Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Nature of the Beast

Well, it's another day in Britain, and yet another child has been mauled to death by a dangerous dog.

Four-year-old Jean-Paul Massey, from Liverpool, was killed by a pit-bull terrier at his grandmother's home. As the family mourns, pit-bull owners and breeders around the world prepare their defences in supporting the keeping of these supposedly-domesticated animals as pets.

Here's the simple issue we are faced with: nature did not make pit bulls. These dogs were bred, by humans, for violence nearly 200 years ago and the genetic make-up of the dog dictates that they will always be dangerous.

'According to one RSPCA inspector, quoted in The Independent (21 May 1991, page 3), "They're bred to kill. No other dog is like them". ' (
And we wonder why these dogs turn on our children and kill them.

Even the United Kennel Club (, stout supporter of all dogs and largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, tells us the breeds were bred as 'catch-dogs' in the 19th Century to hunt boar and to keep livestock under control. The Kennel Club states they combine 'the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the bulldog. The result was a dog that embodied all of the virtues attributed to great warriors: strength... indomitable courage.'

Do warriors sound like friendly household pets?

Jean-Paul Massey's parents don't think so. In fact, I think the owners of the pit bull showed a distinct lack of courage by feeling the need to keep a violent dog as a pet.

Owning a dangerous dog and being surprised when it mauls a child is similar to using the butt of a Beretta as a hammer, then feeling unfairly treated when a round unloads and blows off your hip-bone. Perhaps now we'll take responsibility for our actions, before it happens again.

I'll never forget time when a violent, crazed dog squeezed under the school gate and chased the pupils around the playground, jaws snapping. I was 10. We scattered, screaming. I was one of the first to dive into the classroom and slam my back against the door. I watched from the window as the sternest teacher in the school marched out into the yard with a rolled-up newspaper, taking the dog's attention off the pupils. In retrospect, that's one of the bravest things I've ever seen a man do.

Later that week a dog handler from the RSPCA visited the school. I learned a valuable lesson about interacting with dangerous dogs: Don't interact.

The Dog Handler's Advice:
Don't make eye contact. Locking eyes is an invitation to fight.
Don't smile. Smiling bears teeth. Another invitation.
Don't run. Dogs can run faster.
Do stand still, like you're a tree. Sure, the dog might pee on you. But dog pee washes off. Dog teeth-marks don't.

This was in the early nineties- a time when dog attacks were frequently making the papers. The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act- outlawing the breeding, sale, exchange or ownership of the pit bull and all cross-breeds related to it, had recently been implemented.

Jean-Paul Massey's death clearly indicates that, once again, the British government have done little but deliver more bureaucracy and big talk. Both Labour and the Conservatives failed to protect the country's inhabitants by allowing dog owners to hide the genetic history of the dog, thereby squeezing out through loopholes in the law.

I would have thought it was a pretty simple process- If a dog shows any indication of being bred from banned breeds, it should only be kept and controlled by recognised institutions- the police, the RSPCA, the military, or a respected scientific research organisation. In short, only organisations that are trained to handle these dogs professionally should be allowed to keep them- and even then, only with good reason. If they don't need them, the dog should be destroyed.

That's the nature of the beast.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Meeting James Ellroy

‘As long as it gets me print, I’ll continue to perform in an exuberant manner.’
-James Ellroy

‘AMERICA!’ He screams into the microphone.

Behind the microphone stand James Ellroy begins to recite a segment of his long-awaited latest novel, Blood’s a Rover. The stage lights of Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre, the latest venue in his UK tour, douse him in a macabre red light. This is probably at his request, the colour tone enhancing the noir feel evident in his work. This production design is brought to you by Waterstones, who’s events are described as ‘superb’ by The Independent.

In the scene Mr Ellroy is reading, two kids are staking out a woman’s house with the intention of breaking in and stealing her underwear. No Ellroy novel would be complete without a dab of depravity.

Throughout the reading, Ellroy, 61, dressed low-key in a brown-green jumper and chinos, stands with his feet unusually far apart. And doesn’t just read the text- he acts it out; he lives it. If his writing describes that a character ‘yawned’, he’ll stretch the word as he reads it and he’ll lean back, injecting his work with vivid onomatopoeia. He goes on to snore into the mic and grab his crotch, as if the characters he imagined have invaded the body of their creator.

It is evident that ‘”The Reverand” James Ellroy', as he acceptably calls himself, has the same searing enthusiasm for reading as he does writing. In fact, after an introduction compiling memorized quotes from other writers including WH Auden, who he describes as ‘A British poofter’, he declares in no uncertain terms: ‘I live for words.’

It is presumably Ellroy’s intention, by way of this book tour, to make us read a HELL of a lot of them. Blood’s a Rover is the third in his ‘Underworld USA’ trilogy, and he advises us that unless you have read American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand- each 600 pages a piece- we won’t fully appreciate the final instalment. Regardless, he holds up Blood’s a Rover like a preist holds up a bible and barks, ‘Buy this fucking book. It’ll bite your boogaloo.’
It’s going to be an expensive night for me.

After reading a segment of his work, he welcomes our ‘most invasive questions’. Through audience interrogation we learn that he was influenced heavily by Don DeLillo’s Libra (A book I plan to read), but most of his inspiration can be put down to ‘shit-kicking by women’ – possibly why most of his male characters are, as he puts it, ‘boozed-up dope fiends.’ It’s therefore believable when he says he financed his divorces with ghost-written film scripts. We learn of his major influences, who he cites as ‘Gay Edgar Hoover’, ‘Howard Dracula Hudson’ and ‘Tricky Dick Nixon.’ His anger at the history of American politics- certainly the periods he has lived through- oozes out of him evidently, although he never accuses anyone directly. In fact, he makes it clear that he ‘would never criticise or rag on (his) own country on foreign soil.’ His affinity for his own country is apparently so strong that he claims the only travel he will do is for book tours. Ellroy has a lot of passion for his home town of LA, but still describes it as the kind of place where ‘you come on vacation and go home on probation’.

He goes on to describe someone he knew as an ‘underworking cashew-dicked cocksucker’. My lack of shorthand skills prevents me from jotting the name of the recipient of that epithet. I will remember, though, Ellroy wiggling his smallest finger and a bout of laughter from the audience.

A young man in the audience asks how he felt about the movies that had been made from his books. Mr. Ellroy responds by saying he is more than aware that his books are ‘politically incorrect and unfilmable,’ but he admits that, in Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of L.A. Confidential (1997), he felt leads Kim Basinger and Russell Crowe ‘lacked chemistry’. Overall he was ‘nothin’ but grateful’ for everything that Hollywood had done for him, including opening him up to an immense new audience. It's understandable- I wouldn't have heard of him without the film.

I ask him if he had any advice for budding writers. Mr. Ellroy’s response: ‘Don’t write what you know. Write what you always wanted to read, but nobody wrote.’ Valid, trend-bucking and vaguely familiar. Maybe he was already asked somewhere. Maybe many writers say this. (But as it happens, I’m writing something that fits Mr. Ellroy’s bill: stay tuned for Once Upon a Time in Manchester, coming to a cinema near you when I get my Goddamn act together...)

Mr Ellroy rounds off with one more memorized quote: the last stanza of Dylan Thomas’ ‘In My Craft or Sullen Art’.

‘Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.’

He thanks us and walks off stage.

In the foyer I manage to buy Blood’s a Rover and American Tabloid, but they are out of The Cold Six Thousand. That will have to be an Amazon job.

In the signing queue I contemplate whether it would be just too cheeky to leave my blog card with him. I’m the fan of his work. Would I be out of order asking him to read my work?

At the front of the queue I decide to play it safe. He signs Blood’s a Rover, with a dedication, and he agrees to a photo. I give my camera to the man from Waterstones and as he presses the shutter, Mr. Ellroy growls like a dog.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Bush came to power illegally
And started a war that’s quite evil; he
Couldn’t get out
Of Iraq but did shout,
‘I hope men and fish exist peacefully!’

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Modern Woman has Shot Herself in the Foot

“Garth, marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries!”

- Wayne (Mike Meyers), Wayne’s World

A recent article in the Telegraph (6/8/09) outlines a very serious issue in Britain- and most of the developed world.

“‘Some women have become ball-breakers,’ says Francine Kaye, known professionally as The Divorce Doctor, with an eponymous website. ‘It's not entirely our fault, because the demands of the workplace have changed us, and brought out our more masculine side. But unfortunately we're taking that home with us every evening into the domestic sphere, and often bullying our men into submission.’”

This article sums up why so many of life’s problems occur- whether it is in the workplace, as part of family life or involving relationships.

Some months ago, after doing a lot of anthropology research online, I learned something that would change the way I think from that moment on. Ten thousand years ago, women needed to be protected. Like today, they were generally physically weaker than men. Civilized society had not been formed. Saber-toothed tigers, and other life-threatening creatures, could not be tamed or domesticated. Women needed protecting from these ferocious animals as well as other massive dangers- including, of course, those brought by other humans. These dangers are now, largely, absent. At times of prehistoric strife, there were no police, call-centres, supermarkets or maintenance men (or maintenance women, for that matter) - the man HAD to take care of any problem. He was responsible, solely, for finding food, making warmth and ensuring safety. If he didn’t fulfill these duties, his spouse and baby- and likely he himself- would die.

Today, if a man doesn’t pull his shit together and take care of things, the woman just divorces him. It is, I’m guessing, harder to offer women anything they need that they can’t already get themselves. This could be why “51% of women under 50 are single” (in Britain). –

Despite this growing female independence, women will always have needs. I call these requirements ‘the three Ps’- provision, protection, and you know what the third one is.

It cannot be denied that, as women gain more equality, both men and women behave less and less like our sexually respective anthropological ancestors. As the divorce rates rise around the world, is this a sign that women are becoming harder for men to please? I suspect that, in days gone by when gender roles were more defined, it was a lot easier for couples to stay together.

You may be wondering what decade- or century- I’m from, but regardless, family life in Britain needs to re-stablise. Can we quell the spiralling divorce rate? Are women to blame for this? Do we even need marriage anymore? Without the suffragette movement- a time when women like Emily Davidson died for women’s rights- would women be happier with less equality and hence less responsibility? Would men be happier with the imbalance?

I am all for mutual respect between men and women. I would never encourage people to purposefully make women feel bad. But the evidence seems to suggest that sexual equality is impossible. Men and women are different. It is this difference- and society’s masking of it- that is preventing many people from living happy lives.

The situation in Britain may be different to that in other parts of Europe. Of what I’ve seen of European TV, it seems that most of it is chauvinistic innuendo-based programming- thinly veiled pornography for men. Tarrant On TV, a British programme celebrating the most daring and usually the dumbest TV output from around the world, features Italy’s smutty shows on a regular basis.

Italy has the seventh lowest divorce rate in the world.

The countries with the lowest three divorce rates are Libya, Georgia and Mongolia. Women in these war-torn and oppressive countries don’t have a great deal of rights.

On the flipside, World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index says Iceland is the most sexually equal country- scoring ‘4’ on a scale of 0-1. (I don’t get this measurement either.) Guardian says Icelanders are the “least hung up people in the world.”

In ’08 Iceland had the highest divorce rate in Europe. In ’07 it was Sweden- the country the Forum claimed was best for women’s rights. Interestingly,, a Swedish newspaper, claims 60% of marriages in their country are failing.

On the whole it seems that the more rights women have in a country, the harder it is to maintain a marriage as a citizen there. On the flipside, more rights for women allow them a better quality of life. It can be suggested, then, that marriage is not the way forward in any country in this day and age.

I would have thought the idea of couples agreeing on masculine and feminine roles in the household would have been a start. Various newspaper websites I have trawled through while researching this seem to suggest that women taking household tasks away from men (calling a tradesman in to fix something, for instance) cause a lot of domestic disputes.

If equality is what is being sought in this debate, then I might as well suggest that both men and women are equally responsible for the growing failure of marriage and sustainable relationships in the 21st century. My personal opinion is that total sexual equality is an unattainable goal. Everybody is different, and one cannot suggest that all women should be, and one day will be equal to all men. That ‘difference’ makes equality difficult to define, but I’ll give it a shot: the further away we get from the cave, a time when the men hunted and the women mothered, the less happy everyone will be with each other.

Anyway, pass me that spear. I’ll get something in for tea.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Global Warming is Inevitable

‘It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.’
-T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The Metro, the paper found on most buses in Britain, recently published a photograph of a melting iceberg- a familiar but poignant image in today’s ever-warming world. This particular iceberg, however, had a vaguely facial appearance to it- an elongated enclave resembling feminine lips, a distorted, long nose of melting ice, and one long, shadowy eye-like ledge. This crumbling, frozen mass seemed trapped in the centre of the otherwise smooth walls of the iceberg. On the left of the picture, a section of the iceberg wall juts over the space where you’d imagine the other eye to be. Under the arctic sun, a stream of ice water falls from this space, gushing into the freezing sea below.

The paper suggested that the face was that of Mother Nature herself, crying over the damage done to her planet in the short space of time humans had lived on it.

There was, however, one angle not covered by the piece- an issue seemingly unnoticed by the paper and even the United Nations. I thought I should provide that angle. It may have proved too radical, however, as it didn’t make it onto the letters page.

The ‘Tears of Mother Earth’ photograph (3/9/09) was excellent, and another vivid reminder of what we are doing to the planet. However, I doubt humankind will take heed from Mother Nature’s supposed warning. We’ve been powerless to stop our own ravaging of the planet for 1.6 million years- when man first harnessed the power of fire. This was the beginning of global warming- our harmful effect on the planet. The trend cannot be ‘stopped’, as the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon suggested. But it is important that we delay this devastation as much as we can by encouraging the use of more efficient power sources than oil, petrol and wood.

It has been brought to my attention, since sending this letter, that I’m right. Not regarding my eco-thoughts, though; just the fact that my ideas are too far-fetched for newspapers. My original argument was this: the first fire that man created was the first step towards today’s extremes of global warming. The ability to burn things, as the Jungle Book’s King Louie reminds us, is what sets us apart from every other species on the planet. (‘Give me the power, of man’s Red Flower so I can be like you!’)

Yes, we are a million miles (and years) away from Paleolithic flint-bashing. But nature gave us the gift of combustion. I think nature made us harm the planet. I’m surprised so few people agree with me. But fair enough: it has only been since the industrial revolution- starting at the end of the 18th century- which our polluting habits have started to take their toll on the Earth.

It has also been brought to my attention that, even though the planet is heating now, it will inevitably cool off- then heat up again. This is due to ‘Milankovitch cycles’, natural patterns in the change in the Earth’s temperature.

My point is that we can’t stop it. Our reliance on cars to get from A to B, and our need for oil to keep the lights on around the world, show no sign of letting up. I’m just going to keep separating my waste for recycling and using public transport where I can, but I won’t be waging war on Shell Oil and ranting at passers-by from my tree-house.

Not in the near future, at least...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Falling Gold: A Dream

‘Heaven and Earth are not humane; they treat the people as straw dogs. The Sage is not humane; he treats the people as straw dogs.’
-Dao De Jing

The totalitarian government is a monster with many faces. Somewhere, behind the metropolitan sheen of the city, lies a terrible, deviant power. The people are afraid. But out in the village, the city could be another country. They just don’t bother us at all.

Until now.

I am summoned to the city- by whom, I don’t know. My guess is, they realised there’s no point fighting fire with fire. Why not send in me, a nice guy who won’t pull any tricks?

I leave my family behind, abandoning the simple barbecue and all the day’s serenity. The city needs me.
I am taken to a building much taller than I realised existed there. We don’t have much money back home... Nobody does. Who built this thing?

I’m alone in the lobby when the lift behind me pings. I turn around: the lift is pure gold. My yellowed reflection parts vertically as the doors open. The interior: more gold. The walls, floor, and ceiling all connect into a sickeningly opulent prism that I feel compelled to step into.

The elevator rises with a jerk. I’m lifted so high and so fast that my guts slam into my pelvis, and I swallow hard, ears popping.

The door opens. I can hear the sound of construction- a distant, clanging sound from below. Am I safe? Gold bars are stacked all around me, and these piles stretch down much further than they should. I realise there is no floor beyond the lift.

Silently, like the door, the floor of the lift retracts, and the infinite reflections of the floor and ceiling start to narrow. It’s a trap. I back myself to the wall, but soon there is nothing underneath me.
I fall. The clanging gets louder, and rows and rows of gold blur upward into each other.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Falling Dream

“It's only when gravity starts to take over you begin to think about your body.”
-David Soul, AKA ‘Hutch’ from Starsky and Hutch

I’m soaring up to the planet’s boundary, to what is technically space, vast and freezing. The land I know as home, it feels- and is- distant and I miss it already.

The curvature of the Earth is clearly visible. It was daytime when I left Earth; right now, the time of day can’t be classified. It feels like night, like the time on Scout camp when we crept out of the tent and lay gazing at the stars. It’s colder now, though. And there are an incalculable number of galaxies blinking at me, millions of light years away. The universe, sprawling, is scattered haphazardly in every direction. But when I look back down at the Earth- which is incomprehensibly immense- the stars vanish from my peripheral vision and the glow of my home planet is all I can see. The ground looks rocky and uninhabited, but in that rugged terrain there are entire cities teeming with life, reminding me of how truly small I am- how small we all are.

And then I fall.

There’s a blurry ache in my chest that used to be a recognisable heartbeat- my pulse is so high that every artery wants to escape my skin and live forever in the clouds. My back arches. I’m forced by gravity to look upwards- the blackness of space has already disappeared and I’m surrounded by blue ozone. An occasional wisp of cirrus cloud whips across my face like speeding fog, leaving cold moisture on my skin to be dragged backwards over my scalp.

I’ve never been so conscious of the air around me, yet despite this- and now, because of the velocity of my own body through this air- I can’t breathe any of it in.

The detail of the land below me, albeit minimal, becomes clearer and spreads wider like a dramatic camera trick I’ve seen in countless flashy films. I can see the rugged texture of farmland. The ocean is out of sight.

I’m almost home.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Is This Some Kind of Joke?

‘Here’s a little impression for you. “Kaw, Kaw, BANG, Fuck, I’m dead!”’
-Michael Wincott, The Crow

There are many reasons why someone might kill a pigeon and stuff its carcass into the receptacle for milk bottles around the side of my house. I have fallen out with numerous people this year- some men, but mostly women- people who have proven themselves to be depraved lunatics, including women who punch people to feel good, and women who cling to you like a leech, then threaten to commit suicide when extricated. I have not seen or heard from these people in months. Why would they do this to me now?

Was this carcass delivery an attack against my parents? Did their apparently horror-free lives have a macabre element to them that I did not know about?

My mum, as nice a lady as she is, once walked through a large expanse of the Yorkshire Dales brandishing a sheep’s skull, the curved handle of a walking stick fitted through the eye sockets. Trekkers heading in the opposite direction were glancing horrified at the skull with lips turned up in disgust.

A basic biology class could be aided in some way by the inclusion of a sheep’s skull, found in a field. Mum has worked in early years education most of her adult life. Due to this she has a mind frame that weighs up everything she sees and does, and whether it could enhance her pupils’ education.

Now an advisory teacher, my mum deals more with education staff as opposed to the children themselves. So there was less of a reason, now, for her to need a dead pigeon. Even if she did need it, why temporarily store it in the milk cage? Mum likes her hygiene. I wondered whether this quirkiness was a habit she hadn’t got out of.

She’d been gardening for pretty much the whole morning whereas I had just stepped outside to put some empty milk bottles out. I thought she would have noticed.

I went back to my desk to hammer out some flash fiction I’d been working on.

Hours later I checked the milk cage and the morbid ovarian souvenir was still there. Its feet were still clinging to one of the lower bars; one wing was splayed, as if in mid-flight, and the tip of the wing jutted out from under the cage lid. The neck of the bird rested against the bar of the cage, head lolling outside of it. It looked like it had been alive when it first got there, and had tried to clamber out.

I found my mum in the kitchen, filling up the kettle, so I asked her why there was a dead pigeon in the milk cage. She considered me, bemused, as if I’d developed premature dementia and I’d begun spouting the kind of gibberish more commonly associated with the geriatric. Mum craned her neck around the side of the porch door tentatively. When she saw the mangled bird her top lip upturned, aghast, like the woman who spotted her sheep skull years ago.

‘Matthew, that’s horrible!’

She said this as if I was guilty of killing it myself - or as if I was playing some kind of unhygienic prank.

She got Dad to remove it and respectfully dump it in the wheelie-bin.

Is this going to be a solitary incident, I thought, or a sick hate campaign? An attack from a crazy ex or a maniacal stalker?

A few days later, Mum pointed out a mark on the window in her bedroom. I may have found the body, but Mum had solved the mystery.

Mum and Dad’s bedroom- cuboid-shaped- protrudes from the sloped roof of the house. The vertical window and ceiling look almost like a shelf on the outside. The pigeon must have seen nothing but clouds, a few trees, unaware of the reflective quality of cold, hard glass. Its neck broke and it died on impact.

After hitting the window, the bird presumably rolled off the roof and landed, by fluke, in the milk cage.

Somebody phone Colombo, I thought. Tell him we don’t need him anymore.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Publication: The Machines

My Science Fiction flash, The Machines, was accepted by new publication Gemini Magazine. Check it out here:

Monday, 2 November 2009

Quarterly Summary 3

‘I love you, but sooner or later you’re gonna have to realise the fact that you’re a Goddamn moron.’

-The Dude (Jeff Bridges), The Big Lebowski

This is a line I would accept from any individual and take it as truth at the moment, as I recently realised I have been involved in numerous ridiculous and memorable events over the course of this year, but failed to put some of them into the appropriate previous summaries- blogs detailing the highlights of my year, three months at a time. Hence I will slam them in here- the third 2009 summary. They even get their own ‘special’ section…

1) Meeting Danny Dyer

Danny Dyer drops the heavy end of the sledgehammer on the mat. ‘Fackin’ ‘ell,’ he breathes, and sweat sprays from his lips.

‘Come on Danny,’ screams the instructor. ‘Keep it going! Dig deep!’

Dyer, star of Human Traffic, The Football Factory and The Business, is put through his paces at Quannum Fitness, Saddleworth. But he isn’t just here to work out. He’s presenting Britain’s Deadliest Men, a daring TV series for Bravo. Tonight’s subject: The Butlin brothers, my Mixed Martial Arts instructors.

Dyer picks up the sledgehammer again, wincing through exhaustion, and slams it onto the lip of the tyre. And again. The thuds reverberate around the brick walls of the gym as the camera crew capture the graft.

Around him, gym members are working through an intense circuit. On one station a man steps up and down from the floor to a bench, working the legs and cardio. Next to him a fighter does press-ups. Another does sit-ups. When the buzzer goes for the last time, we are all drained. Some of us have fights coming up and conditioning of this intensity is essential for them. For the rest of us, it can only do us good.
After training we are all properly introduced to Mr. Dyer and Ian Butlin mentions my blog. I hand Dyer my blog card and he says he’ll check it out. (I’d also given one to the director at the start of the class; Ian pulled up ‘Most Embarrassing Moment’ on screen and had the guy reading it in the reception area.)

I had a cameo in the show when it aired on Bravo, apparently.

2) Image Risk

Here’s the deal. I was 26, intelligent, articulate, and reasonably popular. Most people who knew me knew this. They also knew that I had a memory disability. I’ve always found it better to disclose this information to people, rather than pretend the memory issue doesn’t exist. That way when I make a mistake, which could happen at any time and could have any number of unforeseen consequences, people can at least relate to some degree.

Hence, when The Oldham Chronicle wanted to interview me regarding my role in the council as a disabled employee, I accepted. It was a risk that I do not regret; however I am aware that people could typecast me. It might sound a bit arrogant but my eloquence masks my disability and people frequently assume the problem is smaller than it is- and sometimes they assume I’m making it up altogether. (It doesn’t help that I can remember massively long film quotes and the odd song lyric, but forget pretty much everything else.) But I got my picture alongside the article in the Chronicle, circulation 18,062.

3) The World’s Fastest Man

May in Manchester. It is freezing and has started to rain. Despite the typically crap weather, people cram the pavements of Deansgate on either side, some climbing into the alcoves of second-floor windows. The road itself is mostly cordoned off and the ground has been covered with a special running-track material. Athletes from around the world, wearing next to nothing, are limbering up for the Bupa Great
CityGames 150-metre sprint.

It was warm when I set off so I didn’t bring a coat. I buy a bright blue plastic poncho from a man but it’s too late and I recognise the sharp pain in my throat as the oncoming of tonsillitis. I put the thought to one side, not thinking about the prescription pills I’ll be popping and the time I’ll need off work. Other, more engaging things have my attention.

The high pitched crack of the starting pistol ricochets off the walls of the Deansgate shops and is channelled past all of the people on the street. The athletes burst out of the blocks, but a second crack is heard and they saunter to a halt. This is one of many false starts. The women, mostly black, are ripped- all have defined six-packs, wiry arms and solid, powerful thighs. They constantly shake themselves off to keep the lactic acid flowing as they return to the starting blocks.

Amidst all the umbrellas- the street looking like a product-endorsed version of the scene from Foreign Correspondent - very little can be seen of the track or the athletes, especially if you’re a short-arse like me. But somebody- perhaps the BBC who may be or may not have been televising the event- has provided an immense LCD screen high above the street, stretching from one side to the other.
It is through this screen that I see British runner Marlon Devonish represent his country (he got his arse kicked) and more memorably watch the World’s Fastest Man, Usain Bolt, as he ‘clocked 14.35 seconds - smashing the previous world's best by 0.40secs’ in the men’s 150m sprint. (

After this, I do the most obvious thing: go home, neck painkillers and go to bed.


1) Publication

I’ve done a lot of first drafts and not much polishing off (so to speak) recently, however new publication Gemini ( published my Sci-Fi flash The Machines, a story I’m quite proud of.

Some weeks later, I wrote a letter to the Oldham Chronicle. It regarded an investigation into Oldham’s nightlife made by the BBC’s Panorama programme. Panorama’s aim seemed to be to demonise Oldham and paint it to be a town full of alcoholic psychopaths and rapists. There is a lot of truth in the claim, but what really pissed me off was that the programme laid all the blame on the bars. Nobody seemed to be using any basic logic or common sense when making the documentary. There was a perspective I needed to put across. I wrote in to say that PEOPLE, not alcohol, cause the problems, and if people’s attitudes improved, so would the town. What I didn’t include was that I expect it will be another thirty years before Oldham enters the twenty-first century and people start acting like adults and show respect for each other. And even that’s if the problems are addressed and people are educated as of NOW.

Phew. Did I mention that I consider Oldham to be a shit town?

2) My High-Profile Reader

Hello, Hywel Teague, editor of Fighters Only magazine (UK).

3) BBC

Following up an advert in the Northern Film Network Email circular, I managed to get a place on an open day at the Manchester offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The event was for people interested in the position of Trainee Broadcast Journalist. Putting aside the nagging feeling that I was biting off a chunk eight times bigger than my own mouth, I booked a day off work and went down to the BBC reception on Oxford Rd, signed in and slapped on the name badge.

Two of last year’s successful applicants delivered an overview of the traineeship, details of their experience and their advice. The general message? You have as much chance getting a job with the BBC as you have winning the national lottery and meeting the unicorn from the advert. But if you can get in, it’s ‘very rewarding’.

Northwest Tonight presenter Gordon Burns gave the next speech. He told us that, as a young lad, he’d been to his local paper to get a job. The editor told him to go to college. He did college. He went back to the editor. The editor told him to get a degree. He put his foot down and said no: the three years he would have spent at university would be more worthwhile as three years experience on a paper. Hence, the editor hired him.

That kind of foresight and knowledge and balls seems to be the requirement of employees in media- something that university, I can say from experience, fails to instil.

But that’s another blog altogether.

While on this paper Mr. Burns saw a job advertised at the BBC in the sports department. He requested the application and when it arrived, as he described, he went out and got drunk. On returning he slammed it straight into the typewriter and hammered it out. He then stuck it in an envelope, went out and posted it, then went to bed.

On waking, he realised what he’d done and assumed he’d flushed a prime opportunity down the toilet. He forgot about it.

A month later, he got a phone call inviting him to an interview. He claims this was just because the heads wanted to see ‘what he looked like’.

The interview was going badly, with only two of the three panel members speaking. The third kept his head down until the subject of football arose, at which time Mr. Burns and the third panel member started having their own massive conversation. It turned out that the guy was familiar with an amateur-made football newspaper- that Mr. Burns himself had made and sold. Hence, the guy was aware of his skill, and Mr. Gordon Burns has had a successful career at the BBC ever since.

I will need slightly more luck than that, as my BBC application is currently inaccessible- I got half way through, my computer crashed and now it won’t open again. I can’t even start afresh because of the details that I’ve already submitted. I asked the BBC, but they haven’t got back to me. I’m now wondering, if I found the application form alone mind-bendingly problematic, would I even float for a second in the turbulent waters of BBC journalism?

4) To conclude

Hmm. How to round this off. How to end on a positive note…

There are a thousand things I could say to sum up my current situation, but they all warrant blogs themselves. I’ve got a good set of mates, a secure job (albeit financially insufficient) and a loving family. The plan? Find a job I love that I could actually live off, sort out this ridiculous memory of mine, move out of this Goddamn house, find a decent woman and make a name for myself through my writing.

I gotta go. Shit to do.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Publication: How Not to Win a Writing Competition

Wrirter’s Bloc is a website featuring writing... about writing.

Here’s my article on a six-word memoir competition. Have a go at the quiz! (Just don’t scroll down too far- the answers are at the bottom.)

Friday, 30 October 2009

Published? Most Embarrassing Moment is a website featuring the most cringe-worthy tales in existence, as told by you- the people. I uploaded my story, Most Embarrassing Moment, to BadHap. At first, my story seemed too long and the end was cut off on uploading, but the admins reconfigured the site and the whole of it is on view.

So, not exactly an acceptance like my other published work, but still a site probably more visited than my own.

By the way, this isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, fuck it. You might as well not follow the link. No, seriously.

PS my thanks go to Tom Charnock for pointing this site out to me. Cheers, dude.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

All I Am

It was a hard day. This haiku came to mind.

I am just a man
With a disability
I’m not a genius

Wednesday, 28 October 2009



Hyenas scrounging,

Like ruthless, gathering flies

On rotting gazelle

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Publication: Dead Chinese Girls

I’ve had a few pieces of writing published in online magazines. It has come to my attention that most people who are serious about writing are not only getting their work published but are linking up their published-online stories to their own blog. So I figured that, one day at a time, that’s what I should do. So here’s my first published piece, Dead Chinese Girls, as featured in Flash Fire 500. Enjoy.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Down and Out in the Purple Pussycat

‘Look at ‘em, ordinary fuckin people, I hate ‘em.’
-Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), Repo Man

Another broken scene in what passes for my life occurred last night in an utter shithole called Purple Pussycat, a weird club near Granada TV on the outskirts of Manchester City Centre.

Before we even got in there it occurred to me I needed the dump of all dumps. Ironically, that’s one way of describing the club itself. Upon entry I made a beeline past the faux-eighties d├ęcor, through the mostly male crowd and past a fish tank full of piranhas, trying to retain my composure.

I found the cubicles behind the urinals that were shaped like open female mouths with giant red lips. The toilets were horrendous- paper everywhere, piss on the seat, puddles on the floor. I shut the door and found the lock had been ripped off. Let’s get this over with, I thought. I held the door shut with one outstretched hand, hovered, and got on with it. Unfortunately it’s not easy to push in both directions (if you get me) and, due to the ridiculous overcrowding of the toilet block, it wasn’t long before somebody barged in and I inadvertently head-butted the door. He apologised and wandered off. The sinks had no soap.

Agreeing between the three of us that the club was shit, we only stayed for the one drink. The women were nondescript.

I arrived home to find that Stephen Gately of Boyzone fame had died of a suspected drug overdose. Maybe he thought it was time for a New Beginning. Boom boom.

Regardless. I looked the club up online. The official site was badly designed and misspelled the word ‘piranha’.

I always judge a venue by its toilet. It’s going to be the first place to get messed up, so if they can keep that clean you can guarantee that the rest of the bar is going to be appropriately hygienic as well. Hence, The Purple Pussycat is on the Black List.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I Am Not A Chef

More haiku.

Chicken simmering

Broken extractor fan whines

I forgot the rice

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Gale

This is my first attempt at Haiku. A traditional form of Japanese poetry, a Haiku is a three-line poem. The first line must have five syllables, the second seven, the third five. Originally Haiku were about nature. This one is too, but many contemporary Haikus are outside of that subject. This one is traditional in that it relates to nature.


The Gale

Hard wind bends the tree
Old man stoops, grips walking stick,
Standing, defiant.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Manbags- A Doomed Trend

‘I don’t make things difficult. That’s just the way they get. All by themselves.’
- Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), Lethal Weapon

There was a poignant moment in the middle of last night while I stood in Rififi, Stalybridge’s most popular nightclub.

I was half-drunk on overpriced Glenfiddich and, according to my mates, dressed like a waiter: something had possessed me to wear black trousers and a white shirt with a loosely fastened white tie. While staring into a dance floor full of fine women, I realised that on that particular night I couldn’t have any of them.

But it was not my office attire damaging my chances. Adding to the jarringly formal monochrome, I was carrying a not-too discreet black Ted Baker man bag.

I have carried this bag on pretty much every night out since January. The reason for this: a short-term memory disability, which has been the bane of my existence since birth. Whereas with most men it is more a fashion accessory, I was hoping that, for me, it would be more an organisational benefit- something that would my life easier.

Prior to buying this bag, I’d got by on nights out by jamming essentials into my pockets: the wallet, the keys (house and sometimes car), the phone, an A7 pocket notebook and a pen. All of this gave the impression that, under my jeans, I was wearing a pair of Megatron’s boxer shorts. The angular shapes jutting from my crotch not only looked weird but felt uncomfortable, particularly when attempting outrageous dance moves. I’d lost track of the amount of times my phone had flown out of my pocket while throwing shapes.

This, I now realise, was a small price to pay.

An A5 man bag allows me to carry a diary and a larger notebook, which helps me to stay organised. I can also throw in painkillers (for sport injuries, maybe… or just to quell the effects of the previous night), blog cards and eye drops and nasal spray for hay fever. Despite these ‘plusses’, the bag is first and foremost a highly powerful woman-repellent.

Last night, like on various nights, a woman walked up to me like I was some kind of mannequin- subhuman- with her nose crinkled, fingering the bag’s strap across my chest.

Suffice to say, it didn’t flick her switch.

She’s not alone. People in Stalybridge (men and women) have voiced their disliking of my man bag as have various people in Oldham. I’ve given it half a year to catch on, but I’m resigned to the fact it isn’t happening.

When people have asked about the bag I have tried every response I could think of- from ‘I am a drug dealer’ (a lie, for the record) to ‘it keeps my stuff correct’ to a general arrogant display of defiance, something along the lines of ‘what does it have to do with you?’

Wow. And I used to be such a nice guy. I sure don’t pull as much as I used to, before I carried the man bag.

Surely, you would have thought, I could have foreseen the barrage of prejudice heaped upon me for making this fashion decision.

Maybe I could. But I was enthused by the number- and calibre- of men already carrying them. Matthew McConaughey, David Beckham, Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Junior have all been photographed in public carrying man bags, as have George Clooney, John Terry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Let’s look to the world of movies- Indiana Jones, whilst venturing through various dangerous regions of the world, carried a brown shoulder bag not dissimilar to those available on the high street today. 

And check out Star Wars. Ever noticed how Chewbacca’s beige satchel blends into his fur?

Nobody would dare take the mick out of those two dudes. However if you’re an unbridled idiot and an overrated fictional character like Joey from Friends, you’ll get an entire episode dedicated to your bag, and people will rip you and call you a homo for half an hour. Or so I read on the Internet. I have an aversion to canned laughter- especially when it is unjustified- hence I avoid Friends like herpes and haven’t seen the episode.


Oh yeah, by the way- remember Barbie? Well, at least the adverts? Remember her fella, ‘Ken’? Guess what the latest model, ‘Metro Ken’, comes with. I’m not even going to say it.

And you might want to check what Jack Bauer has slung over his shoulder in the latest Season of 24…

Aside from the celebrity roll-call, there are men I personally know who carry manbags. All three of them are straight, before you ask, and all three are- or have been- professional cage fighters. One is a well-known instructor of Mixed Martial Arts.

I suppose you can carry a man bag off if you’re a big guy with a shaved head and generally look mean. When you’re a regular 65kg guy, it’s not so easy to master. Even if I reached for the clippers- and I may do soon out of a need for a fresh start- it’s still not going to balance out the potential risk of being a walking fashion disaster.

One other possibility is that I shell out more. I spent £20 on my Ted Baker man bag. Functionally it’s sound, with a long cover flap, a zip pocket for coins on the front, a spacious interior and a couple of hidden pockets. No elastic loop for pens though, or a zip lid for waterproofing. The whole thing is somewhat nondescript- which could be a virtue, but isn’t.

I asked a friend of mine his opinion- he’s usually dripping in Vivienne Westwood and All Saints gear. He knows the fashionista score.

‘If you’re going to carry a bag,’ he suggests, ‘I’d invest in a pimp-arsed man bag. Something like Gucci. But spend a minimum of £100, £120. For you, it would be a worthwhile investment.’

I considered this, but a quick scoot around the trendiest stockists in Manchester proved that bags of this price range don’t look much different from my own. And in a packed, darkened club, which woman would care? All she would see is the black strap, and that doubtful expression would return.

One other issue with wearing a man bag is the slightly different kind of attention you might also get. In one unnameable bar in Oldham, a young, skinny but dodgy-looking man stopped me in the corridor to the toilets. You can forget you’re wearing a bag that light.

‘E’yare mate,’ he said quietly, looking over his shoulder. He tapped the side of his nose. ‘You got any sniff?’

I’d not been asked for drugs before. I’m not proud of it, but I suppose it’s a milestone of sorts. So aside from an affinity with drug dealers, along with some of the most lethally skilled men in Britain, gays and people who are so internationally famous they can wear whatever the hell they like and not have to deal with people’s attitudes, the man bag may not be particularly popular- at least not for the next few years.

For the time being I’ll just go back to more compact notebooks and more jammed pockets, and my man bag will be resigned to the storage unit for all redundant fashion accessories- the cupboard.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


I wrote in to my local paper after a documentary on my town’s light life was shown on BBC1. The Panorama investigation exposed the bar area of the town as being possibly the most violent in the country. However, many people on Facebook complained that it was one-sided and gave the town a bad name. I felt it necessary to remind people of their responsibilities. Here’s my letter, published in the Oldham Evening Chronicle, which they printed pretty much word-for-word.

The recent Panorama documentary on Yorkshire Street, followed by numerous readers’ letters, have failed to hit the nail on the head with regards to the town’s problems.

Even though alcohol is available- sometimes at low prices- in the town, it should not be regarded as the primary cause of the problem. Here’s why:

1) Cheap booze is available through off-licences. Where’s the documentary on them?
2) If you watch the troublemakers on Yorkshire St, a lot of them drink a particular brand known to be ‘reassuringly expensive’- far from the price of the drinks on offer.
3) In Manchester’s Oxford Road, by comparison, students can take advantage of cheap drinks every night of the week. I was a student a few years ago. I saw one fight on Oxford Road in three years. And regrettably, I went out a LOT.
4) It is not uncommon in Oldham to see trouble occur around 9pm- a time when people are only just starting to drink.
5) Most importantly, the only people who are allowed to drink in these bars are ADULTS. Being an adult means taking responsibility for your own actions. If you are violent after a few drinks, it is your fault. Not the booze. Not the bars’.

The solution in Oldham is not to hike up prices (thereby punishing well-intentioned, careful drinkers- and yes, there are a few), but to reprimand the people causing the problems who don’t want to act like adults. We could also educate youngsters in school on the issue of alcohol, as it will undoubtedly be a common theme for the rest of their lives- just like it is for most adults today.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Glimpse of Blackpool

‘The possibility of physical and mental breakdown is now very real. No sympathy for the devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.’
-Hunter S Thompson

…and it’s not big or clever but it’s usually been funny on those rare occasions when I’ve done it. So I knew I was going to.

Vasquez is apparently ahead of us all, literally and figuratively- a few cars in front, cruising in the inside lane. His silver van is loaded with all of all of our bags, and he himself is loaded with a cocktail of Stella, weed and coke. I am just glad to be in Hicks’ car; neither of us has taken anything.

But the night has not yet begun.

As early Noughties’ garage music blasts out of the stereo, Hicks encroaches on Vasquez’s van. Unassumingly, Vasquez pulls left into the middle lane, allowing Hicks to cruise up the inside next to him. I loosen my seatbelt. This is going to be more idiotic than taking the drugs, and I know that explaining an immense pile-up on the M60 could be required of me if this goes wrong. That’s if I survive.

Hicks asks, ‘Are you ready?’ and he winds down my window electronically.

I slacken the seatbelt as far out as I can. ‘Yep. Let’s do it.’

Hicks, pedal-to-the-metal, cruises past Vasquez’s van as I force my bare arse out of the window frame. I have never felt cold air flow over that particular part of me. Through the available space around my body, I can look back and make out Vasquez’s double take- a facial mixture of surprise, horror and amusement. For a moment I think the air is going to bend my whole body in half and suck me out onto the tarmac, Goldfinger style.

Blackpool: The George’s Hotel is not exactly a hotel at all. It’s a budget B’n’B, but that’s all we want. We are the only group of lads in the hotel- the only other guests are 2 large groups of nubile girls. Oh well, I think. I’ve been in worse situations…

Everyone’s queuing up for the shower only there’s an obstacle of sorts- Apone’s on the toilet in the same room with the door wide open, playing with his disturbingly large cock that disappears deep inside the toilet bowl. In order to get showered you’ve got to get past him, and he’s having one of the foulest shits ever smelled. It is like a man has dipped his hand into raw sewage, and is now using it to karate-chop you in the throat.

Apone runs his tongue over the inside of his lips. He looks almost confused. “My mouth tastes like a badger’s arse,” he says.

“I hate that particular taste,” I randomly retort.

“Hudson,” shouts Apone. “My poo’s not coming out right. It’s all wrong!

Hudson, far from a proctologist, admits he does not know what to do about that situation.

We’d all struggled finding lifeguard outfits. Hudson had actually rang me- coincidentally- at the moment I was at the front of the queue in TK Maxx trying to buy some cheap red shorts, as part of that theme. He’d said we’re scrapping the ‘lifeguards’ idea and going as whatever. I got the green light to use the fireman outfit that a flatmate gave me when I left uni all those years ago. So I’m slamming it on in this hotel room, fully aware of it’s power. Women love it. This afternoon we will be out in force: me as a fireman, Apone a cross-dressing black nun, Hudson a cross dressing white, erm, dude, Drake playing Julius Caesar, Burke as Scooby Doo, Hicks as Scuba Steve, Gorman as a Knight and Vasquez as a Mexican Gringo with a technicolour poncho and hat that pretty much covered his entire body like a disguise.

I emerge into the corridor feeling like an absolute pimp- the steel-toecap boots, the heavy trousers that reflect at the cuffs, the braces holding them up covered by the thick warm jacket emblazoned with the reflective strip right across the chest. I don’t need a yellow helmet to get the message across- it would only get robbed by a pisshead anyway.

We line up outside Hudson’s room. One by one, the Fifty is handed to us and we hoover up a short line of coke each. It is time to take on Blackpool.

Tower bar, located directly underneath the iconic Blackpool Tower, is rammed. The windows are blacked out, making it easy to forget what time of day it is. The booze begins to flow.

Scuba Steve lowers his wetsuit to his waist, oozing sweat. The front of his t-shirt, damp from being pressed against his body, reads ‘Swallow- or it’s going in your eye!’ Whoever notices, Scuba will turn around to show them the back, which is emblazoned with the phrase ‘Big fat tip’. Hudson the cross-dresser, flicking his curly wig-locks aside, holds Scuba Steve still and pours Stella down his snorkel. He chokes, pulling the mask off, laughing. Then Scuba Steve darts over to Julius Caesar, kneeling before him, worshipping. ‘Hail Caesar!’ he shouts. Our group joins in the worship, bowing on our knees as holidaymakers look on, perplexed. Caesar laps up the praise. Apone the nun jumps on stage to commandeer the steel pole. He spins around it, veil flowing from his head. Behind him nine TV screens flash in technicolour like one side of an interchanging Rubix Cube. Scooby Doo pushes two French maids off a podium and shakes his arse at the whole bar. When he jumps into the crowd, chicks gather round to stroke his head. Scuba and the Cross Dresser notice the elasticised braces holding up my fireman trousers. They take one each and yank them out as far as they can. When they let go I’m left with two giant red lines down my chest. Someone follows this up with a giant open-handed slap across the stomach. I take the stings like a man, but the Jack Daniels and two types of coke take the edge off.

For the first time in my life I emerge from a busy club, blurry, into blinding afternoon daylight. The night is young.

The next bar looks and feels like the last and the two have started to blend together in my conscience. In this one- or the same one- two policewomen dance together. When I pull out my camera one policewoman pulls the other’s top down and kisses her cleavage, then kisses her on the mouth…

Back at the B’n’B we change back into clubbing wear, slightly to my dismay. I feel stripped of a superpower, human again. Then, as the sun goes down behind Blackpool pier, we head back out to Sanuk, one of the biggest clubs in Blackpool with a capacity of 2300. I will remember little of the club- every stranger I speak to is from some random part of Britain, as is pretty much everyone I have spoken to all day. Other than business employees- shop, bar, club and hotel workers- there doesn’t seem to be a single native of the town, in the town.

The club is rammed. Hicks approaches a random girl, holding out the fabric of his t-shirt between his fingertips. Bemused, she feels the texture between a forefinger and thumb. He leans into her and I can lip-read him saying, ‘that’s boyfriend material.’ Burke, formerly Scooby Doo, has pulled. Hudson, the former cross-dresser, is fuming.

‘Fuck it,’ says Hudson. ‘You know what? I didn’t even like her that much. I’m not bothered about her. He can have her. But if he thinks I’m not texting his missus and dropping him in the shit, he’s unbelievably naive.’

I ask a girl for her number just before we leave. She’s been staring at me all night. She asks me where I’m from then tells me she’s from Derby so she didn’t see that working.

‘Fine,’ I say. ‘Can I just put my hands on your arse?’

She lets me, and it quells the slight sting of missed potential, but then I remember that I acquired some numbers in the afternoon so I tell her she’s fit and Hudson and I walk out of the club, starving. Fast food is fast needed…

Worn out, blurry eyed but full of cheeseburgers and fries from a kebab shop next to the branch of Walkabout that my former manager now runs, we find a taxi. I give the driver the street name. He knows it and agrees to take us there. I am amazed by my own organisation- that I would know to scribble the address of the hotel, even in the state I was when we first set out in the afternoon.

As we wonder into the George, Burke marches out, rucksack on his shoulder. ‘See you later, guys,’ is all he says. Hudson wonders out after him, fuming. I cannot be arsed intervening.

I find our room. Hicks is steaming, lying on a bed banging on about a Youtube video he saw a few days ago.

‘Voldemort. Voldemort. Voldemort,’ he says. ‘Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Harry Potter.’ Then he shrieks, ‘RON WEASLEY????’ He laughs to himself, slurring.

Hudson barges back in the room, running his hands over his newly-grazed face. ‘Oh, mate,’ he says. ‘Oh…’

Hudson explains that he had gone to find Burke to straighten things out and bring him back. Only an argument had broken out, Hudson had swung at him, not even reached him, pirouetted on the spot and fallen face-first on the road. He tells us this as he picks at a scab on his arm.

Hicks, his face pressed into the pillow away from the increasing daylight, has gone quiet. Hudson quietly taunts him over his ex-girlfriend.

‘Ron Weasley’s got Michelle… He’s kidnapped her… He’s gonna bum her, Hicks!’

‘Right then, so shut the fuck up,’ snaps Hicks. Then, mumbling, ‘Fuck Ron Weasley. Fuck him.’

The sun is streaming through the window now and I am desperate for sleep but my eyelids aren’t opaque enough to block out the light and seagulls are shrieking all around the hotel and I’m drifting off.

Hudson doesn’t know what to do. He mentions the array of weed plants he’d shown me when I’d stopped by at his house. He says they aren’t there any more.

Hicks snores loudly. We are the only two awake in the room now.

Hudson had moved the plants to a different house. He’d given one to Burke to help set him up, along with growing equipment, as Burke had been struggling for work. Any money made from that, Hudson had told him, would be split between them down the middle. Later, Hudson had found out that Burke had stolen a shitload of money from his parents. They disowned him when they found out, and haven’t spoken to him since. The chance of Burke robbing Hudson was high.

‘I am a drug dealer, mate. That’s what I am. I know it. And I know it’s wrong.’ Even though he knew of his own ills there were certain crimes he didn’t want to be a part of, people he wanted nothing to do with. Thieves. ‘Do I go round and threaten to cut up his parents until I get everything back?’

I advise him against this. As if I know anything.

‘Or,’ he says, mind ticking, ‘do I use the spare key, go in while he’s at work, take everything, lock the door behind me then boot it in and move the plants to another house? Ring him and say, “mate, you won’t believe what’s happened. We’ve been robbed.”’

‘That sounds much safer to me,’ I say, drifting.

‘I’m gonna have to do it, aren’t I?’

‘You’re gonna have to step forward and do something.’

Outside the sun has risen and seagulls screech and swoop around the hotel and a street-cleaning vehicle hums as it crawls past, sucking up copious amounts of takeaway wrappers, used condoms, lost shoes and probably the skin off Hudson’s arm that was left on the tarmac. I pull the covers over my head to shut it all out but I’m thinking about

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Metrolink- Good News?

Another unpublished letter sent to various local papers- this time regarding the new public transport announcements.

Jesus. I used to blog about coke binges, irresponsible driving, insane parties and female ejaculation. Now what am I covering? Trams.

God help me.

Anyway, here’s this letter I hammered out:

So the proposals to bring the Metrolink to Oldham are going ahead. Great news. But wait a minute- weren’t we told we wouldn’t get this extension, because we voted against the congestion charge that was supposed to fund it? It feels to me like the government are admitting, by way of this decision, that they lied about the need for the congestion charge. I wonder what else they lied about…

Monday, 17 August 2009


A reader’s letter sent in to local newspaper The Metro claimed that people opposed to bullfighting should presumably be vegans, as cows in Britain are also killed for ‘the pleasure’ we get from eating them. This moronic view angered me enough to write in the following response. It wasn’t published.

Charlie Roberts (13/8/09) clearly does not understand the basic dietary requirements of the average human being. We are omnivores. We eat meat because out bodies require protein, and we have eaten it for thousands of years. We don’t just eat it ‘for pleasure’. It is also recommended that you get this protein from a variety of sources. To be healthy, meat should be one of these.

What I didn’t mention in this letter- possibly being why it wasn’t published- was a description of how animals are treated in slaughterhouses in the UK. Cattle in Britain are stunned before a quick dispatch and pain is kept to a minimum.

During bullfighting, on the other hand, ‘the animal is stabbed repeatedly until paralysed. When the bull finally collapses, the spinal cord is cut, but the animal may still be conscious as his ears and tail are cut off and kept as a trophy.’- (League Against Cruel Sports,

I will continue to eat meat as part of a balanced diet, but I won’t support bullfighting.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Quarterly Summary 2

“That’s what life is. Just a bunch of moments. Most of them are lousy, but once in a while you get a good one.”
- Molly (Lesley Ann Warren), Life Stinks

The second quarter of 2009 has not been so maniacally twisted as the first. However it has still been punctuated by some moments of excellence and absurdity.

1) Publication
The writing has been flowing as of late, and ideas have come to me in abundance. Flash Fire 500, who previously published my story Dead Chinese Girls, also accepted The Hit from me. Check it out, along with a host of other flash fiction pieces, at After this acceptance I then uploaded the cringeworthy tale Most Embarrassing Moment to, a site dedicated to the reciting of the most uncomfortable moments of life. It was the longest story they had ever accepted, and the administrators had to reconfigure their site to fit the whole thing on. After this, I sent a piece to, a website featuring writing about writing. The article- How Not to Win a Writing Competition- was accepted but, for some reason, has not been uploaded yet… Following this, I wrote Human Nature- my first foray into political blogging- in an insomnia-laiden frenzy, and it was very quickly accepted into the Manchester Evening News letters page. The blog, about how the Government could take inspiration from the Catholic Church, went down a treat- although they for some reason cut out the part where I compared PM Gordon Brown to the sex-crazed lunatic ancient emperor, Caligula. But I can’t complain.

2) Wisdom Teeth
I now don’t have any. During the first extraction, my dentist made an incision into the gum at the base of the tooth and levered it straight out. It was two-thirds the diameter of a fifty-pence coin. It’s in a bank bag in my drawer. I would advise you to get the operation as soon as you feel discomfort, before the tooth grows. Then the rest of your teeth don’t get slammed together over time, as mine seem to have. The second tooth was not as easy to remove, and the dentist had to drill the shit out of the tooth and the back of the jawbone in order to extract it. I didn’t get a souvenir that time.

3) Beer Walk

The Saddleworth Round Table Beer Walk is held annually in Oldham in early summer. The walk is a fundraising event where punters can sample beer from all over the world, supplied by a variety of pubs all over Saddleworth. On this, my third Beer Walk, I joined 4 other mates in dressing as soldiers and Toby came down from Salford as Robin Hood.

Whilst steadily drinking our way round the route we bumped into various nurses, female airline pilots (although they could have been flight attendants- their outfits were a bit vague) plus policewomen, Pinhead from Hellraiser, two people dressed as giant ears raising money for Deaf Awareness, pretty much the entire cast of the Mr. Men, various cross dressers, Indiana Jones, a gang of Scousers in tracksuits and outrageous afros, a woman dressed a giant bell (who was just asking to have penis jokes hurled at her) and- while absolutely steaming- I bumped into some of my colleagues impersonating pirates. I have no recollection of what I said to them, but they seemed kind of bemused by my prattle. The Matt Tuckey Award for Best Outfit, however, went to the two men dressed in padded fat-suits with tweed jackets, constantly munching on a seemingly endless supply of cakes from their rucksacks. One man, his combover shedding immense amounts of fake dandruff, carried a doll under his arm. Ontop of a hill I found him shaving the plastic off the doll’s head with a cutthroat razor.

Later on during the walk I realised that the giant plastic machine gun I’d bought- complete with vibration and firing sound effects- came with a laser sighting. I found something so (now inexplicably) funny about all this that I laughed until I vomited all over a nearby wall.

I would advise that people do not drink alcohol to the extent that I did. A drink in each of the many pubs along the way didn’t help, and I would have been more out of it if I hadn’t dropped a half-empty bottle of brandy, smashing it all over a footbridge. The more I drank, the less accessible I found the pockets to be. This much alcohol is particularly ill-advised if, like me, you are still recovering from two dental operations resulting in a gaping wound at the back of your mouth. This will only result in pain.

4) Whisky tasting
My first experience of a whisky-tasting event was in Lees Labour club in Oldham. Sponsored by Stanley Ogden Butchers, who supplied some damned good steak sandwiches, the night was an opportunity to sample six fine whiskies from the world-famous distillery regions of Scotland. Headed up by a very knowledgeable old geezer in a kilt, the event began with a single malt called Dufton. During the drinking, Geezer described the history of whisky- starting with how the Irish discovered the techniques for distilling alcohol (or ‘alco-wol’, as Geezer pronounced it, causing us to stifle a laughing fit). The Scottish bagpipes, he said, was also an originally Irish invention.

On the comment card supplied by the organisers, I described Dufton as ‘nice’ and ‘warm’. Geezer described it as a ‘singleton’. Following it was Auckentoshan (which I considered ‘delicate’), Laphroig (Geezer’s assumption: ‘unpopular’, mine: ‘fierce’), The Glenlivet (‘rich, sharp and oaken’ came to my mind), Glen Farclas (Geezer described this as a ‘session malt’- the night certainly ended up as a session) and the night came to a close with something called ‘Mortglag’, or something. I must have spelled this wrong as Google doesn’t recognise it as a whisky- it only offered me the Roman Economic Journal, which was all in Latin. It gets weirder still. On the comment card, next to this unpronounceable and seemingly untraceable whisky, I wrote: ‘Duff town. Strong as piss.’ As to what any of this means, your guess is as good as mine.

5) Manic Scribbling
Anyone who has got on my bus recently and looked over my shoulder may have had an unnerving bus ride. There has been a flurry of ideas running through my mind, resulting in a lot of scrawling into a blank 2008 diary in a form of block caps that only I can read, followed by some fiction and a lot of time sat at this Goddamn desk. So this summary will be short. Did I even need to include this point? Regardless, I often find that my brain works a lot faster than my hand and as a result, everything I write looks like a spider has ran through a puddle of ink and sprinted haphazardly across my notebook. These scrawlings eventually emerge in HTML form right here. I have also recently dug up a few ideas I concocted when I was sixteen.

6) Achievements
To conclude, let’s look back at the last Quarterly Summary blog . At the end of the last quarter I set myself the following tasks:
Find a decent woman (I know a few…)
Go to more house music clubs (I saw Robin S perform Show Me Love live in Tokyo Project, if that counts…)
Get published again (tick)
Become a more skilled martial artist (getting there, so yes I have)
Take over (I’m not Tony Montana just yet, but I am moving to the Civic Centre, Oldham Council’s headquarters building. So who knows what possibilities lie ahead.)

Here’s to more of life’s moments. I’m planning on making most of them decent, and avoiding- as best I can- the lousy ones.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Psycho Magnet

Julie Benz: How do you write women so well?

Jack Nicholson: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

-As Good As It Gets, 1997

I have recently dated a few very nice girls. I have also dated some who needed to have a word with themselves. Perhaps it's because I'm a bit too nice myself, and they say opposites attract. Hence- crazy women, unstable sociopaths, scallies, and nazis- they LOVE me. I can’t say the feelings are regularly reciprocated. I started to wonder whether it was normal for women to cut you off half way through answering their question, thereby changing the subject completely. I felt it regular behaviour for an otherwise attractive girl to spend hours detailing mass brawls she’d been involved in- regardless of whether she’d be reminiscing about secondary school or the previous weekend.

I wanted a change from this. A few months ago I had a go on a dating website that I'd seen a pretty good review of. I was hoping this site might open out to a few new opportunities, and dating outside of Oldham might have been a good start- I wanted to throw the net a little further. However, the two emails I received from "Jacqueline" proved I was still stuck in the cycle...

Hello Matt,
Thanks for the email okay,well i am Jacqueline Cole by name and i was born in Glossop Derbyshire UK ,i studied Fashion And Art while i was still in school but i was not able to graduate because i lost my dad at a gasly motor accident and i decided to quit school at that time and we later relocated to Nigeria where my mum came from,So now i am a unemployed and have no work in hand.And i also lost my mum in some few months back,She died of Heart Prbs cos of my dad's death and now what i am looking for on this loopylove is to look for a soulmate that can be of the same flesh to flesh with me and also be of the bone to bone with me,The person which can clean away all my sorrowful parts and take good care of me and also be a caring man to me.I hope to hear from you also,
Bye for now
Jacqueline xxxxxx

It was after reading this that I realised Ms Cole would not be girlfriend material. But then, only the top 10% of the women I’ve dated were. And life is about experiences. So I figured… Everyone deserves a second chance. I messaged back something simple, asking if she was actually in the UK at the moment. That would have been a start. This was her reply.

Matt Dear,
There are things in life that are inevitable; I am powerless to control them. The Sun will rise and set, the tide will come in and go out,the seasons will change, the birds will fly South for the winter and return in the spring, and the caterpiller will transform itself into a handsome butterfly. Somehow, I feel reassured by this because many other things in life are so transistent - so momentary. from the moment we met on personals till now , I knew that our friendship would develop into something lasting and precious, just as I am sure that the caterpiller will one day become a handsome butterfly.I believe that our love and friendship is ordained by God. It is a union of two spirits destined for everlasting happiness. Thus, you have truly become the star of my life which brings me light in this dark world, and warmth when I need an honest person and am looking for someone honest as well,dont know when i will be back in the UK cos i have some prbs which when i take care of i can then be in the UK.You offer me the promise of renewal, the joy of living, the peace of mind that comes from sharing and caring, and that shoulder to lean on in times of stress. You are my Swallow from Capistrano - my precious butterfly, and I will cherish you and love you forever if you promise that you will take good care of me , well i dont stay in Adamsville anymore i thought i told you my dad is a native UK while my mom is nigerian i lost my dad some few months back and i left with my mom for nigeria unfortunately i also lost her i think life has been very harsh on me but not withstanding i must countinue to search for someone that can fill the gap i am not looking at an outward appearance i look at ur heart .
Jacqueline xxxxxx

Easy, tiger!

Jacqueline – I’m guessing – is a well-intentioned but somewhat disturbed woman. Suffice to say, I did not meet up with her in the flesh. I have no idea where Adamsville is, nor Capistrano. Her main error (other than a devastating lack of grammar possibly due to English being her second language) is a mistake quite a few women make. She has bombarded me with a shitload of very personal and quite uncomfortable information very early on in the interaction. Believe it or not, this leads to some discomfort on my behalf…

These are the realities of the dating world. If you have been fortunate not to deal with this kind of bizarre behaviour, then brace yourself and think yourself lucky.

My advice to Ms. Cole is as follows:

Imagine trying to eat a pig whole, when it is alive and squealing. It would be a culinary disaster- no preparation, no efforts for presentation. It would be messy, uncomfortable and would attract unwanted attention. It would be much better to kill the pig, cut it into more manageable pieces, prepare it, and have a nice, simple, bite-sized pork sandwich once in a while. This would go down much better (with any nearby observers, and with your own digestion).

Similarly, Ms. Cole, when dating you should remember not to stuff everything down a man’s throat all at once. He will probably find this uncomfortable. Granted, the situation with your family life may be more uncomfortable than this, to say the least. But the point of dating is not to slam all of your fear and aggravation onto an unsuspecting victim in the hope that some kind of relationship will be formed out of the man’s pity for you.

Dating is supposed to be fun. Remember that.

I have been involved in similar scenarios both in the distant past and recent times. The dating scene has dealt me a shitty hand from time to time, but there’s been the odd ace in there. You’re certainly not the only girl with issues to address- Ms. Cole, Bing Crosby once sang, ‘You got to accentuate the positive’. Never forget that. No matter how bad your hand is.

My advice to men is, just watch your back…

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Saw- a Disappointment

“You must see Saw”, exclaims some cheesy tabloid on the poster of the 2004 Horror film.

Don’t take their word for it. The film Saw left me feeling kind of empty- the ending didn’t quite make sense to me- and I couldn’t face the prospect of sitting through the whole thing again to figure it out. The main reason for my passivity was that the filmmakers seemed more interested in shocking us with the violence than actually telling a story. They were more driven by the need to make us cringe rather than think- this cringing resulting from either graphic depictions of visceral dismemberment or bad acting.

Director James Wan didn’t quite pull off the infusion of moral conflict in the way that David Fincher did in Se7en- both are films in which the victims of the grizzly murders are, in some way, guilty themselves and due a punishment.

However, Se7en is not the only film that leapt to mind after watching Saw.

Towards Saw’s climax, Gordon (Carey Elwes) realises it’s not the chain that his captor wants him to cut through with the hacksaw- it’s his own ankle.

To factors suspended my disbelief at this point. The first is realism. Gordon has just blunted the hacksaw’s teeth on the chain. The chances of this tool then being used to cut through flesh and bone of ankle thickness, without the blade snapping, is nonexistent. This doesn’t matter though, as he would have passed out and probably bled to death after he cut the femoral artery in the ankle- long before he had a chance to cut himself free.

There is a second factor preventing my immersion in the fictional film world of Saw. As well as the seminal thriller Se7en, Saw was blatantly inspired by the climax of classic Mel Gibson movie Mad Max.

Max, after accosting road hoodlum who murdered his wife and child, chains the perpetrator’s ankle to the twisted wreck of his own car. He then places the bomb in the driver’s seat and offers the guilty man a hacksaw- similar to that featured in the movie Saw.

Max explains that the bomb will detonate before he could cut through the steel. If said hoodlum wants to live, he had better get to work on his ankle. Max assures him that dismembering himself and escaping can be done within the available time. Suffice to say, the car explodes with the perpetrator still inside.

All the creators of Saw did was to say, ‘Well, hey, let’s see him do it.’

In conclusion, do not bother watching the Saw films. If you want decent horror that is frightening, and makes sense, try Ring and Dark Water (of course, I mean the Japanese originals by the world’s scariest director, Hideo Nataka) or Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Now that is benchmark horror.

These films substitute gratuity for suggestive horror, being more discreet in their images and allowing fear to manifest in the most terrifying place of all- our own minds. More importantly, Nataka and Roeg know how to suspend our disbelief. The makers of Saw do not. This can be particularly difficult in the genre of Horror, as the issue of ghosts (as featured in Ring, Dark Water and Don’t Look Now) is less believable than the premise of some nutter torturing people to make them see the ill of their ways (Saw series, Seven etc.) But Nakata and Roeg managed it: The creators of the Saw films did not.