Saturday, 30 July 2011

Liquid Nightmare


Stingray blocks the sun
Light filters around in rays
Street melts underfoot

Friday, 29 July 2011

Published: The News of the World is No More.

Paragraph Planet magazine publishes a new 75-word paragraph by a different author every day. My News of the World exclusive was about my one-time “involvement” with the newspaper. Paragraph Planet published it on Sunday 10th July, the day of the last edition of the troubled tabloid. Find my name- and my article- under “Example Paragraphs”. Oh- count the words (including title) in this intro.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Weird Scene in the Old Nags Head

2006. Just off Manchester’s Deansgate, there’s an old-man’s pub called the Nags Head. Standard attire: flat caps, pipes and piss-stains.

I was out of place among the varnished wood and worn carpets, but the stop wasn’t my idea. A and J are regulars, despite the fact that we’re all 24. The pub’s saving graces- A karaoke machine and a charismatic DJ. The DJ bestows me with a stage name: he calls me up as “Matt the Knife” for my Sinatra swing renditions. The crowd love it.

A and J pick out Sweet Caroline. A worships Neil Diamond for some reason. He’s already killed Love on the Rocks. This time we’re singing as a trio, even though I don’t know the song.

Where it began…

I’m sharing a mic with J, trying not to look at the screen, like I know the song. There’s a woman in her forties in the front row. She’s not enjoying it. She’s sat on her own stoney-faced, gazing through a speaker.

Jesus, I think. Are we really that bad?

Touching you…

I’m glancing between the screen and her. She’s not angry. She’s wet-eyed, crushed. Something is wrong. It’s not our singing. It’s her song.

Sweeeeeeet Caroliiiine…

Her shoulders shake. She’s alone, in floods. Her friends must be at the bar. Guilt kicks in- What have we done?  The more we sing, the more she cries.

I don’t lose gusto. I’ve got enough shit of my own. This is my night out- no space for negativity.

Hurtin’ runs off my shoulders…

The second chorus: We’re destroying her. Her composure’s broken. A and J don’t even waver.
Good times never seemed so good…

We hit a crescendo as the woman sobs, mascara leaving a high-tide line. The DJ thanks us. The rest of the bar- mostly aging men- applaud us as we leave. I bow.

I ask A and J about the woman. They didn’t notice her.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 6

Night. Cold. A river front- The Tyne, Terence guesses. Reflected in the water: a shimmering, metallic blob- a large, pupae-shaped shiny building. To the left- a sturdy but shoddy bridge linking the riversides. New rubs shoulders with old.

Terence thinks his problems are similarly close.

The breeze bounces straight off the river and into Terence's tiny eyes.

I've gotta salvage some dignity from this excursion, Terence thinks. I want to go back feeling like I've done something.

Edgar is gripping the railings at the river's edge. Terence leaves the group, approaching him from behind. Edgar's silver shoulders rise... and fall... in the moonlight.


The ape could squash Terence like a steamroller if he wanted.

Did they rip you off?” Terence asks quietly.

Edgar's shoulders pause, like he's stopped breathing. He turns. “Who told you that?”

Nobody. They did it to me too. I had to borrow off Jacob.”

A voice cuts in. “And Jacob mustn't tell anyone, right?”

Terence turns. Steam churns out of Jacob's nostrils in the frozen Geordie air.

Time to man up, Terence thinks. “Jacob. You saw what happened. If I'd have known it wasn't just me being a mug, I'd have kicked off.”

But Terence thinks, Would I? I wish I had, now.

And you would too. In fact, fuck it,” Terence says. “Lads?” he calls.

The rest of the animals straggle over.

Terence comes clean to them all.

Fucking hell,” says Harry. “They saw you coming, didn't they!”

Fuck you.”

Harry raises his eyebrows.

We went 'round a few bars," says Terence. “Regular bars. That's all. That's our story, until Fluffy hears otherwise. Then we play it by ear.” He stretches his wings. “There's a few hours to kill 'til the train.”

Terence turns. He paces off down the river front, focussing on a giant electric-blue arc in the sky- some kind of backlit bridge straddling the river, the water's reflection giving the light a loop appearance.

A portal, he thinks.

He wants to pass through it, straight through the middle, just over the water's surface, and burst the space-time continuum, landing back at Oldham Zoo in a split second- channelled straight back onto his isolated perch.

Terence shakes his head clear. Pretentious bastard. It's no wonder you haven't got a girlfriend.

He looks into the black water, passing under the bridge like the events of the night.

I just want to go home. But I guess I'll have to wait.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 5

Terence looks out over the bar from the raised area. Humans everywhere. No animals.

You fuckers. You've left me. What the fuck do I do now? Wait. There are hardly any dancers either. They're all in the dance booths.

There's a grey mane in the corner of the room, at a table. A tail flicks. A paw lands on the shoulder of a nervous human, manhandling him. The human's friends laugh. Terence flies to Jacob's shoulder.

Jacob's smile drops off his face.

I need to borrow twenty quid,” Terence says, quietly.

Jacob doesn't lose eye-contact. Doesn't move his head. Just pulls out a purple note.

Terence takes the note, pride-smashed. “Thanks. I've just one favour to ask,” Terence says.

You mean two.”

Okay, two. Don't mention this to the lads. Please.”

Jacob nods.

Terence trails back to the girls, stoney-faced, and hands the full wad to them without saying a word.

I want to get out, Terence thinks. There's Peter, coming out of the toilet.

Terence mooches over, avoiding the dancer's gazes, gawping at him from the bar. The hip-hop track changes. He hops up to the Hippo's shoulder.

I say we make a move,” Terence says.

Why?” Peter asks, scanning the women.

Terence doesn't have to answer. A blurred image of peach and blonde bursts through the side corridor from the dance booths. The dancer lands, cracking a mirror, slumped crooked against the wall. It's the blonde that danced for Terence.

An entire platoon of doormen charge from the entrance, through the bar, and into the corridor. The customers and dancers shut up. There's a yell. Three doormen bounce back into the room like they've been hit by a speeding car.

Jacob groans. His shoulders slouch. He bounds over to the corridor.

Terence watches the doormen pick themselves up. He can hear Edgar shouting “This is bullshit!” Terence glances to the entrance.

Stay here,” Jacob orders.

Fuck you, Terence thinks. But he doesn't move.

The doormen wrestle Edgar into view, white shirts bookending black fur in the dim light.

Aaron is waving them back toward the exit like he's some kind of Afrotherian airport marshal. Jacob bounds over, teeth bared. The doormen freeze.

What the fuck are you doing?” Jacob snarls.

Edgar freezes too.

You're a fucking embarrassment, you know that?” Jacob shakes, like he's shedding fleas from his mane.

The doormen look at Edgar. Edgar looks at the floor.

Fluffy would be so ashamed,” Jacob says.

Terence closes his eyes. Fuck.

A doorman mouths to another. Fluffy?

We need to go,” says Aaron.

Edgar shrugs. The doormen loosen their grip.

I'll go,” says Edgar. I don't give a fuck.” He walks out. His headpad catches on the door. Clock. “Fuck, it hurts when you do it by accident.”

Monday, 25 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 4

The oil paintings on the descending staircase could be 200 years old, if the Ann Summers-clad pole dancers depicted worked their trade back then. The bar is clean and opulent- steely blue light falls on metallic furnishings. The rest of the women are in lingerie. Once again- cleavage central. Women in their underwear chat up shy customers, sat on leather chair arms, squatting at the sides of men. All the girls are all stunning.

Terence buys a fruit juice. He's dismayed they don't sell nuts. He's trying not to look a the nurse, but fuck , she's sooooo hot. She's stood pensive at the side of the stage. The other dancers pester the animals, standing around them, gazing faux-longingly, flirting for a sale. Terence hops onto a chair facing the empty stage, waiting for time to pass.

The song changes. The nurse steps on stage. She twirls around the pole. She's looking at Terence. Only Terence. A plethora of humans and animals fill the bar, but she's looking at him. He gulps. Looks around. Customers are lapping up female attention while wrestling with their consciences.

It's like another world, thinks Terence. I wonder if human guys think that the first time they come here.

She's still looking at him. He wants to hide from what he's going to do.

I'm not exactly going to spend this money on booze and peanuts, am I?

The song finishes. She's targeted him. She walks over and sits strangely close, her thigh against his wing. She plugs him for getting-to-know-you questions. She laughs at his unfunny jokes. He has to tear his eyes away from her face, her squeaky-clean outfit, her thighs, her cleavage.

Would you like a dance, babes?” Her Geordie accent bounces around him like a small rubber ball.

Use her as practice, he thinks. Dish banter. He takes a sip. “Well, y'know. It's a toss-up between you and her,” he says, watching Blondie who's taken her place on stage. He's never going to make it to the next club before it closes, if he's not careful.

You could have a dance with both of us if you like,” she says.

Terence feels his resistance crumble.

How much?”

Only forty pounds.”


A booth in the back of the club: curtained off and discreet. Terence sits in the crack between the sofa's seats. The girls tower over him, like he's in a fifties B-movie. His beak drops open. The cheesy R+B kicks in and they begin to gyrate, undressing each other. In time with the music, they do things he didn't even think legal. The nurse slams her backside in Terence's face. She'd be grinding on his crotch now, if he were human.

Are you lovin' it, babes?” She asks.

Yup,” Terence manages.

Do you want us to carry on?”


The PVC hits the floor. Terence's feathers fall out of place, ruffled by skin and hair. His heart nearly smashes through his ribcage when the blonde has the nurse's breast in her mouth. When the nurse smacks the blonde's arse, Terence's eyes water. He wants the moment to last forever. Instead, they kiss him on each cheek and stand up.

You owe us eighty quid babes,” the nurse says.

Terence's bowels slacken and empty into the crack of the couch.

Eighty?” he asks, eyes wide. “We agreed on forty.”

But you had two dances. I asked you if you wanted us to carry on.”

A pause.

Terence rifles his money- twenty, forty, sixty. Train ticket. Fuck.

He looks up. They're looking at the money in his wing. He thinks of the human simile, like vultures. He gets it now.

Right,” he says. “Follow me.”

They dress, rushing, not taking their eyes off Terence's money.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 3

Newcastle train station turns into a metallic-themed eighties bar turns into a local JD Wetherspoon turns into a dodgy pub. A game of “Drink While You Think” has the locals standing around the animals' table, enthralled.

Edgar sips his drink. “Arnold Schwarzenegger. Have we had him?”

Nope,” says Peter. S.”

Harry takes a sip. He thinks the name out as he's saying it. “Ssssimon Cowell.”

The team goes quiet.

Jacob drinks. “Courtney Cox. Back to you.”

Why back to me?” asks Harry.

Two Cs. If it's the same two letters, you switch directions.”

Fuck...” Harry gazes into his glass. He'll be smashed in no time. He takes another sip. “Cristina Aguilera.”

Random,” says Jacob. “Edgar?”

Abu Hamza.”

Jacob spits his drink over the table. “Who?!”

Y'know. The hook guy.”

The terrorist?” asks Harry. “Can we have terrorists?”

Alright, let him have it," says Peter. He points to the aardvark. “Drink while you think, Aaron.”

The Aardvark's ears twitch as he chugs. “Harold Bishop.”

Fictional people?” asks Peter. “They allowed?”

Yes, as long as it's not some obscure weird shit,” says Jacob, aiming his banter at the bookworm Hippo. “Your go, by the way. Make it someone we'd know.”

Peter sips his pint. “Buh, buh, Bram Stoker?”

Nope,” says Jacob. “Never heard of him. Try again.”

He wrote Dracula, for fuck's sake,” says Peter. “It's just this little known vampire story... they made a few films out of it.”

I can vouch,” says Terence, pecking at peanuts in a desperate attempt to sober up. “It's me, isn't it. Shit. Erm... Serena Williams.”

William,” starts Vincent the rainbow lorikeet, then takes another sip. “Shatner.”

Jack has been staring out of the window, not engaging with the group.

Vincent glances to him, then to Jacob. “Are we, er...” He points a radiant wing on to Edgar, the next man in line. Disturbing Jack can be more than it's worth.
Edgar nods, taking a breath.

Sharon Stone,” blurts Jack. He hasn't even taken or sip, or even looked up, from his drink in the last fifteen minutes.

Ha!” Shouts Jacob. “Vince, you're back in the hotseat pal!”

The locals love it. They branch off back to their own tables, playing the game themselves. The animals are spawning enjoyment.

But the animals want to see more. They spend their lives indoors. They still have immense wanderlust. The local girls have large breasts. Newcastle is fascinating. The animals leave. The locals cheer them.

They emerge, blurry-eyed, into the street. Terence tries to soak in the cold air, letting the breeze ruffle his feathers. He wants to sober up. The alcohol is making him nervous.

And right when he's weak and on edge, that's when he hears her stilettos.

He turns. He cranes his neck. She's beautiful. She's got long, dark hair and a handful of flyers. Her PVC nurses outfit exposes the top of her fishnet stockings. Her matching hat shows her affinity to the Red Cross.

Are you coming to Diamonds for a lap dance, boys?” She dishes the flyers out to the animals, bending down so they can reach.

Terence loves the bounce of her Geordie Accent. He feels his mental guard slipping. He wants to check this place out. He's started to look at humans differently. There's something else he likes about her, but he can't figure out what it is.

But this isn't what the trip is about either, is it? He thinks. Aren't we supposed to be seeing the city?

A flashback: Fluffy seeing them off. Most of all- enjoy yourselves.

Let's try Reflex bar again,” says Edgar to Jacob. “Come on.”

Just one drink,” says Jacob, thumbing to the nurse. That's all it takes.

They follow the woman down a narrow but very clean alley to a large window, backlit by purple florescent tubes. Above it, DIAMONDS shines in torturous electric blue.

Terence wishes he was an alpha male. He'd have got some culture into this rabble. I want us to cross Tyne Bridge. Cheer at St. James' Park, football fans or not. There's an 11th-century castle around here somewhere.

But fucking hell, he thinks, taking in the fishnets. This woman is amazing.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 2

Fluffy, dressed like a Reservoir Dog in a black suit, leads the animals out of the pub and through the streets of Manchester. He has prepared them for the staring public. He has taught them to stay calm, and they are doing well. He glances back at his reborn team. There's Jack the condor, glancing in all directions. His autism is testing him, but he's keeping it together. Even Terence looks composed, perched on Peter the hippopotamus' shoulder. Fluffy's eyes fill with pride.

The streets- dirty and traffic congested- begin to contrast with the lush greenery at Piccadilly Gardens- the grass, the shoppers, the buildings- this is new to all of the animals. Fluffy watches them soak it in as he steps backwards up Piccadilly Approach.

He does a quick head-count- all good.

I have every faith in you, guys,” he says, jamming a cool £100 into the paws and claws of each animal. “Watch out for each other, and most of all- enjoy yourselves.”

They thank him, and their animalistic Manc accents boom like an international choir. They board the train, jamming themselves in through the door, and the carriage roars into life. The train lurches, throwing them north through Britain's derelict countryside.


Terence gazes out of the window. “Are we going to go past the Angel of the North?”

Why?” asks Jacob. “Do you want to take a picture? Pose in front of it?”

Jacob nudges Edgar the gorilla for backup. Edgar smiles, and semi-purposefully bangs his head on the window. His padded helmet muffles the blow.

Yes,” says Peter. “Yes, we'll go past it,” like Terence has asked him a thousand times before. He pulls out a copy of 1984 from his butt cheek and takes out the bookmark.

Terence works on his breathing.

You're not the only one with problems, he thinks to himself. Everyone else just shows theirs in a different way. You're no worse off than anyone else. Even Jacob's fucked up somehow.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 1

Fluffy Oakes takes the tiny strip of material and, tying it securely around the hummingbird's head, makes sure his makeshift blindfold totally blocks Harry's eyesight. Behind him, in the crumbling pub, the animals of the zoo cheer Harry on.

Jacob the mountain lion roars encouragement. “Go on Harry! Stick it right in!”

The animals cheer in English for as long as they can, until they exhaust their new-found vocabulary. The cheering blends into a cacophony of animal cries- sounds of contentment, fear, threat, courtship- whatever their throats can produce.

Harry starts to flap his wings, picking up speed. His feet leave the small table like he's a futuristic spacecraft taking off. He lurches forward, beak-first, to the other end of the seedy city-centre boozer. Over the dartboard, Fluffy has pinned up a road map of the United Kingdom.

As the cheering swells in the small room, Harry haphazardly skewers himself into the board. His wings are still flapping, making a tapped buzzing noise. He's landed somewhere in the north of England, perforating a hole in the map. Harry doesn't realise, but behind the paper, he's hit triple twenty.

The animals' howling makes a crescendo, a symphony of nature.

Fluffy steps forward and delicately retrieves Harry from the wall. He holds Harry back from the map and takes off the blindfold. He knows Harry can read the text.

He points to the place-name. “Go on," says Fluffy. “Read it out.”

Newcastle!” shouts Harry, and the calls subside for a second.

At the back of the room, Terence the lovebird realises that he doesn't know much about the outside world. He's familiar with Manchester, and knows of London. He's heard of Newcastle, but he can't retrieve any facts about it. His tiny lovebird stomach churns. It's only nerves, he thinks.

Jacob the mountain lion woops in excitement. He knows this will be hilarious. He doesn't know how, but he knows he'll be the star of the excursion. The other animals cry out, falling in suit.

Terence has to remind himself that this is not about his quest. Not this time. This is a male bonding adventure. Do not take yourself, he thinks, nor anyone else, too seriously.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

"Alternative" Film Titles.

It's some time between 1998 and 2001. I'm studying media at Tameside College. I'm one of a group of hard-core film fanatics, each with an immature and sex-obsessed sense of humour. The walls of the media classroom are adorned with film posters. There's a copy of Empire open on one of the tables.

What teenage lad doesn't find it funny to retitle a well-known film and make it sound like a spoof porno version?

Which would you like to see made?

Black Cock Downed
The Cocksucker Proxy
Cock Stuck in Two Heaving Arse Cheeks
Acockonyourlips Now
Look Who's Porking
Pretty Titty Gang Bang
Man Shags Dog
Ring of Fire
Lezza Croft: Womb Raider
Things to Do in Denver When You're Giving Head
Sex Toy Story
Sex Toy Story 2: Revenge of the Dildo
Who Raped Roger Rabbit
Gang Bangs of New York
American History Sex
My Little Jap's Eye
The Little Housemaid
The Sexorcist
Fill Bill (Parts one AND two)
Rebel Without his Whores
Sliding Whores
Whore Wars
The Bumpire Strikes Back
Return of the Jap's Eye
The Phantom Penis
Attack of the Colons
Revenge of Syph
The Man With the Golden Bum
A Cockwork Bummage
Bum and Bummer
Young Bums
Top Bum
Bums on the Run
Raging Bum
Laid Bummer
Alien Erection
The Mask of Porno
A Porno 13
Sperminator 2: Ejaculation Day
Sperminator: Salivation
Robin “Upper Vascular” Hood
0891: A Sex Odyssey
The Arse Whisperer
City of Arseholes
US Arseholes
Fear and Loathing Arse Rapers
Six Days, Seven Shites
Good Will Shunting
I Forced One
Twelve Monkey Buggerers
Miller's Tossing
This is Anal Tap
The Blueys Brothers
Fill My Mouth
Hamster Number One
The Inside Her
Shaving Ryan's Privates
Glad He Ate Her
The Texas Anal Massacre
Looking for my Richard
Raping Ned
Cum Air
Condompendence Day
Buttsex with Tiffany
Dong of the Dead

The reworking of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Honey I Blew Up the Kid” were deemed far to inappropriate to ever be uttered. Don't even think it. 
Yes, some of these we've not exactly made up ourselves. Other titles we HAVE come up with, but we later found that other (more “professional”) people thought of the same idea first.

It's 2011. As you can see, I have matured massively and no longer find these things funny. Cough. I have, however, added some of these titles to the list over the years. What I do for entertainment...

What have I missed? Can you think of any “films” you'd like to see made? Comment below!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Introducing Writers Connect

It's a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team. And that means you do everything I say.
-Charlie Croker (Michael Caine), The Italian Job

A good portion of the entries on this blog are examples of how to develop creativity with group writing exercises. I’ll explain how to perform the exercises, then give my example of what the task helped to produce.

The majority of these exercises are the fruition of the meetings at Writers Connect, a fortnightly-meeting group in Manchester. I’ve been with the group for over a year, and we have a good core of regular contributors who are all becoming damned fine writers.

The group meets fortnightly on Sundays. We meet in the Costa Coffee section of Waterstones in Manchester’s Arndale Centre at 1pm. We’ll start with a ten-minute exercise like the ones detailed on this site. We’ll then listen to people’s stories and poems.

If you’d like feedback on your work, turn up with 6 typed and stapled copies. We’ll dish out the copies for people to make notes on, and we’ll normally read out our own work. Reading and listening give us two ways of spotting errors and weaknesses.

We might do this a little differently in future- it’s suggested that we read out another contributor’s work and we let others read our own. This might help us to spot things we didn’t notice when writing.

Writers Connect is a fair but critical group. It isn’t a group offering mindless praise for writing of all levels. It IS a group for adults of all abilities, although a few of us have had our work published. But it is essentially a group that prepares writing for publication. This can mean dissecting a story or poem and weeding out what doesn’t work.

But we’re really nice! No, really! We all have open minds, senses of humour and strong stomachs. So feel free to join us over a coffee and we’ll give a helping hand.

Here’s the Meetup group, where we post messages and organise meetings.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Charlie Croker wannabe-s need not apply.