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.
More shameless self-promotion. To celebrate the fact that my little kids book ‘Johnny Nothing’ is finally available in paperback here’s an excerpt in which the MacKenzie family go on a round the world trip and encounter lots of really dreadful puns.
Chapter 10 – Holiday
Now that the MacKenzie family was rich the world was their lobster. ‘I’m going on a trip!’ announced Felicity MacKenzie a couple of days after her latest spending spree. ‘And since it’s school holidays Johnny can come too. Say thank-you, Johnny.’
‘Thank-you,’ said Johnny weakly.
So the family packed up their belongings: Mrs. MacKenzie took four large trunks full of clothing, make-up and baked beans (in case she didn’t like foreign food). Mr. MacKenzie took two medium sized suitcases crammed with copies of the Racing Post, electronic gadgets and cans of lager (in case he didn’t like foreign beer). Johnny took a Sainsbury’s carrier bag stuffed with a few comics, some pencils and a change of underpants.
The trio boarded a plane to Paris in France. The grown-ups sat at the front in first class, sipping champagne and eating posh caviare sandwiches. Johnny sat at the back of the plane in economy class. There he read his comics and tried to ignore the chorus of howling babies that surrounded him. (Most airlines make it compulsory that there is at least one howling baby in the cheaper section of the plane. The idea is to encourage passengers to pay extra to go and sit in the expensive section of the plane. For long haul flights they try to ensure that there is at least three howling babies per passenger.)
When they got to Paris it took Mrs. MacKenzie only a day or so to get bored with the French. She objected to the fact that most of them didn’t speak English. And when her attempts at speaking French failed she grew restless. (In other words, she did what most English tourists do when they are abroad – she spoke English, only slower and louder than usual and expected everyone to understand what she was going on about.)
After copping an eyeful of the big tower in Paris she insisted that the family get on another plane and go somewhere better. Over the next couple of weeks they flew all over the world at tremendous cost. But nowhere was good enough for the MacKenzies:
• They went to Amsterdam but found the Dutch tulippy.
• They took a slow boat to China but they were bored to death by the time they got there.
• They went to Coventry but the locals wouldn’t talk to them.
• They flew to Warsaw but found it an eyesore.
• They found Cuba dull (although everyone else seemed to be Havana good time).
• They went to Egypt but the pyramids were like a prism.
• They went to Sao Paulo but thought the Brazilians were nuts.
• They sailed to Costa Rica but it Costa fortune.
• They got hungry in Hungary.
• So they had turkey in Turkey.
• And then chicken in Kiev.
• And crackers in Caracas.
• And visited a Deli in Delhi.
• They got thirsty in Chertsey.
• So they had high tea in Haiti.
• Then drank iced tea in the Black Sea.
• They went for a wander in Rwanda.
• Something went wrong in Hong Kong.
• They weren’t bowled over by Moldova.
• They found Chile too cold.
• They bought perfume in Cologne.
• Mr. MacKenzie had a very painful accident in Bangkok.
• They found Nuremberg a trial.
• They thought that Guinea was fowl.
• They went to a party in Toga.
• Things got vicious in Mauritius.
• They saw sea shells sitting in the Seychelles.
• They watched the Gaza Strip.
• They heard the Galway Bay.
• They saw the Colorado Springs.
• They got lost on the way to San Jose.
• They bought new pyjamas in the Bahamas.
• They couldn’t settle in Seattle.
• They got catarrh in Qatar.
• It was not so great in Crete.
• In the end they simply flew back to France – they had nothing Toulouse.
Back in France Mrs. MacKenzie declared that the rest of the world was boring. That it was dull. That it was overrated. That the food was funny. That in future she’d be taking her holidays back in England. They boarded one final plane and ended up in Weston-Super-Mare. There Mrs. MacKenzie spent a contented week sitting indoors watching the rain and complaining about the English weather, the English food, the price of alcohol, how ugly the tourists were and about how foreigners were taking over our country and should go back to where they belonged.
She smothered herself in fake tan, not forgetting to brown her eyelids. She fed lit cigarettes to the seagulls. She wore a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat that terrified her fellow holidaymakers. She hogged the karaoke machine. She lost hundreds of pounds playing the slot machines on the pier.
She had never been so happy.
If you fancy purchasing Johnny Nothing it’s really cheap and available at:
Yesterday someone pointed out to me that my kids book, Johnny Nothing, is available to download for free on some dodgy website. This has happened to me a few times with other books in the past but it’s a first for Johnny Nothing.
Am I bovvered? Not at all. Let them have it. Let them read it. Let them hopefully tell people about it who will also download it. Who knows whose hands it might fall into?
There are so many reasons why I cannot and will not start bleating on about people downloading my book. Probably the chief one is hypocrisy. And whilst I am not overjoyed that people are stealing my work without paying for it (believe me, I’d much rather get paid) I’m not going to waste my time trying to stop it.
So here’s the dodgy link: http://caupewinnepin1961.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/johnny-nothing-by-ian-probert-download-pdf-book/
It’s a bit of a scam because you have to sign up to download, which I have not done. Maybe you will. Alternatively, Here’s the links if you do want to get the book legitimately and buy me a beer in the process:
Just received the first review for my new/old novel ‘How to lose 14lbs in a week’. I hope the lovely Lizzie won’t mind my reblogging from here.
In the last few years so many people I know have died that I seem to be in a constant state of shock. Friends, colleagues and family: they’ve all been dropping like flies. Heart attacks, cancer, Motor Neurone Disease – fate, it seems, has no trouble in coming up with different ways of killing us all. And none of them are pleasant.
This week yet another friend of mine died. His name was Glyn Leach. He was only fifty-four-years-of-age and best known to the world of boxing as the long-standing editor of Boxing Monthly. I hadn’t actually seen him in person since 22 November 1990. I remember that date because it was the day that Margaret Thatcher resigned from government. It was also the day that I was sacked as editor of the magazine’s sister publication Boxing Weekly.
But what I’m about to write is not about me. It’s about Glyn, and Bola, and Jon, and Anna, and my father. And other people who shall remain nameless. People who have in some way touched me, been important to me. And Glyn was one of them.
Let me take you back to 1989. The dark, dusty, internet free days of 1989. It’s seems impossible to me that I’m talking about a quarter of a century ago. Not because it really does seem like yesterday but because I can still smell and taste that decade on my fingers and toes. I’d just walked out on a job as boxing reporter for the Sunday Sport and been invited to come and work for the company that published Boxing Monthly. Although the magazine was still in its first year the publishers were full of confidence and ambition. They were in the process of launching a weekly edition. They wanted me to edit it.
The operation was run from a suite of rooms above a newsagents in Notting Hill. Glamorous it was not. The place smelled of piss. The one solitary toilet was a health hazard, as was the owner of the company who operated a revolving door policy. Staff were in and out of the building on a daily basis. New faces replaced old with alarming regularity. It was sometimes difficult to remember the names of the people you were supposed to be working with.
Masterminding the chaos was Edward Crawshaw, a charming ex-public school rogue who was an accountant turned art dealer. At his side was Barry Hugman, a boxing statistician and editor of the British Boxing Yearbook (who one ex-Boxing Monthly editor – now Eurosport commentator – once cruelly observed ‘put the chin in Hitching’).
I turned up on my first morning in the job to find that I was the only one there. There were no other staff members. It transpired that there had been an argument a day earlier and all the staff had walked out. To better things, I might add. Eventually Crawshaw and Hugman appeared and brought with them some new staff members. There was Chris, a university graduate from up north, and Lee, a recent school leaver (who still happens to be one of the funniest people I have ever met). Neither of them had any experience of running a weekly paper. Neither of them had ever had a solitary word published – not even in the school magazine let alone the national press. And I was only a child myself – not yet twenty-five. It was clear that difficult times were ahead for us all.
A couple of weeks later Glyn joined the cast. From what I remember he had been regularly corresponding with Barry Hugman in the hope of getting a start in boxing journalism. Hugman had apparently invited him to his house and given him a subbing test, which Glyn had passed. What sealed the deal was Glyn’s offer to work for free.
I don’t much recall Glyn’s entrance: Boxing Weekly was only days away from launch and we were all too busy to welcome a new arrival with any pomp and ceremony. Glyn just rolled up his sleeves and helped out where he could. Even then it was clear that Glyn was a grafter. He was prepared to live in the Boxing Weekly offices if that’s what it took. And he frequently did.
I may be wrong but I think that I had the privilege of editing the very first piece that Glyn offered to Boxing Weekly. If I recall correctly it was about Frank Bruno. It was a little rough around the edges but Glyn quickly and quietly improved, becoming an accomplished writer and commentator on boxing.
I spent a year at Boxing Weekly and it was most definitely the hardest year of my life. Unless you have ever been in this situation it is difficult to understand just how tough it is to run a weekly paper. It really is like being on a treadmill. After the euphoria and relief of completing the paper in the early hours of a Saturday morning it was back to the grindstone: the planning meeting on Monday morning, the allocation of tasks to staff members and freelancers, the continual worry that the pages might not be filled, that photographs might not turn up. The constant threat of legal action from managers, promoters and boxers.
And when the day’s work was over, more work. This time spent attending the fights that would be reported in next week’s issue. Attending them to such a degree that I personally began to resent the sport of boxing for the demands it was placing upon me. The scrambling to achieve deadlines, the constant worry.
What made things harder for Boxing Weekly was the paucity of funds that were provided for the editorial team. We really did live from hand to mouth. On too many occasions contributors and suppliers would not be paid and instead of working on the paper I would find myself engaged in lengthy telephone conversations attempting to placate creditors. Even worse, staff members would often not be paid, myself included. It was the ultimate slap in the face for all the work that we had been putting in.
Of course there were laughs. Sometimes episodes of manic laughter when all of us would get drunk and offload the strain that we had been going through. Our habit of calling everyone ‘matey’ for no apparent reason. The time Lee called up Paul McCartney in the middle of the night and swore at him. The time all the computers were removed from the office by men in crash helmets as we worked. The time a drunken Kirkland Laing crashed the offices knocking over everything in his way.
Yes, there were laughs. But those laughs were mainly overshadowed by the constant grind. Grind like nothing else on earth.
The reason I talk about all this is because Glyn experienced this grind for over a quarter of a century. I lasted a year before I was burned out but Glyn, being the grafter that he was, carried on and carried on. And carried on.
He carried on when he arrived into work one morning to find all the computers gone and along with them all the staff. He carried on when the magazine went bust, obtaining a bank loan and purchasing half of the magazine outright. He carried on when the internet arrived and everyone in the world was suddenly a published writer. He carried on when paper was superseded by pixels. He just carried on. And for the succeeding generations of boxers and boxing fans it was as if he had always been there and would be forever.
A few years ago Glyn and I got back in touch. We became FB friends and began exchanging messages and emails. We planned to meet up and have a few beers. But it never happened. In one of our very last FB exchanges Glyn told me that he was arranging a lunch with another former Boxing Monthly editor, the kind and knowledgable George Zeleny. But now that, too, will never happen.
Now twenty years older, Glyn and I had other things in common. I was on the verge of having a hip replacement and he had just had one himself. I wanted his advice. Earlier this year Glyn surprised me by telling me that he had suffered a seizure, in which he had collapsed but made a full recovery. Except for the fact that he found it difficult to concentrate when he was working. In retrospect, alarm bells should have been ringing then and perhaps they were. In the March issue of Boxing Monthly Glyn confessed at length to feeling the strain of that continual grind in an editorial that was completely out of character for him.
The outpouring of grief and sadness on Twitter and on the many boxing sites that now proliferate has been genuinely moving for me and those who knew Glyn. And this is my own way of saying goodbye, of tipping my hat to someone who always commanded respect. You made a difference, Glyn, and although you’d no doubt be laughing at the the sentimentality of that last statement, an awful lot of people are already missing you far too much.
Ian Probert 2014
Sorry for the long delay between posts. Not that anyone is really listening.
I have self-published a book that I wrote a very long time ago. It’s free on the Apple iBooks store and almost free on Amazon Kindle (they won’t let one put out a book totally for free so I’ve charged the minimum). I’ve put this book out not for money but for catharsis.
The best way of explaining will be to reprint the preface:
Many apologies if you’ve downloaded this book because you thought it was one of those dreadful self-help books. We all know that they never work anyway. What you’ve got instead is something to read on the way to the gym or to McDonalds, depending on how your weight loss programme is going.
So why trick you in such a horrible shabby way? Well first of all it seems to me that these days the best way to get someone to actually open a book that you’ve written is to tell them it’s a self-help book or a cookery book or a book where people tie each other up and insert blunt objects into multiple lubricated orifices. If you take a look at the bestseller charts on the Kindle or the iBooks store you’ll find that the books listed are mainly written by someone called Jamie or have the word ‘diet’ in the title or contain page after page of people fucking each other.
This means that if you’re a writer who wants to get people to read your words you have to write about fucking or cooking. Hold on – hasn’t it always been this way?
If you’ve got this far without binning this book a little background info: I wrote this back in the the early-2000s and it’s showing its age. No-one in this story, for example, has an iPod or iPhone or iAnything, the internet is still some kind of dark magic thing and phone-hacking was something done only in Bond movies. The premise is the same, however. The story. The tale that I’m trying to tell.
Back then I was riding the crest of a puddle. I’d had a bestseller in the states with a really undeserving teenage book that had the word ‘internet’ in the title. I’d had a critically acclaimed adult book entitled ‘Rope Burns’ (for ‘critically acclaimed’ read: ‘some people liked it but no bugger bought it…’) and I was just about to have my first novel published. It had a different title then but this was it.
I shan’t bore you with too many details: at the very last minute the publisher decided not to publish, I dumped my agent and fell into a depression, I got ill and couldn’t write for 15 years. That sort of thing.
Recently, however, my father died and I got to thinking about this book again. I wasn’t close to my him by any means but even I was surprised by how badly I took/am still taking his death. This book is about a guy who discovers that his long estranged father is dying and is persuaded to go and see him before he dies only to be rejected by his father. And this is more or less what happened to me a month or two ago. A case of prescience regurgitating itself.
So – most probably as some form of catharsis – I’m resurrecting the book. Under a different, silly, but still vaguely appropriate title. I’m expecting most people to dump it in the wastebasket and perhaps write an outraged one-star review on Amazon or iBooks. But a small part of me sort of hopes that I’m hitting the right audience.
If you’ve downloaded a self-help book it would imply that you are sensitive to certain aspects of yourself. And if you’re sensitive to yourself there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll be sensitive to others. And in truth, I actually misled you only a teensy bit: this is indeed a self-help book (self-helping me, admittedly) and if you manage to get to the end you certainly will learn how to lose 14lbs in only a week.
And if none of this assuages your outrage don’t forget: it’s completely FREE* without a hint of an in-app purchase. Most things aren’t these days.
Ian Probert 2014
*Sorry everyone. I tried to publish this free on Amazon Kindle but they have a minimum price that you must charge. Can I suggest that you contact Amazon and ask for a refund if you were hoping to lose weight. Alternatively you can get this book genuinely for nothing on Apple’s iBook store. My apologies again.