Red Christmas – A Christmas ebook-isode from the creator of Johnny Nothing

xmas, christ,as

Red Christmas


It was Christmas morning in London. That is to say it was raining fiercely and there wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen this side of the South Pole. In households all over the city ugly ungrateful brats were busy tearing open lovingly gift-wrapped packages and tearfully complaining about what was inside them.

In other words it was a normal Christmas morning. Well, normal for anyone whose name happened NOT to be Johnny McKenzie, otherwise known as Johnny Nothing.

“Why do I never get any presents?” thought Johnny to himself as he dragged himself out of bed with a shiver.

“Brrrrrrr! It’s cold!” thought the shiver.

The other occupants of the rat-infested council flat that Johnny called home were all asleep as he and his shiver made their way downstairs into the living room. It had been a busy night for Johnny’s parents, the loathsome Felicity MacKenzie and her useless lump of lard husband Billy. As well as drinking several gallons of something that tasted like cheap lager they had found in a skip, the grisly pair had also been laying a trap for someone. Someone whom you might know very well indeed…

On Christmas mornings in most people’s homes you might expect to find a nice juicy Christmas tree covered in twinkling lights with a fairy perched on the top. Not so in Johnny’s home. Here, there was no Christmas tree. No twinkling lights. And there was no sign of a fairy with a giant pine tree stuck up her bottom. Instead, there was a sweaty old man with a straggly white beard squatting in front of the gas fire making curious gasping noises. Sort of like this: “Gasp… Gasp… Gargle…”. (Did I mention that he occasionally made gargling noises?)

The strange man was dressed from head to toe in a red all-in-one body suit with furry cuffs. On his wrinkled liver-spotted old head there was a really stupid looking hat. He looked ridiculous. I’m not joking – he really did look like a complete pillock. Moreover, someone had tied him up with rope and gagged him so that he could scarcely breathe. Johnny recognised the stranger instantly.

“Are you… Are you… Santa Claus?” Johnny asked in astonishment, prising the gag away from the old man’s mouth.

“Who do you think I bloody am?” spluttered Father Christmas. “Barrack Obama?”

“Not really…” said Johnny, fairly sure that this was not the president of America sitting in his living room.

“Untie me!” yelled the tied up stranger. “There’s going to be hell to pay – I can tell you!”

For a moment Johnny thought he was dreaming. “Am I dreaming?” he murmured, as if determined to play along with my description of what was happening.

“No you’re not bloody dreaming!” said Santa, as if determined to undermine my description of what was happening. “And if you don’t get these ropes off me I’ll have your guts for garters!”

Johnny frowned a little, as you do. He rubbed away a bit of that scummy stuff you get in the corner of your eye every morning (for a moment he considered eating it but changed his mind when he realised we were watching and wiped it on his pyjama trousers instead) and took a closer look at the stranger in the living room.

It was not every day that you got sworn at by Santa Claus.

“Are you really Father Christmas?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the old man irritatedly, as if he was totally fed up of answering that question. “Now will you please untie me.”

Johnny dropped to his knees and began working away at the ropes that bound Father Christmas. Whoever had tied them had made a good job of it.

“No offence,” said Johnny, “but I thought that Santa Claus was just a made up person.”

“Oh… I’m real enough all right,” grumbled Santa. “Who do you think delivers all those presents every Christmas?”

“But you’ve never delivered any to me.”

“I most certainly have.”

“Well I’ve never received them.”

“Of course you haven’t – your bloody mother has always nicked them before you’ve had a chance to lay your hands on them.”

Right on cue the sound of an extinct woolly mammoth could be heard descending the stairs.

“Talk of the Devil,” groaned Father Christmas, as Johnny continued to struggle to untie him.

“Johnny stop untying him right now!!” ordered the hungover voice of the extinct woolly mammoth as it entered the room. “That silly old scrote is my prisoner!”

I suppose it’s fair to point out that it is a little cruel to compare Johnny’s mother, the delightful Felicity MacKenzie, with an extinct woolly mammoth. You have my apologies for doing so. Because woolly mammoth’s – even though they were big and hairy and smelly and prone to accidentally squishing any cavemen who accidentally got in their way – were actually quite cute. Baby woolly mammoths were particularly cute; and quite tasty on the barbecue, too, I’m told.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of Felicity MacKenzie, who was neither tasty nor cute. In fact, she was the opposite of tasty: quite rancidly tasteless, if such a thing is possible. The sort of human being tastebud equivalent of Brussel sprouts marinated in fart juice. And she was also the opposite of cute, which I make as being ‘etuc’, quite a meaningless word in actual fact.

She was so fat that she exerted her own gravitational pull. She was so ugly that when she was born her mother slapped herself. She was so mean that she won’t even allow me to finish this senten

Back to the story:

“Why have you tied me up!” yelled Santa Claus. “What do you want from me?”

“What do you think I want, you stupid dosser?” smiled Felicity. “I want all your presents and you’re going to give ’em to me! But before you do so, it’s time for an advertising break…”



She was an evil woman was Felicity MacKenzie. I’m not kidding – she was really evil. More evil than Margaret Thatcher ever was – well maybe not that evil. You can read all about her (Felicity not Margaret) in my lovely smelly book entitled: Johnny Nothing. It’s available from all half-decent book retailers in ebook and paperback formats and has a really nice yellow cover with scratchy bits on it. If you’re reading this before Christmas why not click on one of the links below and you and/or your beautiful ugly child can find out what happens when Johnny’s uncle dies and leaves him a fortune only for Felicity to steal all the money from him and go on a really long shopping spree. It’s quite exciting and all that.

The Links:

The iBooks Store

Amazon UK

Amazon USA


Felicity MacKenzie was rummaging through the large sack of presents that lay beside the still tied up Father Christmas. Beside her was a blobby heap of beer belly and builder’s crack clinker named Billy MacKenzie. If you haven’t already guessed, he was Johnny’s dad and Felicity’s husband. As usual he was unshaven and smelled of Victorian urinals and dog breath.

“This is no good!” scowled Felicity, throwing a box of Lego across the room. “We want expensive gifts. Something we can flog on eBay!”

“Stop opening my presents!” urged Santa. “They’re not for you!”

“Or what?” growled Billy MacKenzie.

“Or… Or… I’ll get very cross,” said Santa, which wasn’t really much of a threat because he was still tied up and – let’s face it – however cross he might be, Santa Claus is never going to be that scary, is he? He’s Santa Claus for goodness sake!

“I’m ravenous,” said Felicity. “’Ere Santa – you got any food in these parcels?”

“Even if I knew the answer to that question there’s certainly no way that I’m telling you.”

“Oh la-de-da.” said Felicity, which doesn’t really mean anything but people still say it from time to time.

As Santa looked on, the horrible pair continued opening the presents in his sack. Books, CDs, socks, after shave, strange looking adult toys that required batteries, and boring games like Cluedo and Monopoly were hurled to one side.

“Should you really be doing that?” asked Johnny, who had kept quiet so far while all this was going on.

“Mind your own business!” said his mother, spitting out a mouthful of perfume that she had hoped might be whisky. “And get me some food you little brat!”

Johnny went into the kitchen and rooted around for something to give to his mother. Apart from a small piece of cheese that was growing quite an impressive quiff, the fridge was lukewarm and empty. There was nothing in the food cupboard either. There was no sign of a turkey and all the trimmings waiting patiently to be cooked like you might find in other peoples’ houses. The MacKenzies rarely bothered with Christmas dinner. They usually went to the pub and if they were feeling generous they would bring home a packet of crisps for their son.

Johnny went back into the living room to give his parents the bad news. Before he could speak, however, Felicity MacKenzie let out a hoot of triumph, whatever that sounds like. “Hold on a minute,” she announced, looking over at a very unhappy Santa Claus.. “How did you get here?”

“I beg your pardon?” he replied.

“Are you stupid? I said: how did you get here?”

“Is that an existential question or do you mean into your flat?”


“Well down the chimney, of course.”

The fact that there wasn’t a chimney in the flat didn’t seem to deter Felicity MacKenzie. “No I don’t mean that you fat old imbecile!” she said. “I mean how did you get here? How did you travel to the flat?”

“Why on my sleigh, of course.”

“On his sleigh!” yelled Felicity in triumph. “And where is it now?”

“Why, it’s still parked outside.”

Felicity MacKenzie pulled herself upright and began to cackle. “Billy,” she said, “go outside and fetch our Christmas dinner.”

Billy looked confused. “Whatdoyoumean, Fliss?” he asked.

“I’ve got a special treat for us all today,” said Felicity, licking her bulbous trout lips. “…Roast reindeer.”

“Lovely,” said Billy. “But before we eat have we got time for another advert?”



I’m not one of those writers who’s always harping on about their books. In fact, when asked at parties I often tell people that I’m a tax inspector. Sometimes I tell them that I’m a murderer. What I was going to say, however, is that if you’re enjoying the story so far you might want to to go and download the first three chapters of Johnny Nothing from the iBooks Store or from the Kindle Store. They’re free, of course. And if you end up liking them there’s another thirty or so chapters for you to read. Hold on a moment, what’s that nice smell?


Although when pushed she could just about rustle up a Pot Noodle, Felicity MacKenzie would be the first to admit that she wasn’t much of a cook.

“I’d be the first to admit that I’m not much of a cook.” said Felicity MacKenzie, as she sat at the head of the dining table. There. I told you so.

Nevertheless, she had made a surprisingly good job of Christmas dinner. Delia Smith would have been proud. Delicious odours of cooked meat wafted around the flat like clouds of tangy loveliness making Johnny’s tummy rumble as if it were a long extinct volcano. Hold on… If it was extinct it wouldn’t be rumbling. Would it?

“Shall I carve?” asked Billy.

“Please do, my darling husband,” said Felicity, putting on her poshest voice.

While Felicity and Billy sat at either end of the dining table Johnny stood in the doorway to the kitchen looking on in horror as his blood soaked father began chopping the Christmas roast into succulent slices. Still tied up on the floor was Santa Claus, who was weeping profusely.

“Stop crying like a big baby and have a bit of dinner!” said Felicity, hurling a piece of dripping meat in his direction.

“But… But… You’ve murdered… My Rudolph…” cried Santa.

“Oh, stop fussing,” said Felicity. “How do you fancy a slice of nose?”

Billy MacKenzie had been uncharacteristically efficient with Rudolph. First he had dragged the whimpering reindeer into the flat by its harness. And then, using a carving set that he found in Santa’s sack, he had set about slaughtering the animal.

First he had cut Rudolph’s throat, collecting the gallons of blood that gushed from the wound in a tin pot that he used for soaking his feet. “We can use this for black pudding later,” he had said cheerfully.

Then he had neatly sliced the still warm and trembling carcass into smaller portions, passing a leg over to his wife, which she swiftly popped into the oven with a bit of garlic. The whole exercise was over in less than ten minutes. However, the mess this created was terrible. Everywhere you looked there was reindeer blood: on the walls, the ceiling, the curtains. Most of the blood was on Billy, who looked even redder than Santa Claus.

It was a red Christmas.

“Tuck in,” urged Felicity.



Do the shake and vac and put the freshness back

Do the shake and vac and put the freshness back

When the room smells fresh so do you

Next time you vacuum you know just what to do

Next time you vacuum you know just what to do

Next time you vacuum you know just what to do

Do the shake and vac and put the freshness back

Do the shake and vac and put the freshness back

(Sorry about that. I had to sell this advertising spot to someone else.)


Dinner was over.

Felicity and Billy McKenzie slumped into their chairs in front of the telly, stuffed to satisfaction and watched as the Queen gave her annual speech.

“Philip and I would like to thank everybody for giving all of your hard-earned money to us so that you can help to maintain an oligarchy that is thousands of years old and patently unfair to all but the select few,” she smiled. “It keeps us in jewels and Corgis and helicopter rides and makes sure that you, my subjects, have no hope of ever achieving anything with your lives unless you go on the X-Factor or Big Brother or Strictly or some other asinine, turgid nonsense…”

“I love the queen,” Felicity said dreamily, as her stomach struggled to digest the unexpected influx of reindeer matter. “She’s always so honest to her people.”

“Yes, she has a lovely turn of phrase” agreed Billy.

The speech finished and the couple reluctantly got to their feet while the National Anthem played. Afterwards they sat back down again to watch a Bond movie from the 1990s with some Welsh bloke playing Bond. After that there was a Dad’s Army repeat which led to the inevitable Christmas snooze followed by a Two Ronnies repeat, a Morecambe and Wise repeat and Jurassic Park 3. It was a great Christmas day. (If you’re American and reading this you won’t have a clue what I’m going on about. But do I really care?1)

1The publishers of Johnny Nothing – Red Christmas would like to point out that its author, Ian Probert, actually loves all Americans. He adores them all – he really does. He frequently kisses them and is definitely grateful for chewing gum and their assistance in World Wars I and II. (Although it’s only fair to point out that America made an awful lot of money from selling supplies to the the UK during both wars. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that America would ever have entered World War II but for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. (Which, in itself, is a bit of a joke. I mean have you ever compared the size and population of Japan and the USA? It’s like an ant attacking a rhino.))

Yes, the author loves America. Elvis… Chubby Checker… Cindy Lauper… All of you. So there.

In the morning there was only one more thing to think about. The remaining bits of Rudolph had been stuffed into the fridge and under the sink and in the bath and into various cupboards. The presents that had been pilfered from Santa’s sack were already on eBay. (Although Felicity wasn’t particularly hopeful that they would make that much money from their ill-gotten gains – all of Santa’s presents seem to have come from the Pound Shop.) It was just a question of what to do with Santa Claus.

Santa Claus. All over the world that name had suddenly become hated overnight. This was because, apart from a couple of isolated regions in the south of England, no presents had been delivered anywhere else.

Santa Claus. Millions of parents were left wondering how to stop their children’s desperate tears. “But it’s not our fault,” said mothers and fathers everywhere. “It’s that evil Father Christmas who’s to blame.”

Santa Claus: you could almost swim in the wave of bitter disappointment that washed over the globe.

Santa Claus: What a smelly old rat!, thought everyone. We never really liked him anyway.

On television, newscasters told tales of that hated devil named Santa Claus. Apparently a particularly favourite habit of his was to beat up old grannies. Police and politicians were interviewed, universally condemning this once adored figure. A warrant for Santa’s arrest was issued by Interpol. In many countries the death penalty was reinstated in anticipation of Santa’s capture.

On Boxing Day there was knock on the MacKenzies’ front door. “He’s in here,” said Felicity to a man waving an identity card. Earlier that morning, Felicity had called the police and told them that she had apprehended a familiar looking intruder.

“Get him boys,” said the man, and at once a dozen or so police officers bundled into the council flat. “Give him a bit of a hiding!”

“I caught him killing a reindeer,” said Felicity. “So Billy banged him on the head and we tied him up.”

“Thank you madam,” said another man. “You’ve done a great service to the nation.”

Santa Claus was handcuffed and taken into police custody. Three days later he was sentenced to death without trial. The Home Secretary’s triplets had caused such a fuss when they discovered they had no Christmas presents that he had vowed to get an instant revenge.

At the execution a jeering crowd threw rancid Christmas puddings at the cowering figure of Santa Claus. Some hurled chocolate cherry liqueurs and stale Crunchie’s from their selection boxes. As his head was placed into the noose, Santa was asked if he had any last words.

The old man hunched his shoulders and coughed. Then he replied: “Yes I do, actually.”

The crowd grew silent as the man known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas uttered his final words:

“What an ungrateful bunch you are,” he said softly. “For thousands of years I’ve been making and delivering presents for you all and never once have I received a thank-you for my troubles.

“Despite living in a freezing cold draughty house in the North Pole with no-one for company save for a couple of imps and a reindeer with a genetic nose impairment you’re still not satisfied.

“Despite having to sit on rooftops for most of December waiting for your little brats to post their Christmas wish list up the bloody chimney I’ve never got so much as a ‘ta very much, mate’.

“Despite having to listen to endless crappy Christmas records by the likes of Slade and Wizzard and Bing bloody Crosby you still want more.

“Despite depositing millions of gifts into your kids’ stockings for longer than I care to remember, it doesn’t stop you from hinting to them that it was actually really YOU who bought the presents.

“So goodbye and good riddance you ungrateful mob. In future YOU can fish around in red hot coal embers retrieving your semi-literate kids’ note to Santa. YOU can spend literally minutes on Amazon ordering your brats’ myriad requirements, complete with personalised message and reasonably competitively priced gift wrapping paper. YOU can take delivery of the parcels, a couple of days later, signing for them, unpacking them and then hiding them under your bed or in a cupboard somewhere. YOU can wait until your kids are asleep on Christmas Eve and then creep into their bedrooms and carefully place their gifts at the foot of the bed. And YOU can sit and watch while they open those presents believing that are not from you – their bloody parents – but from some mythical, sleigh-driving deity from the North Pole.”

There was a murmur among the crowd as the spectators took in Santa’s words. Finally, a crescendo of voices rose up and almost to a man began chanting the same words:

LET HIM…” they cried, thinking of all the hard work they would have to do if Santa was allowed to go to the gallows.

LET HIM…” they chanted, wondering how their lives might change without this universal figure of kindness and joy.

LET HIM…” they chorused, trying to imagine what life would truly be like without Christmas.




Ghostwriter says Penguin should refund all those teenagers they ripped off


I have a teensy-weensy confession for you: I’m not actually writing this article.

I mean, I came up with the ideas for the content and whatnot… The characters, is that what you call it? The story and all that… But when it came to the actual business of letting my fingers press down on those little buttons on a keyboard I let someone else do it. I mean, I spend a lot of money on my nails, each cuticle has a different sponsor and I wouldn’t want to let them down by breaking a nail, would I? Dyknowhatimean?

Sure, my name’s at the top of this article. But then why wouldn’t it be? I mean everybody knows my name but even I don’t know the name of the person who did the donkeywork on this article. The actual WRITING if that’s what you call it. That’s not important, is it? What’s important is that as many people as possible buy this article so that my publishers make as much money from it as possible. I mean, they gave me a lot – and I mean a LOT, a simply DISGUSTING amount of money – for permission to use my name so they have every right to try to – what’s the word? RECOUP . That’s it. RECOUP the money.

The people who read this article don’t really care that I didn’t write it. Do they? I mean, the most important thing is that the article bears my name. In a way, I’m sponsoring the article. That’s a nice way of putting it, isn’t it? I’m a sponsor. Just like all those people who sponsor ME for wearing their lipstick and mascara. I’m SPONSORING these words. Every single word is endorsed by ME. Especially that last word. ME. There, I’ve sponsored it again.

I mean it’s none of my business if an 11-year-old girl named Sofia walked into W H Smith two weekends ago and was shaking with anticipation when she saw my new book that I didn’t write. If you’ve not heard of it I think it’s called ‘Grill Online’ and it’s about a girl who spends a lot of time online talking about make-up and boyfriends. I put a LOT of thought into that character. It;s nothing to do with me that Sofia pleaded with her parents for an advance on her pocket money so that she could give my publisher £12 to help repay, sorry RECOUP, all that money the publisher gave me to use my name. I’m just pleased that Sofia was able to buy a book with my name on the spine. What was inside that book is merely incidental.

I mean, what’s so wrong with using a ghostwriter anyway? I mean, I’m pretty sure that Jordan must use a ghostwriter. She writes loads of books. What about Stephen King? Isn’t he a ghostwriter? Yes I know that I probably should have mentioned that someone else actually composed the sentences in whatchmacallit? ‘Gull Ovine’ but no-one got hurt. Did they?

What do you mean that Sofia was really disappointed this morning when she read in the papers that her heroine and role model (role model? Don’t make me laugh. Even I wouldn’t have ME as a role model) didn’t actually write that expensive book that she wrote? What do you mean that Sofia simply assumed that a prestigious publisher such as Penguin would never consider deceiving hundreds of thousands of young girls all over the world simply to make money out of them? Penguin would NEVER do that. They have integrity. They have a reputation. I mean, everyone’s heard of Penguin Classics. They’re simply the best books in the world, written by the very best writers. I mean, didn’t Morrissey write a Penguin Classic?

Anyhow, even if they have made a teensy bit of money out of ‘Growl In Time’ it’s not such a bad thing. I mean everybody does it. Why only last night I had a Dixie Fried Chicken supper. It looked exactly like Kentucky Fried Chicken and the logo was almost identical. Why, it even tasted a little like KFC (I threw mine away in the end and got a Big Mack from Iceland). And what about Milli Vanilli? They were a pop group who didn’t even sing their songs and they won loads of awards! Grammys and all. There! Oh, hold on. They were stripped of all their awards and had to pay back loads of people who had bought their records thinking that they were singing their own songs. I mean, after all it did say ‘Milli Vanilli’ on the label of the record. Oops. That could never happen to me. Could it? I mean I came up with all the ideas and things for that book I didn’t write and then somebody else writ it down.

Maybe, come to think of it, would it have been that wrong for Penguin to simply have given the nice lady who wrote ‘God! A Crime!’ a credit on the front of the book? I mean my name could still have been bigger than hers and maybe had a few sparkles on it but at least it would have been HONEST. And all those young girls like Sofia – I call them fans, which is a shorter way of spelling ‘sucker’ –  wouldn’t have been crying quite so much about wasting all their pocket money and having their hopes and dreams dashed and finding out that the world is just one big shop and that we’re all shoppers and individuality and originality is a CRIME.

I suppose that would have been the HONEST thing to do. I mean, I’m sure that people would still have bought that book I didn’t write. HONESTLY. Because isn’t writing all about honesty? Isn’t writing one of the few art forms that removes the distance between creator and consumer to create a level of intimacy that can probably never be matched by any other media? Gosh! You can really tell that I didn’t write that last sentence.

I know what. What if Penguin were to simply REFUND the money that their wholly innocent and exploited teenage customers have been diddled out of? What if they simply give back all the money they’ve made trying to RECOUP all that money they gave to me? Wouldn’t that be the HONEST thing to do? Yes it would. I’m sure it would.

I’m going to call my agent right now… Now where’s my ghost caller? You can never find her when you need her…


Ian Probert – interview with The Inflectionist

A recent interview I did with quite a nice online periodical (is that what you call it these days?).



Masterclass – Frank Buglioni and Steve Collins


What follows is the original version of an article that appears in the December 2014 issue of Boxing Monthly.

I’m posting this here because gremlins got to the Boxing Monthly version of the article. These things can happen but the version in the magazine reads a little strangely courtesy of some unusual subbing that places the piece simultaneously in the past and present tense. This original is my way of setting the record straight and hopefully proving that I wasn’t on drugs when I wrote the article. Although I wish I had been.


by Ian Probert

Just to the left of the back of beyond in a boxing gym called Target Fitness I offer my hand to Steve Collins. The former WBO middleweight and super-middleweight champion eyes me a little suspiciously before reluctantly extending his own. “Jey-sus, I thought you were going to kiss me!” he says in an unmistakable Irish brogue.

Collins has not long turned 50 and looks good on it, certainly better than I do. If you squint it is difficult to discern much of a difference between the man standing before you and the boxer who cleaned up the British end of the super-middleweight division in unequivocal fashion during the mid-1990s. “Not just yet,” I say, feeling in his fingers a little of the power that earned Collins double wins over rivals of the calibre of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.

Gloved up next to the former champion is a young fighter and occasional model named Frank Buglioni. Although Buglioni would be the first to admit that the Southern Area super-middleweight title he picked up this September is some way short of the prestige that he covets, in Steve Collins he sees a template that he hopes will put him in more esteemed company.

“I’ve always been a fan of Steve Collins and I’ve met him at various events in the boxing world,” Buglioni tells me as he prepares for the older man to put him through his paces. “You can’t get any better than what he’s achieved and how he achieved it.”

I perch on the ring apron and watch Buglioni aim punches at his new trainer. This is not the first time I have seen Buglioni do this. In March of this year I saw him exchange blows with an impressively muscled Ovil McKenzie in London’s Canning Town. On that occasion former boxer Mark Tibbs was the man mopping Buglioni’s brow and although at the time I kept it to myself, there was something troubling me about what I was seeing.

Buglioni was just a week away from the second defence of something called the WBO European super-middleweight champion. His opponent was a wily old coyote named Sergey Khomitsky and although hardly cannon-fodder, everyone was expecting Buglioni to beat the 40-year-old veteran handily. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to ignore the air of complacency that seemed to pervade what I saw in that gym. Although punches were thrown and received in great quantity by Buglioni, there was something subtly lacking in intensity. It was difficult to put your finger on it but it still came as a surprise when Buglioni was halted in six rounds.

“We knew it was the biggest step up in my career to date.We knew he was a very good opponent but knew that he falls apart after about six or seven rounds,” an eloquent, focused Buglioni remembers. “He’s 39 years old so I had the youth on him but I didn’t box to my strengths. I think I could have put the pressure on earlier, settled him down a little bit, made him wary rather than trying to lull him into a false sense of security and catch him with counters.

“You just know in their eyes. I hit him with a shot and his back leg gave way a little bit. And I went in and threw a few shots and he held. When I was hurt I didn’t have that experience. I didn’t hold. I didn’t tie him up. I tried to fight when my coordination and timing wasn’t there. And that’s what happened in the sixth round. He caught me with a good shot and I went with him a little bit. And then he caught me with exactly the same left hook round the side and on the chin again.”

“My trainer stopped the fight because he knew that fella could have finished me and done more damage,” Frank continues. “I’m not naive – I know he could have done that. I was in no position to continue at that time. And that’s probably why I’m so confident and I’ve come back so strong. Because I walked out of that ring. I wasn’t put on my arse.

“It didn’t hurt. Obviously my legs went, my coordination went and the ropes probably kept me up but I didn’t go down. In the corner of my eye I saw the referee and I thought, ‘don’t jump in! Don’t jump in!’. I was still thinking, although obviously I couldn’t defend myself.”

“I’m glad I lost,” reflects Buglioni on the defeat that prompted him to seek a new trainer. “When I look back and I’ve got the world title around my waist I’ll say that the loss put me back on the right track.

“Sometimes you have to be beat to realise that you need to rectify things and do them properly. That fight stopped me from just going through the motions. I’m a fighter now. I get on with my job. I’m there to hurt people now.”

The person he’s hurting today is Steve Collins. I watch as teacher and student navigate the boundaries of the ring. In one corner Collins ties Buglioni up and grunts encouragement as his protégé works at improving his infighting. In the centre of the ring Buglioni continually prods out his big jab and follows through with a heavy right that makes me wince. Always pressing, pressing, pressing with tangible urgency. Even though Collins is wearing a ridiculously oversized body protector he will sometimes stop the action and gratefully gulp in a mouthful of air: “That one fucking hurt!” he exclaims on more than one occasion.

It’s fascinating to watch:  A little bit of Brockton, Massachusetts transplanted to Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. A direct link to the habits that Collins absorbed in his early days with the Petronelli brothers, trainers of a certain Marvin Hagler. A level of intensity that Buglioni hopes will turn him from fringe contender to champion.

“Once I’d left Mark I rang Steve and said I needed advice,” Buglioni tells me later as he eats a salad prepared by himself. “I said I wanted to get away from London and all the pressure. I wanted to go down the same route that he did.

“He said: why don’t I fly out to Dublin and meet his brother, Paschal, and see what it’s like? The day after I spoke to him I was on a plane and that afternoon I was sparring with Gary O’Sullivan at the Celtic Warrior’s Gym. There are hungry, determined fighters there and they are all pushing each other. So when I came back I told Steve that I wanted to make it work.”

And Steve certainly likes to work. While Buglioni showers I find Collins sweating it out on an exercise bike. He talks about the Petronelli days. About how Hagler would never spar with him. “I understand now,” he says breathlessly. “You don’t want some young fighter trying to knock your head off. In those days I thought I could beat anybody.” He talks about those contests with Eubank, about how unbelievably strong the Brighton fighter was. About how hard Nigel Benn hit. He talks about Roy Jones Jr.…

Collins is one of boxing’s more presentable survivors. Unlike so many he has managed to avoid the bankruptcy courts and lives in comfort in St. Albans. He owns a working farm with cows and sheep, plays polo and, in addition to Buglioni, finds time to oversee the nascent career of his cruiserweight son, Steve Collins Jr.. But one has only to Google the ex-fighter to find plenty of evidence of an ongoing desire to fight the faded Roy Jones Jr..

“He’s still got it,” says Buglioni. “Steve was a master technician and I know that chopping right hand he throws very well. It creates a lot of power. When we’re on the pads he shows his shots and throws them around the shoulders and you can still feel the power.”

Up close Buglioni does not look much like a boxer. At 25-years-of-age he’s picked up the occasional nick but he still has the film star good looks that can have rivals and commentators dismissing him as a Fancy Dan, a latter day Gary Stretch. One only has to spend a few moments with him, however, to understand that Buglioni is deadly serious about what he does.

“For the next fight I will stay in Dublin for six weeks,” he says. “I rent out a little one-bed apartment in the city centre. I don’t see the night-life. I’m in the gym twice a day. I do my own shopping and my own cooking. I don’t go out in the evening. I’m in bed by 9:30 p.m..”

The man responsible for robbing Buglioni of his night-life is one Andrew Robinson. The pair meet on the undercard of Fury-Chisora In November when Buglioni will attempt to regain the title he lost to Khomitsky. The unbeaten Robinson has the disconcerting nickname of ‘D’Animal’ but that does not seem to intimidate Buglioni. “Robinson will be the one going to bed early when we meet,” he says as we exit the gym just to the left of the back of beyond.


Stranger on the shore – a tribute to Acker Bilk

As somebody who fumbles around with a clarinet occasionally I’m posting a little tribute I’ve done to the late Acker Bilk. Among clarinet players Acker’s shall we say ‘unique’ sound is much maligned. My own teacher, Harry Conn, who knew Acker personally and was a pro for sixty years, hated his sound. I don’t like it much myself, I can hear the Bechet influences and I’m not a great fan of Bechet.

Harry was also jealous of Stranger On The Shore, and would tell me how Acker’s ‘stupid little tune’ had set him up for life. Here I disagree. I think – and many people agree – that Stranger is sublimely beautiful. Although my own version may not be quite so.

My own personal memories of Acker are of him sitting drinking scrumpy in the Coronation Tap in Bristol in the 1980s, still wearing his silly hat and waistcoat. He certainly made an impression of sorts.


Probert’s Twitter Dictionary For Aspiring Authors

You know what it’s like: you’ve read somewhere that all writers must build their online presence so you join Twitter. You start frantically following people and pretty soon you realise that Twitter is populated by literally squillions of best-selling, award-winning superstar authors.

Fear not my friend. Here’s a quick guide that will help you break through the jargon and get a handle on what people are really saying in their Twitter profiles.

Me included.

Amazon bestselling author
On Amazon but not bestselling

Paints houses for a living

Aspiring fantasy author
Train driver who fantasises about being a writer

Train driver who uses MS Word’s thesaurus

Author and grandma
Old person who’s never been published

Award winning
Never won an award. May have purchased one online

BA in film with honours
Train driver into Breaking Bad

My friends bought it

Book series
The same idea recycled ad nauseum

Coming out in June
Publishing it myself/announcing my sexuality to the world

Christian author
Train driver who seldom works on Sunday

Conjurer of words

Creator of the xxxx trilogy
Too much time not enough talent

Erotic author
Thinks they can write Fifty Shades/unmarried middle-aged woman

Friend of God
Deluded train driver

I write short stories
Can’t concentrate long enough to write a whole book

Now published book
Couldn’t get an agent or publisher. Did it myself

Passionate about fiction
Can’t write to save my life

Posh train driver

Published author
Self-published train driver who owns a Kindle

Don’t read mine and I won’t read yours then we can trade five-star reviews

Romantic novel
Lots of innie and outie

Romance writer
Sexually frustrated train driver

Up and coming new author
Apprentice train driver

Train driver who has visited SpecSavers

Would-be writer
Honest train driver

Train driver who plays with MS Word

Writer of compelling fiction
Writer of not at all compelling fiction

Writer of humorous fiction
Writer of really unfunny fiction

Writer of epic fantasy
Writer of boring, badly written fantasy

Writer of strange tales
Writer of crap tales

Writer, mom, wife
Mom and wife

YA Novel
Thinks they can write The Hunger Games


Frank Buglioni and Steve Collins

Spent an enjoyable day yesterday with boxer Frank Buglioni and his trainer, former world super-middlewight champion Steve Collins.

Here are a few of the images that I took.