In which foreigners let themselves down.

Ibiza in the early 1990’s; the golden era of the clubber’s Mecca and yours truly was there on holiday. Dancing through the night to hypnotic beats, in an ecstacy-fuelled haze until the sun broke the horizon once more and everybody headed back down to the beach to continue the pure hedonism of the White Isle.


Well no I wasn’t doing that, because I was about fourteen and so completely oblivious to the Island’s status as the world’s club capital, also my mum and dad were there and I still thought ‘Anthrax’ were cool. I had a stupid haircut probably and was generally the sort of kid who would shit his pants were you to offer him a cigarette, let alone all drugs and stuff. Still though, two weeks on holiday is two weeks on holiday and I was having a pretty nice time dicking about in the pool and wearing my new shorts.

The trouble with being a teenager on holiday though is that eventually everything becomes either rubbish, or boring. You’re tired of swimming, you’re sick of playing cards with your new friends from like, Coventry or wherever, your parents won’t give you any money to play on the ‘Outrun’ machine in the bar for the eighth time that day and you have stopped trying to impress the hotel staff with your Spanish because they actually try to speak to you and it freaks you out, so what to do? It was this very conundrum that led me to explore the hotel and reveal its terrifying secret.

Now there is not usually a great deal to your average resort hotel; rooms obviously, probably a couple of bars and swimming pools, a restaurant, and maybe a shop, all linked by a marble-lined lobby with high ceilings and seemingly pointless seating areas (you’re on holiday for fuck’s sake; it’s scorching hot, go outside!).

Notwithstanding this lack of complexity however, I decided one afternoon to complete a full lap of the hotel grounds and to see what was to be seen. I set off clad in only a pair of swimming shorts, only to quickly scurry back to base to retrieve my trainers; the ground was too hot to walk upon barefoot and the grass was that weird stuff they plant around mediterranean hotels because it stays green all the time, it’s like walking on tiny knives.

I set off and passed by the swimming pool and outdoor bar area, I wandered through the ornamental gardens and looked for coconuts in the palm trees (none, what a rip-off), I stopped briefly to inspect the massively heavy-looking ping-pong tables made from cast concrete and painted green, I never once saw anybody playing on them. The nearby children’s play area held little fascination for me and I wasted no time there, I rounded one end of the building and crossed in front of the main entrance whilst at the same time observing the local coach drivers sitting alongside their transfer buses parked on the asphalt in front of the hotel; I paused. ‘I’m glad I’m not one of them’ I thought. ‘They’re at work and I’m on holiday. Plus they have to eat all the weird stuff you get over here; at least I know I can have proper sausages when I get back home’. I roused myself from my reverie. ‘They’re happy enough’, I told myself. ‘They don’t know any different, and they probably like the funny-tasting ketchup anyway’. I moved on.

The opposite end of the building was an area I hadn’t so far concerned myself with during my stay. A small hairdressing salon that seemingly never opened and a ‘bureau de change’ that was similarly undermanned (or underwomanned! #EverydaySexism) stood in the shaded part of the hotel grounds. I passed by without further thought and besides, something had caught my eye.

At the extreme edge of the hotel complex, practically alongside the road and about as far from all the fun bits as it was possible to be was a basketball court and alongside it a strange sort of patio paved in a glossy, dark green stone.

Now though I could see this curio I wasn’t able to reach it directly, the path I was following led to the working parts of the hotel, the kitchens and staff car park etc. I wasn’t about to trespass in those areas, the prospect of being told off in Spanish was infinitely worse than being told off in English and even that was bad enough. I cast about, looking for an easier route to the emerald plaza and spied a likely gap in the bushes.

You will recall that I had earlier had to restart my odyssey due to a lack of footwear, I was now thankful that I hadn’t simply pressed on without. I entered the thicket and peered about, looking for a route through to the other side. As I did so I became aware of the sheer number of white paper napkins lying about, embossed with the hotel chain’s logo. ‘There are a lot of those’, I mused. ‘Maybe they just blew i…..WHOA!’, what appeared to be a perfectly formed human turd lay immediately in front of me in the pine-needle strewn dust. Reeling, I stepped back and began to look more closely at my surroundings; the paper napkins were in the main screwed up, the crude brown smears all the more jarring against the pure white and in the same way that the hidden image in those crappy ‘magic eye’ pictures of the same period would suddenly leap out at you, I began to notice the lumps of dried excreta scattered about the area. A phantom shitter was in clear evidence, and I had wandered into his (or her! #Patriarchy) lair.

Realising that I was now way off piste and should the shitter return I may very well have to bear witness to the depravity, I legged it; shitting in the bushes! On holiday! Who were these deviants? I checked the soles of my trainers and was thankful to find no trace of south European ordure and having regained most of my composure I resolved never to venture forth again.

Later on during the holiday I joined up with a sort of activity group and it transpired that the glittering green patio was in fact an oversized shuffleboard deck that was easily reachable from near the pool and that it is actually quite an enjoyable game.

I didn’t tell anybody about all the turds in the bushes nearby. They might have thought it was me.


In which the stakes are raised alarmingly.

1980’s P.E lessons at St. Basil’s infants school could involve any one of a number of things:

Music & Movement: Inexplicable lunging about the school hall, pretending to be a sunflower or whatever.

Country Dancing: Pretty much what it says on the tin; prancing about like a girl.

Throwing stuff: Including, ‘Who can hit the ceiling with a beanbag?’ and ‘Christ, these rubber quoits are all crusty, and they stink’.

So far so shit, but on fairly regular occasions we would troop into the school hall in our vests and shorts to find that the elderly caretaker had been forced once again to erect ‘The Apparatus’. The apparatus was a cross between the sort of stuff that you would expect to see folded up against the wall of a school hall and other, sort of freeform items that involved balancing on a thing, or swinging from a thing, or something. The chaps would be split into groups of four or five, and the groups would spend ten minutes or so on each piece, making bold claims of being able to ‘go over the top’ or ‘jump off that bit up there’, but not doing so because they did it last week and got told off by ‘Miss’ for being too good at P.E.

The most hotly anticipated part of the lesson was when it was your turn on ‘the ropes’. The ropes weren’t actually ropes, but rather an A-frame of about twelve feet in height, faced with what would pass for ships rigging; a handrail just underneath the apex could be swung from by those brave enough to scale the inside of the frame. Cue Gary Laye.

The Gary Laye I knew of at school didn’t come up in the most cursory of facebook searches, so I think it is safe to assume that he probably just flew away one day. If I hear from his lawyers I’ll just change the name in this story to ‘Larry Gaye’. Heh.

Gary was eventually to be the subject of a number of lurid rumours at secondary school, rumours which were probably definitely facts, but at ‘St. Basil’s infants school in the eighties™’ he was content just to be a bit unruly and have a funny eye which would intermittently open really wide whenever he ate his sandwiches.

Now Gary was in the year below me at school, but for reasons I can’t recall he was in our P.E. class one day. Our usual teacher, Miss D’Arcy, was absent that particular day and so the P.E. class was to be taken by the no less than the headmistress, MRS. M. THOMPSON.

IRRELEVANT FACT: My nan apparently knew MRS. M. THOMPSON and would regularly check in with her friend to make sure I was both behaving at school, and eating all of my lunch. A chap could barely fart and get away with it, for fuck’s sake.

P.E. was soon in full swing on this particular afternoon, things were being balanced on, stuff was being swung from, and I had fallen from one of the ropes that spanned a corner of the room, and banged my head a bit. The order soon came to stop whatever we were doing and proceed to the next piece of equipment, where we were to sit quietly until we were told we could recommence jumping about and yelling, Gary Laye however, scrambling about on the favoured ‘ropes’, either could not or would not hear the deadly command. He continued to climb about the equipment, gurgling with enjoyment.

MRS. M. THOMPSON was not the sort to suffer fools gladly, she once slapped my legs for using a green crayon to do the sky in one of my pictures; I knew I was supposed to use blue but I couldn’t find one. Gary Laye though, apparently unaware of the Kraken he was baiting, sat astride the roped A-frame and tried to touch the ceiling of the school hall.

MRS. M. THOMPSON: Everybody stop what you are doing and sit quietly! Come along!

Gary Laye: Hurr hurr……..eeeeeee!

MRS. M. THOMPSON: Come along now please! Climb down from there.

Gary Laye: Hurrrrr! Yay!

MRS. M. THOMPSON: Get down from there this instant!

This stentorian imperative, aimed his way, seemed to get through to Gary, who climbed down from the ropes and stood dithering on one of the green padded mats laid out to prevent chaps from dashing their brains out on the parquet flooring.

MRS. M. THOMPSON: Gary, sit down an…

Gary promptly monkeyed up an inside face of the ropes and managed to grab hold of the rail just under the apex of the A-frame, he had gone completely off-piste now and was risking certain death. Swinging from the rail and unable to regain a foothold on the inside face of the ropes, Gary found that he could no longer get back down to safety and, as was soon to be made plain to all, Gary needed a poo.


This was too much even for Gary. He braved the seven or so foot drop to the mat on the floor beneath him and scurried to where he was being ordered to sit, but not before a mysterious object had appeared just by the spot on which he had landed.

MRS. M. THOMPSON: You’ve dropped something. You’re not supposed to have things in your pockets during P.E.

She strode across the hall to retrieve the object, only recoil at the last moment, and quickly drop the item.

Gary had shat himself during the final moves of his gymnastic routine and his short trousers being the flimsy raiment they were, had allowed a small blob of dung to escape their stewardship. Now with Master G. Laye esq.’s shit all over her hand, MRS. M. THOMPSON was wroth. She said something to herself in a low voice, and turned to the errant acrobat.

The last I saw of Gary that day, he was swinging from the grip of MRS. M. THOMPSON’s remaining clean hand, both feet clear off the ground, as he was taken off to the boys’ toilets. The mat was presumably destroyed.

Part forty eight: THE SHOOTIST

In which it becomes apparent what a dithering ponce I am.

As is customary in these pointless wastes of everybody’s valuable time, a mention of my age is usually present in the preamble, so in the early autumn of 2016 I was 39 years of age; I still am today. Consistency, you see?

Anyway, I had been invited along to a day’s clay pigeon shooting in aid of a charity; twenty quid per head plus whatever ammunition you used in the ‘free for all’ at the end of the day, it was a steal. Come the day and after an intoductory blah-blah I found myself brandishing a Browning 525b twelve gauge and blasting away at pretty much anything that moved. Ear protection, being for girls, was eschewed and before long I was practically stone deaf; it was a great day and I decided that I was going to buy a gun.

Now if I were an American, I would likely have just popped down to my local school supplies shop and availed myself one of the many powerful weapons that are given away free to criminals, toddlers, and the schizophrenic. This is England however, and the Queen in her wisdom, has brought into being numerous rules, guidelines, and other legal bric-a-brac which serve to stand between your average maniac and an armed stand-off at a convenience store. In other words, I was going to have to do loads of pissing about, and pay eighty quid in order secure myself a gun licence.

In order to ease my transition from being your average punter to somebody who, should he so wish, could murder his entire family and then redecorate the house with his own brains, I read up on what were the sensible things to do in order to demonstrate that you were capable of owning a gun without ending up on the roof with it, weeping, in your underpants. A number of sources suggested taking proper shooting lessons.

The Pinewood shooting ground had a nice website, and boasted not only clay pigeon shooting, but archery and air-rifle ranges. I booked an hour’s lesson and went as far as inviting a friend over for an afternoon’s shooting and archery. I set off into a sunny, late afternoon and before long, found myself at my destination.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that the charity shoot I attended was in deepest Lincolnshire, on a privately owned nature reserve. There was an abundance of moss green clothing, appropriate footwear, sloe gin, and well trained dogs. So far so achingly middle class. The lesson at Pinewood shooting ground was also in Lincolnshire but no further parallels could be drawn as it was to be given on what appeared to be a scrap yard. I parked next to a 4×4 that had no wheels and weeds growing up to its wing mirors, got out of the car and approached two old men who appeared to be speaking in a language of their own.

‘Excuse me’ I inquired, ‘Do you know where I might find Alan? Alan Dawson?’

‘Flurgle burgle blibbid blob’ spoke one of the fensmen


‘Ovver’ theer in’t office’ said the other

‘Right, thank you’

I ventured into what appeared to be the site office and stood for a number of minutes, listening to a heavy set chap outlining a story to a friend…

‘…An’ I fuckin’ telt ‘im, ‘You set foot on my fuckin’ land again’ and when I’ve finished shooting you with that semi-auto, I’ll shove it up your fuckin’ arse’. ‘Undred fucking clays ‘e ‘ad out ‘o me and didn’t pay a fuckin’ penny. I’ll run the fucker over if I see ‘im again…Aye mate, what is it you want?’

Though this last part had been directed at me, I thought it best not to interrupt such a pure stream of invective. I dithered slightly and asked again after Alan Dawson.

‘Yeah, that’s me. What can I do for you?’

‘Er, I booked a shooting lesson earlier today. Four o’clock’

‘Fuck me, was that you? I had it down for two o’clock. I was saying earlier, “The fucking bastard hasn’t turned up”‘

‘Oh right. Er, no, I’m pretty sure it was four o’clock’

‘Right, well come on then. Let’s get you some gear sorted. Grab that white skeet vest hung up by the door, and get some earplugs from box over there. We’ll be using my gun so you’d best be fucking careful with it’

The white skeet vest eluded me.

‘Ovver theer! ‘Ung up by’t fuckin’ door….’

I retrieved from a coat peg, a filthy shooting vest that had quite possibly once been white, but was now an altogether different shade and was probably only held together by the cigarette smoke it had absorbed over the years.

‘Well I’m Alan as you know. What was your name again?’


‘Right, well come on. Let’s get started’

To give Alan his due, he appeared to be a very knowledgeable shooter, advising on the different muzzle pressures of various types of ammunition and being able to give the approximate speed of the shot at any given point between firing and landing on the ground. He handed me a control box with seven or so numbered buttons on it.

‘When I shout ‘pull’ you press any button you feel like’ he said. ‘PULL!’

I pressed a button and a clay pigeon leaped from the trap and went whirling into the air. BANG! As quickly as it had appeared, it had turned to dust and vanished. We went through all of the traps and Alan dispatched the targets with aplomb.

‘Now then Richard’ said Alan, ‘these are the easy, close range ones. We’ll use these to get your eye in. I’ll load the gun so don’t worry about that, we’ll use single shots. You’ll have to excuse me for a minute though, I’m busting for a piss. Give me a sec’.

I had passed the toilet block when I parked the car and it was several hundred yards away from where we now stood at the shooting pegs. This was going to take ages.

My fears were however unfounded as Alan walked roughly ten feet away from me, turned his back and urinated heartily onto the rubble-strewn, gravelled area we were standing on. Once the flow had subsided, Alan returned.

‘Right on we go. You shout pull and I’ll press the buttons. Quick word of advice before you start; if you miss any of these easy ones, you’re a fucking cunt’.

With this encouragement blistering my ears, I popped off ten rounds and scored ten hits. They were pretty easy. Alan approved.

‘Good lad! Well done! Now we’ll move on to the proper targets. These are at standard, competition distances and they’ll be a lot faster. Off we go’

What I took to be a speck of debris inside my actual eyeball, drifted across my field of vision, it looked to be about a mile away and was travelling at at least 200mph. Another half dozen targets appeared and disappeared similarly, none of them in the slightest bit troubled by the lead shot I was spraying in their wake.

‘Fucking hell Rich, er Mi….er what’s your name again?


‘Andrew, right. You’re not anticipating where your target is coming from’

‘Where am I supposed to be looking?’

‘Ovver, theer. By’t tree tops’


‘Well, we’re not fucking about now, you know’

Alan took the gun from me with his callused, pissy hands and gave another demonstration of blasting everything to absolute fuck.

‘Here. Now come on. You’re not here to piss about with dogs and all that shite. I’m teaching you to fucking shoot’

And on, and on.

Alan went on to forget my name another three times that afternoon and we only stopped shooting because he had chain smoked all of his cigarettes.

I didn’t manage to return for the planned archery and shooting afternoon. The archery targets had all fallen down and Alan ‘couldn’t be fuckin’ arsed messing with all that shite’, and some ‘bastards’ had got a little unruly on the air-rifle range and ‘…shot up all the fuckin’ gear. Batteries, targets, the fuckin’ lot. About two grands worth of gear all peppered with fuckin’ pellets. Cunts’. Alan had taken it upon himself to smash the remaining air rifle equipment (his own) and throw it away. This had evidently ‘fuckin’ showed the bastards’.

I scored 22/50 and never actually got around to getting a gun licence.



Part forty seven: KARAOKE PORK SLING

In which I am forced to act.

If there’s one thing I absolutely cannot abide, it’s karaoke. Semi-serious renditions of overplayed acoustic tracks you’re supposed to find ‘amazing’, or covers of songs that make your teeth itch, apparently performed by a drunken seal having a panic attack in a small bathroom. You can imagine how pleased I was therefore, some years ago, to be dragged along to a ‘karaoke party’ held by somebody I already considered to be an odious wanker.

After a barbecue the bellowing began in earnest indoors, and having feigned amused interest for as long as I possibly could, I went back out into the garden to smoke and drink in relative peace. Around the third or fourth screeched ‘Wonderwall’, I made my way over to the now-cold barbecue; far too many sausages had been cooked and they were now stacked neatly at the rear of the grill. The slurred caterwauling in the house was in full swing and though I knew it would have to come to an end at some point and I’d be able to go home, it was impossible at that moment to say when this would be; I leaned against a tree and lit a cigarette, wondering what I would do to pass what was likely to be a very long time.

It was during a particularly egregious chorus of Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ that I found myself back in the garden, it was literally just a screeching contest at this point, what the fuck was wrong  with these people? As I saw it I had but two options, both fairly drastic and each the polar opposite of the other; either I take direct action, or I actually kill myself there and then on the lawn, I chose the former.

I marched swiftly over to the barbecue, lifted the lid, and seizing as many cold sausages as I could hold in each hand, I pelted the flats overlooking the garden I was in. At least two dozen mediocre pork formations went whirling through the air, slapping against windows, landing on cars, and littering gardens like so many grey, severed dicks. I made as many visits to the barbecue as necessary in order to fully deplete the stocks available. Once done, I procured myself another drink from the fridge in the kitchen, rang for a taxi, and disappeared into the night.

My relationship fell apart shortly afterwards.

Part forty six: SURVIVAL EXPERT

In which a lesson was learned

I was still hanging about with Mark Lewis at this point, so it couldn’t have been any later than 1990, which puts this tale firmly in my thirteenth year. Which appears to be when most of my entire life happened.

Times were boring in 1990 for a thirteen year-old citizen, Sonic the Hedgehog was still a year away and no matter how hard you tried to convince yourself otherwise, ‘Pit Fighter’ on the ZX Spectrum was fucking woeful. There was only one thing for it, going out.

Now Mark Lewis had always positioned himself as a bit of an outdoorsman; he had a stuffed kestrel perched on a bit of wood, in his bedroom and a slightly rusted survival knife, so who was I to question his credentials?

‘We should go to Freshfield on our bikes’ he announced one late morning.

‘Where’s that?’ I asked, thinking he was proposing a trip to some sort of supermarket.

‘It’s near Southport. There are loads of huge sand dunes, we can ride our bikes on them.’

‘Yeah, ace!’ I concurred, imagining that I would soon be getting ‘big air’ on my BMX as I jumped from dune to dune.

Train tickets where purchased and we set off.

Now the stopping train to Southport isn’t the most glamorous mode of transport and as the name suggests, it stops at every single station between our starting point and Freshfield, all nineteen of them. The journey was therefore as long as a fairly average wait in a post office queue, so around two and three quarter hours. This was then followed by some uncertainty as to where the sand dunes actually where so it was well after lunch when we actually arrived.

‘It’s up here’ said one of us to the other, pointing out the lengthy, steep slope snaking it’s way up the rearward side of the dunes.

‘Fucking hell’ said the other, probably.

We rode our bikes up the slope and as we crested the dunes Mark did a spectacular wheelie along the boardwalk. His rear wheel dropped off the boards at more or less the same time as his front wheel came back into contact with the ground, whereupon both immediately sank about eight inches into the soft sand; Mark promptly went over the handlebars.

‘Oof!’ Came the report.

Once I’d finished laughing I attempted to ride to his assistance, only to find that I was also more or less immobilised by the shifting sands. It seemed that the young outdoorsman had overestimated his ability to ride a BMX through fine, dry sand and I quickly abandoned the idea of doing enormous jumps up the face of the dunes. I went to a nearby ice-cream van to get a drink; a fucking quid in 1990, I’d complain about paying that even now.

‘This is shit’ I said. ‘We can’t ride on this sand, and there’s nothing else to do. The ice-cream man has just ripped me off as well.’

‘Alright’ came the reply, we can go to Southport. Our tickets are ok up to the end of the line.

Back on the train.

We arrived in Southport at probably around four o’clock.

‘Let’s go in the arcades and win some money’ suggested Mark

‘Do you know how to?’

‘Yeah, we’ll win as much as we need, and then get something to eat.’

Probably about six pounds later, we were broke.

‘Let’s ride our bikes on the beach instead.’


We rode around aimlessly on the hard-packed sand for ten minutes or so, while the weather began to close in and the wind picked up.

‘I’m freezing let’s go. I’m starving and all. Did you win anything at all in the arcade?’

‘No. It wasn’t my fault. The machine wasn’t paying out.’

‘For fuck’s sake, you said you knew what do.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ve got an idea.’

We rode back to the small fairground near the seafront, and Mark pointed out a row of trees. ‘Look at those nests’ he said.

‘What about them?’

‘They’re Magpie nests.’

‘So what?’

‘Well Magpies like shiny things, don’t they? There’ll probably be all sorts of stuff up there. Money and that’

‘Oh yeah, those new 5p coins are out, aren’t they? They’ll all still be shiny and they’re small enough for a bird to carry!’

We approached the trees and though they were too tall and slender for us to climb, we were able to shake them reasonably effectively. After a few minutes of straining at a tree each…

‘Have you got any 5ps yet?’

‘No, have you?’

‘No. Shake it harder then.’


‘Hey! Hey! You two! what do you think you are doing?’

A fairground employee of some sort had spotted our attempts at seaside survival and was heading our way.

‘We’re not doing anything’ I protested

‘Yes you were, you were shaking those trees’

‘Well we were trying to shake the 5ps out of the bird’s nests’

‘What? Why do you think there’s money up there?’

‘Er, I dunno. It was his idea. He knows about birds and things’

‘Well you’re not going to find any, just fuck off out of it’

So we got back on the train for an even longer journey back home, cold and hungry.

Stuffed kestrel or not, he hadn’t a fucking clue what he was doing.


In which a terrible tide rises.

I have always had a great love of the seaside; bucket & spading on the beach, fishing from the harbour wall, flying a kite on the sand, attempting to eat an absurdly large, battered fish with a tiny plastic fork etc. I particularly enjoy the juxtaposition between a working harbour with its mud and filthy boats and the tacky, unabashed leisure of the seafront arcades and the shops from which I buy my fake sick and stink-bombs.

A year or two ago I was sauntering along the Scarborough seafront, enjoying the sounds of the amusement arcades and the smells of hotdogs and fish & chips when a commotion broke out directly in front of me. I slowed my stride and in looking at the ground I noticed a stream of liquid coursing across the pavement and into the gutter, my first thought was the somebody had perhaps dropped whatever it was that they were drinking and it was this the foot-traffic around me was seeking to avoid. I made my assessment and resolved simply to step over the stream, it was narrow enough and so posed no significant hazard. As I was about to do so I became aware of a low moan coming from a woman in front of me; unfashionably dressed and wearing large glasses, she appeared to be in her late thirties and was clutching at the arm of another woman, in a state of some agitation. As the moaning and the clutching continued I noticed the true source of the torrent snaking its way across the thoroughfare. What I had taken for a stream of mineral water or perhaps lemonade was actually hot urine gushing from beneath the ankle of the woman’s dark trousers. Reeling, and now being unable to stop moving, I leaped as high as I could into the air and made a safe transition across what was now to my mind an uncanny and deadly cascade.

‘What are you doing?’ enquired my companion.

‘Christ! Didn’t you see? That woman was pissing her pants, it was all running out of her trousers’.


‘That woman, she was holding on to that person she was with, and moaning. All wee was coming out of her trousers. It was going across the pavement.’

‘Ew! I wondered why you were jumping.’

‘Well it’s piss, isn’t it?’

And it was.


Part forty four: SEX OFFENDER

In which I wasn’t bummed at all, alright?

Early 1994, and aged seventeen, I was not what you would call one of the cool kids. I was single on a startling scale, I couldn’t yet drive (indeed I had already been forced into a hedge by some twats in a pale blue Astra), and by anybody’s standards I could be accurately described as a ‘fucking drink of water’. I was comfortable with my lowly status as far as I was resigned to it, and I figured I ought to just be grateful that I didn’t get slung out of the pub on a Saturday night.

Weeknights were dull in the extreme. Half-hearted ‘A’ level revision, usually followed by walking around the block for half an hour with a compatriot who shall remain nameless, while we smoked a couple of fags and discussed how shit everything was. It was on one such occasion when we were accosted. Certain amongst you will know exactly where this story is going.

Me: Stuff is shit, amirite?

Nameless compatriot: Yeah, it’s proper bollocks.

Mysterious, enormous, black bloke who came seemingly out of nowhere: Alright lads?

Me probably: Er, yeah?

Giant stranger: Where are you going?

Anonymous friend: Um, nowhere. We’re just out for smoke.

Stranger: Oh right. Do I know you from somewhere? Do you go to the gym?

Me: What?! Do I look like I go to a gym?

Stranger: Well you look quite broad.

Me: Well, no. I don’t go to the gym.

Anonymous friend: He’s a skinny prick.

Me: Yeah, alright, thanks.

With this, the giant stranger grabs my upper arm and remarks something along the lines of ‘Oh yeah, I suppose you don’t. Seeya’. He wanders off.

‘What the fuck was that about?’ asked my nameless friend.

dunno’, I replied, ‘Perhaps he was pissed or something’

‘He seemed to like you’

‘Fuck off’

Then we went home.

Many years later one Akinwale Arobieke made a minor splash in the local rag after being convicted for, amongst other things, apprehending young men and teenagers, asking them all sorts or questions about exercises and stuff, and then feeling their muscles.

‘Nah’, I thought. ‘That whole “Purple Aki” thing was just some bullshit story older kids would tell you to shit you up’.

2016 and there’s a documentary about how he is not only real, but chased a kid under a train, and made such extreme threats to a girl in my year at school, that she had to go into the witness protection programme. I mean, fucking hell.


A year or so later, in an entirely unrelated incident, I was abducted at knifepoint and held overnight in a squat used by heroin addicts.




Part forty three: LIBRARY BOOKS

In which I am not actually involved.

It can often be difficult to convince a child that reading can be as much a pleasure as it is a necessity, though not so with the younger version of myself. I was an avid reader, often being told off for bringing a book to the dinner table (yes, I was that spoddy). I enjoyed trips to the library and would deliberately pick a weird-looking book that I’d never heard of in amongst the others that I wanted to read – they were usually crap. In those days too, libraries were for books and books only; they weren’t the ‘DVD rental, drop-in centres for loudmouthed activities and crisp-eating’ that they seem to be today (you were allowed to borrow an audiobook on cassette but by GOD, you’d better rewind it), you had to behave and be quiet. The library in my hometown was a musty smelling cathedral of Hitler diaries, mysterious town records, and enormous, plastic-coated romances in print so large that they only averaged around eight words per page, and it was reputedly haunted. It was great.

My younger sister however was less enamoured of the printed word and so my parents were pleased and relieved whenever she expressed an interest in coming along on a trip. The books in the children’s section were the usual eighties fare, ‘The Famous Five’, ‘The Secret Seven’, ‘The Racist Three’, plus any amount of ‘shit you up’ ghost-story anthologies, and it was here that my sister found her book of choice.

In today’s enlightened times books for children, giving age-appropriate explanations of concepts such as race, disability, sexuality, etc. are useful and constructive tools in developing understanding and empathy, and dispelling prejudice. This wasn’t 2016 however, it was 1985 or so, when Jim Davidson was on the telly and you could still buy racist marmalade and so when my sister came out of the library clutching a copy of ‘Jane has Asthma’, eyebrows were raised.


‘Jane has asthma? Why have you chosen that? You don’t have asthma.’ Said my mum.

‘Well I want to read it.’ replied my sister.

As you already know, my sister wasn’t the most enthusiastic reader so it was let go. A book’s a book, innit?

A couple of weeks go by and another trip to the library is scheduled. I was always impressed by the amount of books my dad got through, they all seemed enormous, and looked really difficult; my sister and I repaired to the children’s section. Later:


‘Alfred gets a hearing aid? Where did you get that from?’. My dad.

‘The same shelf as the book about Jane. There are lots of them.’

‘Are you sure you don’t want something else? You’ll be stuck with it if you don’t like it.’

‘I do like it. I’ve read some already.’

‘Well…ok, if you’re sure.’


Another trip, and my sister picks out a book about a kid having calipers fitted to his legs.


I was being driven home from school one afternoon when dad mentioned that his library books were overdue and should really be returned that day.

‘Are you going to take the kids?’. My mum

‘Yeah ok’ replied my dad, ‘Their books are probably late as well.’

‘See if you can get Jennie to read something other than those ones about disabled kids.’

‘Yeah ok, they are a bit weird.’

‘They’re probably for disabled kids, so they can understand what happens if you do have asthma or whatever.’

‘They’re pretty depressing though.’ reflected my dad.

‘I know, did you see the one about the calipers?’

‘Yeah Christ, I though the hearing aid one was bad enough. What’s next? ‘Peter’s dad gets AIDS?’.


‘Well, Jesus.’


My sister never got any more after that. I think she’d read them all.


In which I am bamboozled.

I was fourteen years old when I last went on an overseas holiday with my parents; we went to Tenerife for two weeks and to be honest, with no English-speaking people of my age staying at the hotel, it was a bit boring.

Now on any holiday with your parents there are going to be days when you are all set for the pool and the dreaded the announcement comes, ‘Get dressed properly. We’re going for a walk into town today’…shit. First comes the boring tour around at least three ‘Bureau de Change’ while your dad compares tiny variations in the exchange rates for his stupid traveller’s cheques, then it’s the inevitable leather goods shops, the horrendous public toilets, the futile attempts at using a payphone to call the UK, all before an ultimately unsatisfying lunch. This is interspersed with wild and dangerous road crossings as you look the wrong way before walking into the insane foreign traffic. My heart sank.

It was on one of these trips however that we chanced across an underground shopping arcade. Built presumably to give patrons a break from the unrelenting sun, the subterranean, marble-lined complex was tastefully lit and apparently air conditioned. My dad in particular was grateful for this discovery as he has always suffered in the sun. Myself, I found it to be the final insult; there’s a fucking beach across the road and we’re actually underground, Jesus Christ. The shops were really boring as well; endless ’boutiques’ and tobacconists.

Days later, on probably our third or fourth trip through the underground shopping arcade, I found myself staring listlessly through one of the only shop windows that wasn’t full of women’s clothes or giant boxes of ‘duty-free’ cigarettes, at some cameras and car radios. My dad came over:

‘What are you looking at there, son?’

‘Nothing really, just these cameras and things.’

‘Oh yeah. I tell you what though, those car radios are cheap.’

‘Are they?’

‘Yeah, it makes you realise how much tax you pay on things back at home.’

‘Why don’t you get one then?’

‘I don’t need one; besides, they’re Spanish.’


‘So they can only pick up Spanish radio stations. That’s no good to me’


‘No, it…..Jesus, never mind.’

It was at about this point that I spotted a genuinely interesting item. In amongst the car radios and Sony Walkmans there was a piece of cardboard with what appeared to be large insects all over it; the insects were motionless, apparently set into a shiny substance which had the appearance of having been poured onto the card. I pointed it out to my dad.

‘Hey, look at that.’


‘That, there.’


‘On top of that radio. It looks like a piece of card with all dead cockroaches stuck to it.’


There, Jeez…’

‘Oh yeah. Well what about about it?’

‘What is it?’

‘It’s a piece of card with all dead cockroaches stuck to it.’

‘Oh ha-ha. What is it really?’

‘It’s a piece of card with dead cockroaches on it. What does it look like?’

‘Well why is it in there with all that stuff?’

‘Christ, how should I know? Go in and ask if you’re so interested in it.’

‘Well who would buy that?’

‘Bloody hell, Andrew. It’s not for sale, it’s an insect trap.’

‘In the window? Eurgh! What sort of shop has cockroaches running around? I’m not going in there.’


So few were my dealings with cockroaches, and so addled was my mind by the underground shopping arcade that I had very possibly, briefly considered trying to buy a used insect trap.

foreign one at that.