Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Why Anuj Bivde was Murdered

Boxing day, 2011. Student Anuj Bivde walks to Manchester centre with friends, visiting the sales. As he walks down Ordsall Lane, a local in a white hooded top walks up to the group. A wave of anxiety passes over them. The man asks for the time. As the group turns, there's a flash of something metal in the street light and a deafening bang.

In the middle of the group, Anuj falls to the floor, dying. The local turns and runs, laughing.

Days later, the police arrest and charge Keiran Stapleton, 21, with the murder of Anuj. The officers call him “Psycho Stapleton”, a nickname he uses to address himself on the first day of his trial. The psychiatrist who interviews him says Stapleton “worried” him. Stapleton had been disruptive in school and “was diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) – a recognised medical condition.” 

This may be true, but these conditions tend to come from somewhere- events in people's lives tend to form these supposed disorders as opposed to genetics or chemical influences, for example.

Keiran Stapleton is your typical nobody. He was raised in a rough part of town in Salford, on the outskirts of Manchester. The Salford averageof violence against another person is 27.2 compared to the national average of 16.7. I've grown up in Oldham myself, which you might have noticed is a choice location for Cops With Cameras and similar TV programmes. I can assert that you develop a certain numbness to your surroundings- you try not to think about the idiots, the shit buildings, the lack of jobs, the unplanned children, the friends on the dole who can't afford to socialise, the people you've seen get beat up, the beatings you've taken yourself and the general air of defeatism that everyone seems to have. You try not to let things bother you. You become apathetic. Not only that, during times when I was unemployed I felt worthless, like I wouldn't be an advantage to any employer. I also felt like whatever I did didn't matter, that my opinions were generally invalid and I had no influence over anybody in any context. I felt that way despite having a degree, a loving family, a decent amount of intelligence and a network of friends.

I have no idea how many of these things Stapleton had. He's lost the vast majority of that now, though, and he probably will be locked up for a lengthy time like he himself suggests he should be. For all his bravado, his welcoming of a long prison sentence backs up the idea that nothing in his world matters- not even his own situation.

Bivde was killed on impulse by a man who could offer nothing to society. There are thousands just like his killer. Most of them might only beat up a stranger or rob them, under the impression that nothing will happen because they are, in effect, nobody. If they ever think of shooting a man dead, however, they would probably think of the consequences of that action and realise that it's not worth it. Stapleton, on impulse, did not.

If people don't recognise their own worth- their strengths, their talents- if people don't have something to work towards, they'll feel insignificant. That feeling of insignificance, as we've seen, can lead to murder.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Don't Be a Twat. Part 4.


So. The concluding chapter in the "Twat Saga."I was a weird twat in school and a hesitant twat in college. Self doubt plagues me through uni, throughout 2002 and onwards...

For the next few years I pull the odd girl here and there, going on the occasional date, but not finding anything special. Dates with girls I don't fancy go nowhere as I just don't want them; dates with girls I do like don't go anywhere either, because I'm a twat and I don't see any reason why they would want me. A third scenario seemed to replay in my dating life: I keep attracting the biggest psychos known to man. Girls I land with tell me about fights they've been in. They drink pints. They show off the scars on their knuckles. They are openly and fiercely racist, even on first dates. When I dump them they get angrier.

In 2005 I graduate with a 2:1 BSc Hons, defying my still-standing beliefs that I was a moronic twat. Having said that, I can't find a job and continue with bar work. Again, I mostly pull on dance floors without speaking to the girl first, which- in retrospect- explains why I've dated so many crazy, violent women. Slightly more stable women would make you jump through a few more hoops first, right?

Now, I warned you that I was a twat, yeah? I was a twat for the way I behaved in school, I was a twat for believing that I was ugly and nobody would ever fancy me, I was a twat for not standing up to my teachers in school- generally, I spent five out of thirty of my years so far being an out-and-out twat. At 17, when I started going out, I found that girls would pounce on me, then back away once they realised how insecure I was. Of course, I didn't realise that was what was putting them off until I was in my mid-20's.

I have coasted by all my adult life on looks, and I didn't realise that until I was 29. Whenever I pulled a girl, it happened quickly- and I would have no idea each time why she liked me. It has been my personality- my twat-like persona laden with lifelong self-doubt- that has put them off. I had a chance with my cousins' friends. I had a chance with C from the Ritz. Even Z came back onto me 3 years after I'd given up. By that time I'd lost interest, typically, so nothing happened there.

I was a twat for choosing a technical university course when my skills were in writing, and I was a twat for trying to get a tech job when I should have been working with words. I was a twat for not realising that if you spend your time doing what you're good at, you'll enjoy your life and you'll have a reason to believe in yourself. Spend it doing what you're not good at, and you won't achieve either of those.

The biggest mistake I made was expecting to find some hidden technique that would make me do the right thing with women, meaning a woman could come into my life and make me happy. I was a twat for thinking that. I'm just about to turn 30 now, and the penny has dropped: be happy with yourself first. Then others will be happy with you too. What I should have done was gritted my teeth through college (a time when I was too busy to date anyway) and done a writing course, which I would have excelled in and been enthusiastic on and proud of myself for doing. This would have made me happier generally, and I would probably have found that women would have been happy to be with me.

Don't be like me. Stick to your strengths. Don't listen to needless criticism. Accept praise when it comes. Like yourself. Enjoy your time here before it runs out. Don't be a twat.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Don't be a Twat. Part 3.


I'm coming to my last few months at college, and to my last chance to man up and make something happen with long-term crush Z. (It hasn't crossed my mind that I'm too busy to make anything happen with her, regardless of her lack of interest.)

During these few months, I've applied to about 4 different universities. Salford Uni interviews me and offers me a conditional offer almost immediately. The three others turn me down. My future, for the next two years at least, is mapped out.

I finish my college work to the best of my abilities, getting a middleish grade and fulfilling the conditions of Salford's offer.

I make a last-ditch attempt with Z and, while smashed on watermelon Bacardi Breezers one night (I know...) I show her how much of a romantic twat I am. At the end of the night, before she gets in her taxi, I give her a copy of What Can I Do To Make You Love Me by the Corrs, which I'd recorded onto tape a few days before.

When she gets home she texts me thanking me for the nice song before blowing me out for the last time.

When I sober up, I cry so much I can't cry again for another 5 years.


I get to uni and realise how little I'd learned at college: everything is a thousand times more complicated, even though there's hardly any actual coursework to do. I ask the university for support with the coursework. Because the work is largely technical, and what I have is (wrongly) labelled as dyslexia, the staff don't have a fucking clue what to do to help me. So they opt to do nothing.


My course is going nowhere, but I know it's my responsibility to connect with people in a way that I couldn't at college. At the start of my second semester, I go on my first uni-student night out: Love Train at the Ritz.

The DJ has a stick-on black 'tache and a wig and a terrible American accent (he's probably a bald guy from Salford underneath). I'm with a group of mates on the club's spring-loaded dance floor, loving the 70's music wishing I'd been born in a different decade. I'm sipping a glass of Baileys (again, I know) looking out over the club, which is mostly the dancefoor. It's rammed with students.

From a few paces away a girl pounces on me and she's tall and blonde and young and she's sucking my face off. I'm quickly wondering whether this is for sympathy, or if she's incredibly drunk or deluded. I'm kissing her for about an hour, saying nothing to her, just sipping my Bailey's like it's cool.


I feel strangely relaxed, like it's normal. When the club closes I get her number. Let's call her C. She texts me pretty much the moment she leaves me, hinting that she wants to see me again.

What throws me at that moment is that I could pull a girl as beautiful as C, with no effort, yet a girl like Z- who now seems so average- would consider me not good enough for her. I have no idea what I've done right this time.

Over the next few days she texts me constantly, almost nagging me, plugging me for info. It turns out she's only 16, she lives on the other side of the city quite far out, and she's just split up from some boyfriend.

You're really good-looking,” she texts. “So I don't get why you haven't had a girlfriend.”

I stare at the text, trying to figure out why she would say that. I don't remember the conversation with my mum about my cousins' friends.

I go to the pictures with C. It's my first ever date. She looks amazing. She asks me again about the girlfriends I haven't had. We agree on Ali, the Will Smith boxing biopic. As the lights go down, she takes my hand in hers. As soon as the first boxing sequence starts, she pounces on me again, kissing me until the fight is over and the scene changes. Then she sits totally still, still holding my hand. She doesn't kiss me again until another boxing scene starts. She doesn't even squeeze my hand during the bedroom scene. I, of course, couldn't sleep the night before through nerves so now I've got a screaming headache and I can't be the kind of confident person I had planned to be.

After the film she doesn't hang around- just kisses me and gets her bus. We'd talked loads via text before the date but hardly at all when I saw her. The moment we part, we start texting again. Something is missing, though, and when I try to arrange a second date a few days later, she's nervous over the phone and keeps the call short. Then she texts me saying she's still in love with her ex and she can't see me any more.

And she doesn't.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Don't be a Twat. Part 2.


Due to a five-year avalanche of shit from peers and teachers alike, by the time I leave school and start college I genuinely believe I am an ugly, unlikeable moron. I've made so many mistakes with my schoolwork that I'm afraid of tackling the new college work. Due to this memory problem that no-one seems to be able to define, a belief eats away at me that the reason that they haven't defined it is because they aren't allowed to tell me I'm thick.

I meet a girl on my course- let's call her K- and we get on well as friends. When we work as a pair to complete coursework, we disappear to record soundbytes and people joke that we are having sex. What only I know, seemingly, is that I wish we were. I never let her know this, though, as the very real possibility of rejection- at this time- would destroy me. When she passes me in the library a few days later, she strokes my chest and calls me sexy. Just like the girls did in school before they shot me down.

K quits the course early. I never tell her how I feel or even see her again.

By the time I'm due to finish my first year, I've hardly done any of the work. I was so afraid of fucking it all up, like I did in school, that I didn't do it at all. I scrape everything together at the last minute, so late that my tutor has to ask the college to pay him to stay in work an extra 2 days, just to mark my work.

I sit another 2 years of college. It's hard and fast graft. I'm getting more confident all of the time, hitting deadlines for once, and I pull the odd girl at a party here and there. But I'm way too busy to sort my head out with the whole girl thing. Besides, the town in which I'm studying is about 70% guys anyway. I've never been diagnosed with depression, but this could have been an issue. I develop a fixation with a girl. Let's call her Z. She knocks me back about 10 times. I don't take the hint until I leave college. I am seriously, seriously depressed throughout all this.


One evening, when I arrive home from college, my tea is waiting for me but there's no-one home. I pile up the waffles, sausages and beans on my plate. There's a strangely large amount of it. I try to eat it all.

My dad arrives home. He's been travelling 3, sometimes 4 hours per day on public transport since an office relocation a few months back. An argument break out about the food. My mum arrives home not long after this (she prepared the meals, plural, earlier that afternoon.) I have all three portions on my plate.

Amidst the argument, I put this point forward: How am I supposed to believe that I'm intelligent, like people say I am, if I make mistakes like this?

We all get very emotional. Seriously, there are tears on all sides and everything. My dad agrees to talk to his manager about the stress caused by his job. My mum plans to buy a whiteboard and to install it on the kitchen wall, so we can leave messages to each other and an incident as ridiculous as that never happens again.

My mum tells me that I'm actually quite a good-looking lad.

You're my mum, I tell her. You would say that.

She reminds me about the restaurant at my cousin's 18th. The group of girls at the end of the table. “They were saying, y'know, 'he's quite a looker isn't he?'” she says.

This just doesn't fit in my brain. I remember the restaurant clearly, and it makes sense, but emotionally I just can't accept it. For the previous five years, I'd been told the opposite every day. What did my cousins' friends see that nobody in school could?

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Don't be a Twat. Part 1.

Oh, crap. You know when a blogger writes “part 1” as part of his post title, he's seriously going off on one. He's been thinking too much and writing too much, and now he's finished some hideously convoluted attempt at self-expression with little or no consideration for his readers' enjoyment. And he wants to share it with you. Yes, this document DOES weigh in at over 3300 words IN FULL, and yes, I tried to write shorter, separate posts. But, like life, which this blog post is all about, it didn't work out the way I wanted it to.

Rest assured, though, I'm not going to feed you the whole cake at once. Let's nibble on it one slice at a time. Either way, as Eminem would put it, I need to be “gettin' this stress that's been eatin' me recently off of this chest and I rest again peacefully (peacefully)...”

It may sound like “bitter self-berating” and “being a big-headed cock” are poles apart from each other, but believe me: one can draw a fine line between the two. Between putting yourself down and showing off what you've got, there's a balance- one that most people find quite easily and naturally, allowing them to be happy with who they are, without annoying those around them.

One of the things I struggle with is finding that balance. That's why I'm going to come across as a complete twat in this blog post. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Secondary school. I've moved from a 100-pupil primary to a 1200-strong comprehensive secondary. I've had short-term memory difficulties all my life, and now that I have to learn 200 people's names and the location of 20 rooms in an un-signposted building, I've got a lot on my plate- and that's before I start the actual school work. The pressure piles on. I become a confused, overwhelmed, erratic- and largely depressed- twat. Adding to this, I have a form tutor who thinks that the right way to assist pupils with their difficulties is to humiliate them in front of the group. Unfortunately for me and everyone else with leaning difficulties in the school, she was in charge of special needs. For legal reasons I will call her Mrs G. I won't name her, but I will name the Blue Coat School in Oldham. Instead of helping me, she destroys me. From this point, I grow up genuinely believing that I am a moron.

Here are a few examples of her behaviour:

  1. Numerous times, she tells me I am stupid infront of the class.
  2. The school has a habit of pestering parents for extra money to pay for refurbishment for the school. They ask us to sell tat like keyrings or bookmarks. If we don't come back with either the merchandise or the money (ideally the money- you are grilled on how hard you'd tried if you bring the shit back), we are in deep shit. I, of course, forget (I had something called “homework” that took priority). Mrs G asks me if I had also forgotten to put my underwear on. She asks me this in front of the whole fucking class. She tells me that if I don't bring this money in, I am going to have to prove it. I am 11 years old. I believe her totally.
  3. She fequently takes my dinner hour away from me to make me find out pointless pieces of information. When I have to bring a deposit in for my Duke of Edinburgh award, she wants to know “what it is”. As I don't know, I spend my lunch hour trying to find out, reading in dictionaries and asking other people on the D of E scheme. They don't know either. I eventually find out how financial deposits work. And I NEVER forget.
  4. In the first week of school, when I forget to turn up to afternoon registration, she tells the rest of the group to tell me that I am in trouble. When I go to see her, she goes fucking ballistic at me. I nearly shit myself, seriously.
  5. I am allocated extra time during exams, which was a minor bonus, not that I can remember many of the answers anyway. The downside is, I have to sit them in Mrs G's room. In an English exam, we are told that the first ten minutes we were to read the questions but not pick up our pens til we were told to. I, of course, forget this and start writing after two minutes or something. She marches over to my table, snatches the pen out of my hand, slams it on the table and screeches at me.

My behaviour becomes more erratic as the homework piles up. I start to resemble the deranged love child of Hannibal Lecter and Roger Rabbit. These bizarre behavioural outbursts- unsurprisingly- annoy the majority of the pupils in the school, and I am outcast. Outcast because, summarily, I was a twat.

The abuse worsens. Girls criticise me, not because of my behaviour but because of my looks. On a daily basis for five years, I'm generally told that no-one will ever find me attractive. In a situation like this, it doesn't take long before you totally believe it. If a girl does show an interest, it's a joke at my expense. Because I'm a twat, I fall for it every time.


Whilst drowning in a sea of coursework, my twin cousins turn 18. I go to their party at a restaurant. It's my first night off coursework in months. I keep myself to myself, as I don't have any news for my relatives at this point. All I do with my life is coursework. I'm sat with my parents. My cousins and their friends are all chatting away like pretty regular 17-18-year-olds. At some point their banter lulls and all that can be heard from them is the odd hushed giggle. When I look up to their end of the table, they're looking at me. They all quickly look away, smiling.

For fuck's sake, I think. I can't go anywhere without girls giving me shit. I've done nothing to deserve this.

Later that year, I visit my headteacher with my mother. We explain that my memory difficulties are preventing me from succeeding with the work. My mother and I suggest dropping one subject to ease the workload. The head's stance is that GCSEs are difficult for everyone. He asks what makes me different, but it's a rhetorical question. The psychological assessment proving memory difficulties don't count for shit in his book.

We try again with the deputy head, who takes the same stance, making my mother cry. He begrudgingly allows me to continue as normal without doing geography homework. As I wasn't doing homework for this subject anyway, this doesn't change a great deal. I'm forced to sit all ten GCSEs. My only C-grade is English- the one you can't revise for. (Grade C or above are the only ones employers care about.)

Okay. So. In short, secondary school was dogshit. I develop a plethora of problems and they stay with me for a long time. But let's see how things change.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Picking a Prompt

At this week's writers meeting, organiser Oz brought in Kalum Kerr's short story anthology 31. You could do this exercise with any anthology book.

31 is a collection of short stories, numbered 1-31. Oz asked us to pick a number between these 2. We picked 27. She then read the first line of that story with the intention of using it as a writing prompt. It wasn't a good one, so we switched to 15!

Our new prompt: “I wanted to be alone.”

With ten minutes on the clock, here's what I produced. It's totally, y'know, fictional.


I wanted to be alone. I'd spent the weekend in Blackpool with 7 other mates, all guys, giving and taking banter and force-feeding myself Jack Daniels and Takeaway burgers. I hada number in my phone from some blonde girl who'd kissed me in a club- Sanuk or something, I can't really remember- and, of course, I'd obliterated my meagre bank account over the course of 24 hours. My nasal tract was still clotted from the drugs, and, coupled with the effects of this car journey, the churning of my stomach was almost- almost- uncontrollable. I found the horizon past the field on the other side of the motorway, the trees whipping behind us with surprising clarity, considering the state I was in the night before, running down Blackpool's strip, the street lights blurry and comet-tailed. Even when you've lost your mates in a club and the ecstasy’s still coursing through you, the strangers you encounter still feel invasive and strange, talking in incoherent jive about some guy's attitude or some girl's skirt and why that dance floor wouldn't ever stop rotating. I was also going to have to have words with Apone- his attitude was going too far, whether he's on something or not.

But I'm not going to confront him now. Not in this state.

Puke. Sleep. Eat. Phone this girl. Then talk to Apone.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Tesco Trolley Ramp Challenge

Pic Courtesy BuhSnarf, Flickr

Brace yourself for the world's most thrilling blog post... on a different website. Right now, I want to tell you how to save time in Tesco. No, please. Listen.

You know the ramps that stores have, the escalators? You know how the trolley wheels lock into the grooves of the escalator steps, preventing you from pushing them or pulling them? Well, I found a way to cheat the locking mechanism to save time. I very much doubt, as these people suggest, that the trolleys use magnets to lock in. I'm sticking with the wheels and the track fitting together.

You can still push your trolley up the escalator by holding the trolley by the side handles instead of the bar, and by entering the ramp at an angle so the wheels ride straight over the locking grooves. Keep pushing, but push with a little more effort on one handle, so that your trolley continues on that angle. Switch sides every few seconds, pushing more on the opposite end, so your trolley zigzags up the ramp.

The same technique can be applied with a full trolley on the way down, by again entering at an angle but gently tugging from one side to another, letting the wheels ride diagonally over the grooves.

I only shop for one, being an inexplicably available bachelor (sarcasm?) so my trolley isn't particularly heavy on the way back down. Please get in touch if you're a mother of two with a fully loaded trolley and have given this a shot. Because I would be amazed if you actually had.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Captain Culley and the Active

A month ago I mentioned that one of my ancestors, Charles Culley, died when his boat, The Active, sank off Granton Harbour in Edinburgh in 1901.

My dad has been researching our family tree for some years now and has uploaded some impressive findings to his website. He has collected together an abundance of information about the man and the incident, from archive photographs to official documents. If you like your history, you'll find this fascinating. Even if you're not particularly passionate about past occurences, you'll be surprised by the events that unfolded that night.

You'll notice that one of the files is a sound recording I made when I interviewed my granddad for a college project. He recounted the incident as he'd been told it. Find it on the site or, for more control, listen on Soundcloud.

My dad also mentioned that our surname- Tuckey- has a few incredible stories behind it. Stay tuned for my favourite- a story that I only got to the bottom of last week.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Surviving Risotto

Risotto cheated me. It cheated in the way I expected the whole “cooking thing” would before I started working through the book in November: it took ten times as long to cook- more than ten- than it did to eat.

The main reason for this is that risotto rice should be cooked differently to normal rice. Keda Black's recipe suggested ladelling the stock mixture, one spoonful at a time, into the pan of dry risotto rice. This took, as suggested, about 20 minutes. Additional problems: adding cold water to the stock instead of boiling (I was taking instructions from the book, not the stock packet); also, I don't drink wine so the only thing resembling it in my cupboard was white wine vinegar, which probably left the dish a little sour.

On the first attempt I found that my plastic jug was bending due to the boiling liquid I was measuring in it. Also, I don't own a ladle. I made do with a regular spoon. I then put the rice in a wrong-sized pan and had to switch half way through.

I made a few notes as I was cooking. I described the process, at the time, as “tedious as shit.” I was a little disappointed that there was no protein in risotto. Keda, of course, doesn't indicate whether her recipe is supposed to be part of a meal or all of it.

Having said all that, it was delicious. I bought a Pyrex jug for attempt number 2. Much easier to handle. But still a boring process.

I think this signifies a turning point. When I first attempted to cook from a recipe in November, I was balls-ing it up every time. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Memory difficulties made this process slow and uneasy- I'd make a mistake and have to carry on knowing I'd done it wrong. You can't go back a step when you're mixing ingredients- but I figured it out eventually, and moved onto the next recipe. Now, I'm following the book fairly well. I'll still crack on through the book, but there's little point blogging it all up now that it's more a process to follow and less a mind-bending challenge.

On a more positive note, it looks like I've officially learned to cook. Sure, there'll be more complex recipes further into the book, but the process of making a list, buying the ingredients, preparing them, serving them and eating a finished meal is now under my belt.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Angel's Share

One thing I forgot to mention in the Scotland blog post a few weeks ago is that the Cragganmore distillery, which I visited, was recently the location of a film shoot. The Angel's Share, directed by Ken Loach, is out now.

One part of the distilling process is called “the angel's share”, as the Cragganmore tour guides mentioned. They explained it very well, as does Wisegeek. Both explain it better than I could.

Over at Ballatine's distillery in Dumbarton, the “angels” that- legend has it- guard over the distilleries would occasionally share their security responsibilities with other flying beings. Ballatine's kept a gaggle of geese on their premises, and these “guard geese”- also known as the “Scotch Watch”- would make a racket if anyone approached the 'still, day or night. More recently, these geese have had to spread their wings and fly. Ballatines are using moretraditional methods of security these days. 

Having added to my own whisky collection recently, I've now got a fair hefty amount of the stuff myself. I'm not sure, though, that the neighbours would appreciate being chased away from their own door by an irate, squawking avian security guard. But it would be pretty cool. I hope the angels are watching over me- and my stash...

Monday, 2 July 2012

The OTHER Scarface

Last Monday, The Manchester Odeon showed Scarface (1983) as their Flashbacks film.

I missed it due to the Metrolink shutting off the road I was going to park on. Oh well.

Scarface IS a classic, but what very few people realise is that this film is a remake of a 1932 film of the same name, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Paul Muni in the title role. Take a look.

The plot is more or less identical, only Tony is Italian, not Cuban, and he's selling guns, not drugs. The film is also more concise, lasting only 93 mins as opposed to Brian DePalma's sprawling 170 minute affair. Because there's less drawing-out of the action and plot, the pacing is much tighter in the original- Tony rockets to the top of his empire and falls with spectacular effect. His corrupt character and his twisted morals shine through with superior clarity- you really feel that this man is a walking disaster, ruining lives with every deal he makes. There's no need for details of the business side of his empire, which DePalma insisted on nose-diving into for the remake. That leaves more screen time for effective character study, and when the guns DO start blazing, and the plot DOES start to twist, the impact is profound.

Halliwell's Film Guide gave it full marks in their review- something that a remarkably small number of films have attained. Personally I like both versions, but I felt that a lot of the Italian accents in the original were a bit hammy. The original, however, still pips it. Would The Odeon dare give it a whirl, I wonder? Would you see it on the big screen? I know I would.