessed are the happy for they shall soon find something to spoil it and blessed are the miserable for they shall infrequently find something to put a smile of their faces.

There is a smile on my mush as I write. Well, it’s not really so much a smile as something that is not a frown. I have a forehead that is furrowed from years of training. When I was a teenager, I learnt to furrow my brow so that it resembled a freshly ploughed field. I was doing this out of vanity. I had the plague; acne, huge explosions of it all across my face. It’s not just the reddening eruptions, but the yellow lava that bursts forth after harvesting. I hated those spots and their stubborn refusal to depart their illegal squat, so I took to toothpaste. After each fresh eruption the ground would be covered in mint flavoured anti-zitant. It not only smelled healthy, it burnt the offending intruders. There is only so much dental health treatment that you can spread upon one’s face, so I took to frowning.

Frowning made a lot of sense to me. It was a way of looking thoughtful whilst really creating a sort of Wolds for the forehead. I love the Wolds as they are this undulating stretch of hills that create little Brigadoon valleys for walkers and cyclist to discover and then disappear into. My plan was that my burgeoning population of spots would be tempted to do the same thing. Eventually, the spots disappeared though I think it was completely unrelated to my dental hygiene or furrowed brow policy. They just slowly decided that I had been tormented enough and moved on to some other as yet untormented teen. Unfortunately the spots left their mark, a ploughed forehead that would stay with me forever.

“Hey, relax.” This was the voice of my Turkish barber (former barber). He was a stocky man who had a tendency to talk too much and managed to never really engage me in conversation. His approach to cutting hair reminded me of a film that I had seen set in a Turkish prison, Midnight Express. There was definitely something scissorly sadistic about his love of number twos. He did tend to give a good hair-cut and never once came close to damaging me with his cutthroat razor. I watched every move he made.

“Relax,” he said again and I thought it was a prelude to something that could reach the national newspapers. “Your forehead, it is all rumply.” 

“Yes, it’s been like that for a long time.”

There is only so much time one can spend on the subject of rumply foreheads and my Turkish barber seemed to get the drift. I changed my place of haircut soon after that.

Now, I don’t regard what the barber said to me as a form of betrayal. It was only a barber’s slip of the tongue and barbers let their tongues slip for many hours every day. The real betrayals come in the form of friendships in which one party has a vested interest that the other is unaware of. My wife has an invisible radar that detects such fake acquaintances whereas I do not, on the contrary, I am often a fridge magnet for fake friends who stick to me through good times and fall off during bad ones. I would have been the marshal in High Noon hoping to call in friends and neighbours in my hour of need, only for them to turn their backs because they had themselves to think about. 

Too close to call.

When people turn their backs on you, it is the very worst of things. Betrayal! Oh, and it’s alright if they come back later and apologise. We didn’t realise that they were going to shoot you. Do those nails hurt? They do look a little painful. No, it’s not okay to do that to one’s fellow man. So I may forgive, but forgetting is not an option.  

Cruel Britannia

We are on the eve of the government triggering Brexit. Oh, how much fun can that be? 

Flagging at the last.

Here’s me trying to make connections with unseen readers, phantoms of my mind. The world is being torn apart and I’m building either an illusionary one or one that is founded on delusion. It could be that nobody will ever read my wanderings. Now, I am a reasonable human-being who understands that the world has stopped revolving around his belly button. It never did revolve around it and it never will.

My existentialism is playing tricks with my head. Thoughts of who I am and where I belong are nonsensical. I am here and now, here and now, there and then. The moment I stop to think about it, I move on and so does the world. It’s a good job that the world keeps turning otherwise we all might fall off. 

One of the things that I particularly disliked when I was a young boy was falling off my bike, something that happened way too frequently for my own or my parents’ comfort of mind.

I have left more skin on the road than the council has left tarmac. Accidents just happened, but to me they happened more than once. There was a time that I spent a whole year recovering from an accident that had deprived me of facial skin. I was in the Tour de France, or my neighbourhood’s equivalent, and I was involved in a sprint finish. To be truthful I was the only one in the race, but that didn’t stop me from putting on that final spurt to the line. Unfortunately, this was a pre-racing bike and, therefore, pre-cleats.

Just as the crowd was getting to their feet to welcome me back along the Champs Elyse, my foot flew off the pedal and went straight into the front wheel, entangling itself at speed and creating a catapult effect. My face flipped over the handlebars and met the warm surface of the road. The road saw this as an opportunity to share some skin, mine, and it gleefully took it.

One moment I was that daft lad who thought he was Eddy Merckx and the next I was a vision from a leather manufacturing instructional manual. All of this should have told me that I wasn’t meant to be stable.

Perhaps we are heading for a similar crash; head over heels in love with our own lies.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

I had previously thrown in my hat before, so I could just as easily do it again!

It will be okay.

My mantra was that I could never be defeated. In the past, no matter how many times I had been knocked down, I got back up again and remade myself. Sounds like a bit of inspirational fromage, doesn’t it? But if it looks like cheese, if it smells like cheese, and if it tastes like cheese, be careful, as something may be playing a practical joke on you. 

I’m back with Hemmingway again and his old man who finally accepts defeat when he was touching success. What’s the message? Do we all just resign ourselves to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take up the fight? How many times do we take it on? If a door refuses to open, do we continue knocking at it with our foreheads until unconsciousness dictates that we stop?   

The world is full of inspirational stories; ones that make you feel humble and ones that force you to count your blessings. It’s good advice, but please forgive me for not letting it lead my life. In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king. I don’t wish to be king and I also don’t wish for blindness. I have advantages due to being born with an average intelligence, average sporting abilities and average advantages. We were never extremely poor. We never had to beg. We never starved. I was never disabled. My parents were not drug addicts. We were never caught up in a tsunami or earthquake. We never suffered from persecution or found our line subject to ethnic cleansing. I do count my blessings but instead choose to count these as accidents of fortune. It would make more sense to contemplate the blessing of having a meteor, the size of six football pitches, narrowly miss the earth, or not. 

Then there is the phoney positivity which we pass on to the young as if it is Bible. Put a smile on your face and the world becomes a happier place. In my book, a smile on the face of a world that is indifferent to suffering, merely endorses and condones that abysmal state of being. Ignoring the wrongs of the world in favour of an inner sense of wellbeing is the worst thing that any caring human being can do. To smile in the face of horrendous adversity denotes a madness at the core of its wearer, or the fact that drugs are involved.

Now, all that industry that developed around self-help psychiatry, goal-achievement and general wellbeing is possibly all benign and well-meaning, its accumulated riches for its creators are merely side issues. After all, it’s all for the benefit of mankind isn’t it?

Dale Carnegie, that doyen of self-improvement, salesmanship and mastery of advantageous interpersonal skills, once found his way into my life courtesy of a sales manager I had the misfortune to know. 

How to Win Friends and Influence Peoplelanded on my desk one day accompanied by a knowing smile. My snort of derision soon chased off my would-be benefactor’s sunny disposition, but I took the tome in the way that it was intended. I still have it on my bookcase even though not one page of it has ever been read. 

Car-Share With King Candy

That suspiciously sweet smell.

For a while now I have been car-sharing. It is a way of getting to work whilst cutting down on costs. It saves me and my fellow care-sharers small fortunes at the end of the month and gves us time chat. The last bit is not always true.

My car-sharing adventures started with a bloke who has since been secretively entitled King Candy. It was a student’s name for him given out of fondness not malice.

His actual resemblance to King candy, whom I would not have previously known from Adam, is striking. Adam, let’s call him Adam, is a buffly, snuffly sort of bloke who always carries a handkerchief with him in order to allow a clearing of the nasal passages as soon as he gets into a vehicle. He is constantly suffering from a cold and frequently recounts the months he has lived with it; some marriages are shorter. Adam, or King as we know him, is in charge of rather dull delivery which means that even if he was talking about kinky sex he would make it seem tedious. He also muffles his words which makes for an excuse to let them disappear into the rest of the car.

He also farts, quietly but effectively, usually as he is blowing his nose.

Our third sharer (sounds strange) is a guy called Stephan, a rather reserved ex-professional sportsman who tends to sit quietly soaking in the buffling banter that is eminating from the King. Occasionally I have wanted to catch his eye when Candy-sweet odours have reached my nose.

But diplomacy demands otherwise.

Ease Up

It’s a winter’s day out there and its was aim was to put us off. Sundays come in grey when January arrives. Today was wind laced with rain. What more does one, or two in this case, need to persuade you to stay in by the fireside?

So we ran. Sundays are our days. They used to be the Lord’s days but he has lots of holidays, especially these days.

Work will be with us tomorrow. No use rushing it on. I think Jean Jacques Rousseau would have agreed.

“…the Citizen, forever active, sweats, scurries, constantly agonizes…he works to the death, even rushes toward it in order to be in a position to live…He courts the great whom he hates, and the rich whom he despises; he spares nothing to attain the honor of serving them…”

JJ Rousseau

Looking At Old Photos…

There is an irony here.

Read After Burnout

images-373I have been posting old pieces of writing in the hope of discovering some overlooked talent. It was like showing old photographs of yourself, expecting to see something different. I may have left my ‘then’ writing behind, and there may be some nice touches in it, but it is old writing that has not evolved to the place where I feel it is now.

Like me, my writing has grown older, less obvious, and a tad wiser. 

The difficult issue with rewriting old books is that one finds it difficult to disassociate oneself from one’s previous incarnation. The writing is essentially the writing of someone who has passed. It is a memorial to a previous self, a memory of a time gone by, an artefact. And I have problems with throwing things away. However, what I thought to be good back then is not so good now.

How does a…

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French Porn (property)

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A ray of sunshine has fallen across our Saturday morning. Outside is dull and damp, but in doors there is a spot of hope.

Saturday morning started off as all Saturdays tend to do. Lucy, our cat, came gently meowing into our bedroom. The weather is grim out there, but that didn’t stop her from wanting, nay insisting, on going out. I crept out of bed, descended the stairs, opened the front door, and she was gone into the gloom. I went back to bed; it was five o’clock.

Later, we were awoken by the sound of our middle daughter moving around. We ignored this and feigned sleep. After about half an hour, my wife’s phone started to do the buzzing thing that has replaced the traditional ring. It could only be one person, our eldest daughter in France. I listened for a short time to the conversation and then went to make the mugs of tea that are so much a part of our awakenings.

Saturday mornings always follow their own traditions. Tea, talk, sample the news, and the porn; property-porn.

Property-porn has been part of our lives for over twenty years. In the early days it meant leafing through the Yorkshire Post property pages. Then it progressed to the internet where property porn is tailored for everyone’s predispositions and quirks. We originally went the French way as old houses and gardens were still the norm for most people’s tastes. After that, we went Spanish: new-builds, sea-views, and pools. Spanish properties are plentiful, although sometimes they tend to lack the aesthetic.

We can spend up to an hour luxuriating in this debauchery until the real world calls us back. The real world needs finances and I have managed to spend the main part of my life avoiding this hefty consideration. My pension-pot is puny as I thought that I would be a famous writer by now. I am not. And the wife is not overly impressed. Therefore the morning, that started off so well, the porn not the cat, started to slide downhill a little.

“Why can’t you write a bestseller?”

“I know. I wish I could.”

“But it would have to be something that people would want to read.”

“I know.”

It was still slipping downhill and towards a precipice when my wife suggested, sex.

“Sex sells.”

“Perhaps I could write some erotica?”

“I don’t really think it’s you.”

“Cheers.”

So, I am officially a sad old git who can’t get it up for a swift chase of chapters that would titivate the secretly saucy.

“Dildos and Stockings!”

The morning was starting to look up again.

“Why don’t I set up an internet shop and sell dildos and stockings? Buy a pair of stockings and get a dildo, of your choice, free.”

She had my attention.

” I think that you have something there.”

The idea had begun to harden in our minds. 

Dildos and Stockings. It’s great name.It could just work.

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At last, things are looking up. 

Property-porn, here we come.