Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014 has been a great year for holding a digestive biscuit between your teeth.



2014 Highlights:

Holding a digestive biscuit between your teeth while you watch a flock of geese.
Laying some new, bright yellow concrete flags directly over the old cracked ones.
Having a bit of cake on your face.
Selling the stone flags from your yard and replacing them with dog shit.
Poking a yolky knife at a picture of a semi-naked man.
Discovering two frogs in amplexus on the steps of the house that once featured on TV’s Grand Designs programme.
Emptying your catheter bag into the storm drain by the bedroom furniture shop.
Adjusting your vest top and putting out your cigarette (as a mark of respect).
Asserting that steam railways make life worth living.
Watching two ducks eat some chips.
Being a goth, then normal, then a muslim.
Spraying an old push-bike yellow in the rain.
Having two-thirds of your arse showing while you mend a Transit Connect.
Sleeping in a shopping basket attached to a walking frame.
Cycling.
Being in your 60s with a crew-cut-and-rat-tail and referring to your Mercedes using the pronouns ‘She’ and ‘Her’.
Asking Robert, ‘Have you any food on?’
Calling Robert ‘A robbing bastard’.
Holding a gobbing-out-of-the-window-contest in a Fiat 500.
Wearing noteworthy trainers and a low maintenance hairstyle to have your tits grabbed by Kyle.
Recommending a cut of pork loin.
Selling a pebble for a pound.
Being inside a Range Rover.
Swallowing a mouse in just three gulps.
Being important enough in Fair-Isle and corduroy.
Watching crows squabbling while you piss against a tree.
Wearing nightclothes in the daytime.
Polishing your alloys while smoking weed.
Avoiding soiled nappies and an enraged goose.
Sharing jokes and cigarettes outside a strip club.
Wearing your hard-hat over your hood.
Talking to the lonely pig on the moor.

Bemoaning all this rigmarole.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The sun is low, boiler flues are pluming, the garden gate is slimy, and the old man with the eye-patch...



The sun is low, boiler flues are pluming, the garden gate is slimy, and the old man with the eye-patch, bandana, boot-cut jeans and biker jacket is bemoaning “All this bloody rigmarole for £1.63 in bloody pension credits” to his neighbour, the tall thin man in the plastic reindeer antlers with the dew-drop hanging from his nose.

All of a sudden hailstones are bouncing off the Santa, Please Stop Here sign which is planted in the pot next to the fake plastic topiary bay tree.

A woman with an anorak and a bag-for-life is talking to a group of other women with bags-for-life. “I don’t feel the cold anymore because I’ve got…” she stops to think for a moment, then turns to the woman in the enormous scarf next to her, “What is it I’ve got, Joyce?”
“Diabetes?” says Joyce.

“No!” says the woman, suddenly remembering, “A onesie”.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Lonely Pig on the Moor



Every day this week, I've seen the lonely pig on the moor. It runs to the perimeter of its pen and stares at me as I walk past. Yesterday morning, when it came to meet me, I made two pig-like grunts (I don’t know why, I wasn’t really thinking about it) and it responded in exactly the same manner.

Further up the moor Mr Briggs pulled up. He wound down the window of his Suzuki Carry and told me that he and his missus had been by coach to Eastbourne for a Turkey and Tinsel weekend.

“Aye,” he explained, “Tuesday was Christmas Eve’, Wednesday was Christmas Day, and Thursday was New Year’s Day. £125-a-head all-in—including four drinks, which is enough. We had a real time!”

Mr Briggs went on to tell me that by the Thursday (New Year's Day) he’d found he fancied a fish. He said he'd travelled to a chip shop in Brighton only to find that they cost £10.50 so he hadn't bothered in the end.

Back in town, the gas board are digging up the roads. The woman in the pink onesie, who was sitting on her front step surrounded by small statues of Yorkshire terriers while she smoked a cigarette, told me “It’s a right pain, there’s nowhere to bloody park.”

A gold KIA Picanto screeched to a halt outside the church and a man in his 70s with a beard and glasses got out brandishing a small hand plane. He slammed shut the car door, shouldered open the gate of the churchyard and sprinted down the path and through the open doors. Within seconds I could hear the sound of wood being energetically smoothed echoing out from the church interior.

At 2.30pm, at the top of the hill, I encountered two large women in their 70s. They were dressed in identical spotted Dalmatian onesies and appeared to be very drunk. They clung to one another as they zig-zagged across the middle of the road whilst inexplicably making load “miaow” noises like enormous bipedal dog-cats.

In the supermarket, the woman with the sensible shoes and bag-for-life was telling her husband about her dislike of Milk Tray chocolates.
“Don’t ever buy me Milk Tray again! I hate them! Joan bought me some last year and I’ve still got them. Yuk!”

PS: The film at the head of this post was shot from approximately the same place that Edwardian filmmakers Mitchell & Kenyon made their short film in Huddersfield 114 years ago. Link to BFI Player here: http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-employees-of-messrs-lumb-and-co-leaving-the-works-huddersfield-1900-1900/

Saturday, 15 November 2014

6.15am: Dancers and Bouncers were Sharing Jokes and Cigarettes outside the Strip Club



6.15am: Dancers and bouncers were sharing jokes and cigarettes outside the strip club. The dancers were wearing their ‘standing outside’ uniform: white faux-mink coats, suspenders and heels. The bouncers wore their black suits, patent shoes and their big self-important faces.

The man behind me on the bus to the hospital had a loud hacking cough. I got off where a group of builders—hard-hats over their hoods—were smoking in a huddle outside the house with the empty Cheese-Curls packet and pile of dog shit underneath the trampoline in the yard.
There’s a lot of rotten pre-recession Ground Force decking around here and it’s slippery and treacherous at this time of year; the old man with butter on his nose advised me to watch myself after I slipped on his.
In the street, a young man with a shaved head and tracksuit was vacuuming his brand new Vauxhall Corsa while he listened to Robbie Williams quite loudly.

Out in the sticks, beyond where the remains of the smashed up traffic cone have been strewn across the road for weeks. Beyond even where the empty breakfast bowl and spoon have been left on top of the dry-stone wall for days (There’s an inch and a half of rainwater in the bowl now), a low mist is sitting in the valley bottom. The grey road surface is accented with orange cherry leaves and firework casings and a large flock of fieldfares is messily stripping out all the berries from a big rowan tree.

On the driveway at Oakwood, a man of about thirty-five, with a beard and donkey jacket, has his head under the bonnet of his thirty year old Saab 900 while he listens to Talking Heads quite loudly.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The 6am Sky is Like a Primary School Halloween Drawing.



The 6am sky is like a primary school halloween drawing. 

The camp teenage boy is talking to his companion on the bus: 
“I can tell he’s got a crush on me but if I say owt I know he’s just gonna say, ‘I’m not gay!’ in that stupid indignant voice”.
Behind me, the grey haired hi-vis man has been to the new restaurant that apparently everybody's talking about: 
“I ordered the lamb but when it came it was all fat. I got one tiny thin slice of meat off the whole piece! I sent it back. I can’t eat that I said, it’s all fat. The woman asked me, ‘Do you want to order something else?’ I said, ‘No love, you’ve put me right off my tea now, I’m going home to make myself some beans on toast’. The chef chased me out into the car park and told me he was going to have word with the butcher but I’ll not be going back.”

I walk down Leeds Road behind a girl in skinny jeans and a black puffer jacket. She's talking loudly on her phone in Polish, emphasising key points with wild, histrionic hand gestures.

On the estate where people wear their nightclothes in the daytime, There’s a woman in the Costcutter with Nobody’s Cow appliquéd onto her onesie above her breasts. Outside, the man with the piercings is polishing the alloys of his Ford Fiesta one-handed while he smokes some strong weed. He smiles and waves.

In the sticks, it's all long shadows, wood smoke and lavender, starlings on wires, church bells, dried hydrangeas, Kate Bush songs from the open windows of ex-farm buildings, wicker-baskets, wellington boots, a possible sighting of a small flock of waxwings and a definite sighting of a huge flock of lapwings. 
There are still bags in the trees though. 

Yesterday, I was nearly hit twice by flying objects today, the first time I had to swerve to avoid the soiled nappy that somebody threw from their front door towards the bins without looking* then, at the farm I had to duck under the flight path of an enraged goose. It hissed and honked and flew over the five bar gate at me in a rage. The old farmer ran out and got himself between the goose and me, flapping his arms at it, “It’s a right little bastard this ‘en!” He explained, as he tried to shepherd it back into the yard, “It dun’t like me either—keeps biting me. It’s never flown ovva t’gate before though!”

*This has happened before: http://goo.gl/edTd1A

Thursday, 16 October 2014

It had been a windy night; beech nuts were popping under my feet



It had been a windy night; beech nuts were popping under my feet. The street lights were out again and it would have been pitch-black had it not been for the faint glow of the light that illuminated the green lichen triangle that used to be a street sign.
By lunchtime it was still only half light. And cold. Paths were lined with thick puddles of leaves, black arthritic nettles, and frantically suckering brambles. The wind hissed through yellow horse-chestnut, and telegraph wires strained at their poles. Brown, stripped-bare fields were dotted white with gulls and the farm cat swallowed a mouse whole in just three gulps.
At the pub in the village where 2 Dine for £12.99 on selected main courses and afternoon tea, the landlord was being important enough in Fair-Isle and corduroy. ‘Hello there!’ he enthused to customers disgorged crease-free from mainly Range Rovers. 

Later, I watched some squabbling jackdaws while I pissed against a tree. Half a dozen of them were fighting over the topmost perch of the church steeple. They’d circle scrappily for a while until one would suddenly tip its wing and attempt to land. Usually its move would be pre-empted by the others and the breakaway bird would be knocked off course and forced to abort. Occasionally, one would succeed in making the perch only for the rest to rush it en masse and dislodge it after only a few seconds. I watched several tours, swooping attempts, and brief landings but I don’t know what the ultimate outcome was.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Research into outdoor chores carried out in the last week of September:




Research into outdoor chores carried out in the last week of September: 
Gender / Approx’ age / Attire. 
16°C - 20°C (Unusually mild weather for the time of year)
Sunny with very occasional light drizzle.

1 Male, 40s. Watering potted annuals. T-shirt, jeans, sandals.
2 Male, 70s. Scrubbing hose-reel with stiff brush. T-shirt, trousers, sandals.
3 Male, 60s. Clipping fingernails. T-shirt, jeans, sandals.
4 Female, 60s. Digging out couch grass. Fleece jacket, jogging pants, walking boots
5 Female, 70s. Taking seedlings round to a neighbour. Blouse, trousers, sandals.
6 Female, 40s. Walking Labrador. T-shirt, jeans, trainers.
7 Female, 70s. Weeding between driveway setts with special long-handled tool. --   Fleece jacket, trousers, sandals.
8 Male, 60s. Loading garden cuttings into Fiat Punto. Fleece jacket, jeans, black shoes.
9 Female, 40s. Re-pointing garage wall. Fleece jacket, tracksuit pants, slippers.
10 Female, 70s. Walking Highland terrier. Fleece jacket, knee-length plaid pleated skirt, flat black shoes.
11 Male, 60s. Re-pointing wall. Polo-shirt, jeans, black shirt.
12 Female, 30s. Putting out bins. large knitted striped jumper, jogging pants, one slipper, one bare foot.
13 Female, 70s. Popping to shop to get bits. knee-length skirt, knitted cardigan, flat black shoes.
14 Male, 60s. Sweeping yard. Fleece jacket, trousers, welly shoes.
15 Male, 60s. Washing Fiat Punto. Navy-blue overalls, black shoes.
16 Male, 60s. Clearing guttering. Shirt with collar, V-neck sweater, suit trousers, slippers.
17 Female, 60s. Sweeping pavement outside house. Cardigan, trousers, slippers.
18 Male, 80s. Polishing KIA Picanto. Shirt with collar, V-neck sweater, suit trousers, black shoes.
19 Female, 70s. Sweeping driveway with brand new yard-brush. Sweatshirt embroidered with floral display, trousers, welly shoes.
20 Male, 70s. Re-applying window putty. Knitted cardigan, jeans, slippers.
21 Male, 50s. Shouting abuse at a neighbour in the street—“Don’t fuck with me!” T-shirt, jeans, socks.
22 Male, 70s. Telling the postman that a neighbour has died, “Yep, they’ve buried her and everything”. Baseball cap, cardigan, jogging pants, trainers.
23 Male, 20s. Hiding door key under mat, “You never saw that, did you? There’s nowt worth nicking anyway; it’s a right shit-hole”. Motorcycle helmet, tracksuit, trainers.        

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I walked a long way today, through eight spiders’ webs



I walked a long way today, through eight spiders’ webs. I had dead flies webbed to my shirt and face. 
         Tree litter, safely bagged nappies, and BMW’s covered the slippery Driveways of Distinction. 
         A builder on the main road was loading a heavy-duty radio back into his van. He slammed the doors shut as I strode across his freshly laid concrete path leaving three deep footprints. I apologised and made a weak joke about the current vogue for pattern imprinted paving. The builder said nothing, just turned round, opened the van doors, and unloaded his radio and tools again. I disappeared round a corner and was washing my shoes in a puddle when a small boy of about 4 or 5 years old ran out across the road. His dad came after him, picked him up and dragged him back to the pavement. 
“I’ve told you not to do that, It’s dangerous!” He yelled.
“I know” said the boy.
“So why did you do it then?”
“Because … because it was a secret ninja job.”

PS: The Most Difficult Thing Ever has been shortlisted for this years Blog North Awards, the final results of which are partly decided by public vote. If you feel inclined, you can vote here:  www.blognorthawards.com
         The event itself takes place at The Deaf Institute in Manchester on Wednesday 8th October. Details here: www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk
         Also, if you're interested, there is a Most Difficult Thing Ever dedicated Facebook page here: www.facebook.com

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Out in the sticks where 50% of women are inside Range Rovers.



Out in the sticks where 50% of women are inside Range Rovers, I followed the deer down the gravel driveway to the barn conversion where the new faux-modernist chrome-plated garden sculpture is ‘something a bit different’ and ‘absolutely beautiful to look at’ according to the woman with the ‘glass of something lovely’ in her hand. I lost a fiver around here yesterday, I retraced my steps for about ten minutes but there was no sign of it.

Later, a police dog pissed on my van and a bright red man inside a bright red BMW nearly took my wing mirror as he swerved to avoid some horse shit.

In the village, the grown-up paper-girl in distressed denim passed me in the street. She tucked her phone under her chin and folded a copy of The Sun for her next drop without pausing her conversation, ‘She’s having another baby,’ she said, ‘Royal twats!’ She pushed open the gate with her hip, ‘… Yes, well, if I had a decent job I wouldn’t be doing a paper round, would I?’

I parked my van at the end of another long driveway — in the same place I have every day this week. I opened the door and there, screwed up on the pavement was my fiver.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Kyle’s Always Grabbing My Tits.



“Kyle’s always grabbing my tits,” said the young woman in the too-tight playsuit whose young son had just grabbed her tits.
“I know! Mine too, it really hurts,” said the older woman in the noteworthy trainers, gathering her low maintenance hair into a scrunchie.
And it’s embarrassing,” added the younger one, pushing her unfashionable specs up the bridge of her nose.

The butcher was recommending a cut of pork loin to the thin lipped elderly woman with the big black canvas shopping bag and frown. He waved a large knife over it in the display counter, “That’ll be lovely; tender as a woman’s heart!“ he said.
“I’ll have the sausages,” said the woman.

A boy of about six or seven years old stopped me in the street.
“Do you want to buy this for a pound?” he said, opening his palm to reveal the pebble I’d just seen him pick up from Mr Beever’s driveway.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A pebble” said the boy, rubbing it on his sleeve, “It’s shiny”.
“A pound for a pebble?” I said.
“It’s magic,” said the boy.

I was watching a nuthatch in Hangingstone Road when a thin man in washed-out black passed at dangerously high speed. He was riding a pushbike and trailer with GAY written across the back of it in large plastic letters. He looked up at me as he shot through the narrow gap between the double parked cars. “Hiya!” he yelled at the top of his voice. The nuthatch flew away.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

I Chase Cloud Shadows Up Over the Moor...



I chase cloud shadows up over the moor and onto the estate where the men still drive Rovers and wear their hair in elaborate comb-overs that flip up in the wind like busy, beige peddle-bin lids. Wind-assisted lapwings flock in the field behind the abandoned Renault camper (£500 ono), the pretend duck by the bin-store quacks as I pass, and a replica of a basset-hound peers out from the large stone handbag in Mrs Hinchliffe’s alpine rockery, its head bobbing on a spring. People in comfy shoes are restraining small terriers, frying liver and onions, smoking cigs, and scraping fluvial sediment from a storm drain with a butter knife. A man with a bit of dinner on his face is sitting on a collapsible chair outside his conservatory door. He is surrounded by marigolds, begonias, gladioli, Sport For All stickers, a faded Basil Ede print of some ducks, a pile of VHS video cassettes, a dozen or so pretend meerkats, and a miniature wooden wheelbarrow stuffed with pansies and snapdragons. Next door, a ten year old dusty-pink Kia Picanto pulls up and a grey haired man with thick, plastic rimmed Reactolite glasses and a three-quarter length beige anorak climbs out. He slams the door, opens the boot, and unloads three heavy looking Lidl bags-for-life. He pulls out a small packet of dog biscuits and holds it up high to show the man with the dinner on his face who shouts, ’Thanks, Derek!’ and points towards the open door of his green plastic shed, ‘Wob us it in there, can you?’

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Under the Overgrown Brambles, Through the Spiders' Webs...



Under the overgrown brambles, through the spiders’ webs, past the tethered cat asleep on the lawn at the limit of its chain, to Mr Briggs’ front door.
“Good weekend?” he asks.
“Not so bad, thanks. You?”
“It were all right. We went down The Railway. I said to Robert, ‘Have you any food on?’ He said ‘Yes, we’re doing bacon sandwiches for a pound.’ I said, ‘I’ll have two’. So we had a bacon sandwich each”.
“Very nice” I say.
“Aye, but when I got up to go for a piss, they had a bloke on the toilet door trying to charge me 50p because of the Tour de France! The robbing bastards! I said to Robert, ‘You’re not charging me 50p for a piss, I’ve been coming in here thirty-five year.’”
“Did he charge you?” I said.
“Did he fuck. Robbing bastard!”

The roofers were listening to Tracey Chapman on their bright yellow, heavy-duty radio while they discussed their nights out in Brighouse.
“Aye, I went out there last weekend. It wasn’t a bad night but I didn’t go out to get rat-arsed” said the younger one, rolling a cigarette.
“Fuck me!” said the older one, “I did! I got absolutely fucking bladdered.”

The occupants of the little Fiat 500 ahead of me at the lights were engaged in some kind of gobbing-out-of-the-window contest. The big man with the moustache in the near-side passenger seat appeared to be winning; he’d landed a large greeny halfway across the pavement outside the doctor's surgery. Two of the beige pensioners in the long line of mainly-beige-with-accents-of-navy pensioners at the bus stop looked on disapprovingly. They began to remonstrate with the Fiat men but the wind blew something heavy by Yves St Laurent into my van so I wound up my window and missed what they said.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Most Difficult Thing Ever audio extract / new stockists



Two new Manchester stockists of The Most Difficult Thing Ever book/CD:

Magma
22 Oldham Street
Manchester 
M1 1JN

Trouble at Mill
50 Beech Road
Chorlton-cum-Hardy
Manchester
M21 9EG

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Just Down From The Sun Pub Where Elvis Performed Last Night...



Just down from the Sun pub where 'Elvis' performed last night, the man who still has his Christmas decorations up was singing Everly Brothers songs at the top of his voice while he did his ironing with the window open.

Two fifteen year old Vauxhall coupés driven by young snapback wearers sped past. The silver metallic one in front hit the speed-bump by the bus stop too quickly and its wide-arch body kit came off in one piece. The following coupé, a red one, ran over the body kit and dragged it up the road for about fifty yards, smashing it to pieces. The elderly man with the Scottish accent and the spaniel asleep in the basket attached to his walking-frame said, ‘There’re some right fucking idiots about, aren’t there?’

On the terrace of houses with more plants in the guttering than in the gardens—next door to the house with the Twix wrapper, the AAA battery, the ear-buds, and the dustpan and brush in the concreted-over yard—a man of about sixty, wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and slippers was sitting on his front step listening to The Eurythmics at very high volume. He occasionally joined in with the chorus between drags on his roll-up.

Out in the sticks, builders of all ages listen to 80s chart hits all day long and chubby young white men with no socks, beards, tattoos and flat caps say, ‘Thanks, boss’ to the Asian shopkeepers or do some cycling. A man of about 60 with a grey crew-cut and rat-tail discusses his Mercedes with another younger Mercedes owner. They both refer to their cars using the pronouns ‘she’ and 'her'.

Friday, 6 June 2014

I was talking to Mrs Kaur in the shop...



I was talking to Mrs Kaur in the shop, “You know her from number fourteen?” she said, “Well, every time she comes in here she’s different; one day she’s a goth, one day she’s like, normal, like, white, normal, and then yesterday she came in and she was a bloody muslim!”

On Union Street, Mr Coldwell was in his yard trying to spray an old push-bike yellow in the rain. He told me it was for the window display of the florist’s shop on the route of the Tour de France. He was well into his second can of paint but the rain was washing it off as fast as he could spray it on. “I should have waited for a finer day, it looks crap,” he explained. At the house next door, they have finished laying their new plastic lawn and have now embellished it; in one corner stands a plastic statuette of mole wearing a miner’s helmet and, in another, a shiny fake plastic dog turd.

In the road, the magpie was squawking hysterically and dive-bombing the fat black cat which eventually hid underneath a Suzuki Vitara for cover. 
Two cars down from the Vitara, the young mum was struggling to load baby equipment around the large custom built speaker system in the boot of the new VW Polo.

A bit further down again, next to the children's playground that the children never play on, a man with a good two-thirds of his arse showing was mending his old Transit Connect. "Can I borrow your drill, Trevor?" he shouted to the man drinking beer in his front garden, "You cheeky bastard!" the man shouted back.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

In Town: On my way into work at 6am, the lank-haired transvestite in the flared capri pants...



In Town:
6am, the lank-haired trans woman in the flared Capri pants and anorak rolls a cigarette by the bins near the open market, she glances up as I pass, “It’s a bit wet, pet” she says, sneering up at the weather.

Later, in the suburbs:
Four women in their thirties pass me near the junction box that has been vandalised with the slogan WALTER SCOTT IS A BATTY BOY. They walk two abreast, arms folded tight and the hoods of their bath robes pulled over their heads against the driving rain. The old man whose garden smells of chives is putting out his bins. He watches the women pass and rolls his eyes, blood from a nosebleed congealing thickly on his top lip.
On the corner of the main road out of town, the man with the ear defenders and jackhammer pauses to stare at the young Asian woman in the dark glasses and the brand new Porsche Panamera.

Out in the sticks:
The sun comes out and there are dog walkers with ski poles, gaiters and fleece jackets. Only the pony’s head is visible above the sea of yellow in the buttercup field. There are rhododendrons, stripy lawns, BMWs, Range Rovers, and those panelled front doors that look like enormous chocolate bars. Queues of men in shorts and T-shirts stand outside the Sandwich Barn, all pumped up torsos and skinny legs, and the old man in full motorcycle racing leathers pulls off his helmet to reveal a somehow immaculate and astonishing 1970s hairdo.

Right out in the sticks:
The sun is out but the cow-parsley lined roads are still littered with leaves and twigs after all the wind and rain. Crows scatter as I approach. There are broken Zafiras, Vitaras, ancient Land Rovers, and mucky trainers. There are midges too, and I think I saw a lone oystercatcher down by the reservoir. Puffs of pollen explode from the pine trees and I definitely heard a cuckoo.

Monday, 12 May 2014

On Tuesday, 20th May, I will be reading from The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the Marble Beerhouse.



On Tuesday, 20th May I will be reading from The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the Marble Beerhouse in Chorlton, Manchester as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. It's a free event and it starts at 7pm.
There's a Facebook page dedicated to the event here. If you use Facebook or Twitter etc and could spread the details around it would be fantastic — especially if you have Manchester connections. As far as I'm aware, the only person currently intending to come along is the woman in the video above. She's only just set off and she's got to go via the chemist so I'm concerned she won't make it in time.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I was out in fucking Leeds at the weekend



“I was out in fucking Leeds at the weekend,” said the man sitting in front of me on the bus. “There’s some fucking talent over there compared to Huddersfield, you know? It’s a different world.”
“You need some Bromide,” said the man in the bent glasses next to him.
“Bromide? What’s Bromide?”
“It’ll calm you down—stop you thinking about it all the time.”
“But I like thinking about it!”
I looked out of the window. The plump woman with the thick, dry, curly hair was sitting at the lights in her mauve Vauxhall Corsa, eating yoghurt from the pot with a metal spoon.

At the house with the single gatepost and a gate but nothing else in the garden—no fence or wall etc, nothing to mark its boundary with the pavement—a boy of about ten years old stood staring, his face smeared with streaks of fake tan.
“How come you’re just standing there?” he asked the delivery man, who was writing out a card on the step of the house next door.
“How come you’re just standing there?” the delivery man asked back.
“I don’t know” said the boy.

Out in the sticks, surrounded by dog groomers' vans, the sun came out and the flies were bouncing off my face. Trees cast dappled shadows across ivy covered walls that buzzed with bees. I heard a cuckoo, saw dunlins, lapwings, pheasants, (close-up)swallows, ducks, geese, and a beautiful peacock butterfly, all within half an hour.
Back in town, Craig Bainbridge told me he’d seen two ducks eating some chips outside C.Booth’s hardware shop on his way into work. He said he’d have taken a photo but he was on his scooter.

Results of an hour spent researching what to wear in the countryside at this time of year:
Knitted beige lurex cardigan — no sleeves, tied at waist.
Brown hoodie
Green overalls
Green anorak with hood — North Face
Black and navy woollen jumper
Hi-vis coat — green/muddy
Pink polo-neck jumper with black gilet
Navy blue overall/shop coat
Fleece jackets — various and sundry
Blue cagoule — torn
Green zip-up raglan cardigan
Light blue cotton shirt
T-shirts — various and sundry

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Book Night Special: Wednesday 23rd April 2014



This year, the World Book Night annual collaborative book event at the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England, will feature Charles Bukowski's 1971 novel, Post Office. I'm pleased to have been asked to contribute some thoughts.


Bucket of Crabs*

I left the post office in 1990 to study art at university in Liverpool. I graduated in 1993 and spent the next twelve months looking for a job and doing voluntary work in galleries. The only ‘DSS welcome’ place I could find was a room-share with a neo-nazi who burnt my belongings and threw them out of a first floor window. 

Frustrated, I decided to spend my time more productively; I mainly smoked weed which I rolled with tobacco sourced from the ashtrays of a biker bar in town. When I wasn’t doing that, I was drinking 25p cans of Skandia Green lager and trying to stay away from my flat. 
One day, I went for a Restart at Toxteth job centre. I was told to bring three job cards with me. I searched the racks but they were all empty; not a single card in the whole place. I went in for my interview and the R.E.M song, Shiny Happy People played over the P.A. as the job centre man signed me on again.
Cutting a long story short, I eventually found myself back at the Royal Mail in Huddersfield, utterly defeated. This is when I first read Post Office. It was an easy read and very funny. As objectionable as the book's main protagonist is at times, I could identify with him. Henry Chinaski's impeccably flawed combination of bravado, cynicism, righteous indignation and pissed-up bewilderment made real and authentic and he operated in a very familiar world. 
I think Charles Bukowski wrote himself into the book as Chinaski—a fantasised, exaggerated version of himself in a profoundly observed environment.
Where Bukowski wrote himself into his books, I write myself out of mine. I’ve found that being a postman makes me almost invisible on the streets. Drama is everywhere and it is my anonymity that facilitates my access to it. I am looking in from the outside. In effect, I have escaped the post office by writing about it from the outside on the inside. Unfortunately for Charles Bukowski, he never thought of this clever little conceit and his only option was to leave the post office and fall back on his career as a massively successful writer of short stories, novels, poetry, and films.

Suffice to say that reading Post Office this time around was like pulling teeth. In fact, I was struggling through it in the dentist's waiting room the other day and was relieved when the receptionist called me for my treatment.

*The people from The Centre for Fine Print Research handed out copies of Post Office and asked the recipients for three word reviews which were then made into a book (see video above). My review was 'Bucket of crabs' and I thought I'd also use it as a title here. It is a reference to Charles Bukowski's posthumously published poem 'The Great Escape' in which he explains how he finally overcame the post office.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The wind picked up on the estate and Mrs O’Leary’s wind chimes chimed



The wind picked up on the estate and Mrs O’Leary’s wind chimes chimed while the scrap men threw the old telly and garden swing over her broken fence.
Further down, the overweight old racist man with the moustache and the 1970s zip-up raglan cardigan with suedette detail was hiding the Asian children’s toys behind the wall by the bus stop again.
Down by the house with the ceramic cart horse in the porch, the kestrel that was perched on the steering wheel of the builder’s van, stared at me as I walked past. 
Next door, the woman who always calls me ‘My dear’ was wearing her red coat with the leopard fur trim. She was unloading Lidl and Wilko bags from a taxi. She paid the driver and carried all six bags up her path at once, past the countless woodland creature garden ornaments that incorporate solar panels and lamps. I waved and she shouted “Hello, my dear!”
A funeral cortège passed through the estate. It was led by a man in a top hat and a cane. Mrs Perkins adjusted her vest top and put out her cigarette. “I don’t know who that was,” she said, “but you should always pay your respects, shouldn’t you?”

At the large, detached houses near the park, an elderly man in a fleece jacket told me that, ‘Steam railways make life worth living’. 
At the house next-door-but-three—with the black BMW on the drive—another elderly man in a fleece jacket was in the garage. He was working at a Black & Decker Workmate whilst listening to Ken Bruce play The Three Degrees on Radio 2. A Tesco delivery van arrived. The driver was also listening to Ken Bruce playing The Three Degrees on Radio 2, “How are you?” he shouted to the Black & Decker man. “I’d be a lot better if the sun was shining!” the Black & Decker man replied.

At the golf club, the four grey haired golfers in black fleece jackets were gathered around the bearded, grey haired golfer in a black fleece jacket, asking him how much they owed him. It transpired that three of them owed him £25.00 and one of them owed him £28.00.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Two thin young men in snapbacks and bum fluff were eating eggs...



Two thin young men in snapbacks and bum fluff were eating eggs in the café on Market Street, a copy of The Sun newspaper open on the table in front of them. “He paid £106,000 to look like that!” said the one in the white hat, poking his yolky knife at a picture of a semi naked man with very pronounced abdominal muscles.
“Why?” said the man in the blue hat”
“Because he’s a fucking knob”.

At the Costcutter on the other side of the road, a young woman in a polka-dot onesie, heavy make-up, drawn on eyebrows and a big up-do was waiting outside in the drizzle with two Staffordshire bull terriers. A large truck passed, blowing over the steel Huddersfield Examiner sandwich board with a crash and the dogs yelped in surprise.

Later, out in the sticks, a pair of frogs were in amplexus on the steps of the house that once featured on TV’s Grand Designs programme and a sparrowhawk killed a wood pigeon on Mr and Mrs Mitchell’s driveway. As I crossed the road by the Conservative Club, my hat blew off and a woman under an umbrella walked into me as I bent down to retrieve it.

On the estate, the man who always wears the same baggy tracksuit bottoms and unusual cap-sleeved T-shirt said he was looking forward to some nicer weather because it puts people in a better mood. Further down, in the car park by the flats, the old man in the tweed suit shouted “We’re getting posh, aren’t we?” to the Rastafarian man who was fitting some new wheel trims to his Vauxhall Astra.

Back in town, the drunk man in the grey suit was emptying his catheter bag into the storm drain by the bedroom furniture shop.