A difficult new year

Happy new year to all those people who occasionally hit the ‘like’ button on this blog. A double happy new year squared to those who actually comment.

For my first post of 2016 I’m dipping into my ‘abandoned but not forgotten’ vault. What follows is an aborted children’s story that I began in late 2013 and worked on a little bit early the following year. I was very excited about it at first but like a lot of things I do the work was eventually abandoned after I sent it out anonymously to a couple of agents and got zero response.

It sort of pretty accurately reflects my state of mind at the moment: in that a small publisher has agreed to republish my 1999 book ‘Rope Burns’ along with a sequel that I’m provisionally calling ‘Dangerous’. The problem is that I have only four months left to write a complete book and I’m not sure that my heart is entirely in it. To write ‘Dangerous’ I have to get back in touch with a lot  boxing contacts whom I haven’t spoken to in 25 years. This started promisingly enough but I’m running into a brick wall in that far too many people aren’t as interested seeing in me as I am in seeing them. If I’m going to revisit my past and produce something worthwhile then it has to be good.

In the meantime, here’s chapter 01 of ‘Waterloo Park’. It’s for the 13+ age group. I’d be happy to hear any comments you have about it. Even bad ones.

Cheers and beers.



Chapter 01

“OMG! You’re in real trouble! You’re going to HAVE to give it back!’

That’s Sofia talking. She’s always so annoyingly sensible. She’s my sister. She’s younger than me by two years and a day but always SO sensible.

“Don’t be stupid… I haven’t done anything wrong. Let’s not be hasty. Let’s think about it for a bit…”

That’s me talking. Stephen Dawkins. Older than Sofia by 731 days and six hours and not sensible at all.

“How much is there?” she asks.

“I dunno. A lot. Thousands and thousands and thousands I think.”

“OMG! Is it real money?’

“Course it’s real money, idiot. It’s got the Queen’s head on it and all that.”

“Yes, but it could be counterfeit. Forged. We did about that in school.”

“Don’t be silly. Feel it.”

Sofia feels the money. She picks up a brick of tightly bound notes and cradles it in her tiny little white hands and feels its coldness against her cheek. She sniffs it. She runs her stubby nails down its side. “Well it feels real,” she says eventually, still unsure. “Where did you find it again?”

“Waterlow Park,” I say for the umpteenth time. “I told you: I was walking home from school this afternoon – got it down to 1.1 miles – and I noticed something in the bushes near the duck pond. It was a big black plastic sack full of this… Money.”

Sofia pulls a face as if she’s in pain. “Well it must be somebody’s money.” she says. “People just don’t leave sackfuls of money lying around in bushes. Perhaps it was a surprise for someone.”

“You’re not listening to me are you, stupid? I told you I looked around and there was nobody about at all. It was raining and the park was completely deserted. Apart from some old biddy giving bread to the ducks.”

“Maybe it was hers?”

“I don’t think so. She had one of those walking frame things…”

“Zimmer frame?”

“Yes, that’s it. She had a zimmer thingie and she was moving at about ten miles a year. She wouldn’t have been able to even pick up the money.”

“Well how did you manage to pick it up? It’s very heavy There’s a lot of it.”

I smile and try to wink but I’ve not quite mastered winking yet. This is where I was clever. This is where I used that devious little brain of mine. I try to sound as cool as possible – like this sort of thing happens every day: “Well I had to use my head,” I explain. “You can’t have people seeing me lug a big sackful of money through the park – can you? So I dragged it to another place – you know that clump of trees behind the playground with the climbing frame and the jumpy thing? And then I covered it with leaves and dog shit…”

“I’m telling!” Sofia immediately interrupts my story and crosses her arms. She’s such a prude is Sofia. “You’re not allowed to use that word!”

“Oh all right,’ I say. “Dog poo if it makes you happy. I did this so nobody would touch it. Then I rushed home and got my backpack.”

“I did wonder what you were doing with your backpack,” says Sofia. “I knew you were up to something.”

“It took thirteen separate trips for me get all that money into my backpack and then back here,” I say, a little too proudly I think. “I had to be careful, you know. I had to make sure that nobody noticed me. And nobody did.”

Sofia frowns again and shakes her head. “So you’re telling me that you decanted all that money from the sack into your backpack and carried it back here thirteen times? You’re mad.”

Sofia’s such a brain-box. She’s always using big words like ‘decanted’ but this time it’s me who’s the clever one. “Well I could hardly carry it through the streets could I? People would have smelled a rat.”

Sofia holds her nose and stares over at the black plastic sack which still has traces of the dog shit I rubbed on it. “Well I can smell more than a rat,” she says.
It was a normal day like any other when I found the money. I can’t really say any more than that. It was raining a little. The sky was grey, I suppose. The grass was wet and I was making my way home from school. I’m eleven-years-old and I go to William Ellis Boys School in Hampstead. It’s only my second week at the school but I’m guessing that it’s still pretty unusual to find a big bin liner full of money hidden in the bushes. I only found it because I was trying out a new route. I have an app on my phone that records exactly how far you walk and draws a line on a map that shows your route. I’ve been trying to find the quickest route to the school. On the first day I walked exactly 1.3 miles. On the second I walked exactly 1.21 miles. And it was only because I was trying to shave as much as possible off the distance that I ended up walking close to the bushes and spotting that bag of money. Today I walked 1.1 miles, which I don’t think I’ll better.
“What’s mum and dad going to say?” asks Sofia.

This is where I get annoyed. I don’t normally get angry and things but sometimes you have to if you need to make a point. “Mum and dad aren’t going to say anything…” I say in a loud voice – not shouty like dad – just loud.

“…Because mum and dad aren’t going to find out,” says Sofia. Sofia has an annoying habit of finishing everybody’s sentences.

“They’re definitely not going to!” I say.
And with that I/we hatch a plan.

18 thoughts on “A difficult new year

  1. I have not been blogging for a while but I think you are a great writer. Just because your old contacts don’t want to talk to you, which is their loss, can’t you find new boxing contacts? It is the New Year, find a boxing gym, get new contacts, new copy and fab abs at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like it, Ian! And if it’s anything like Johnny Nothing, I’ll like it very much indeed. May I nitpick just slightly over a couple of tiny points? Would a modern 11-year-old use the old fashioned term ‘biddy’? Perhaps ‘old girl’ or ‘old woman’, depending on how politely he regards old people? He talks about her walking at ‘ten miles an hour.’ That’s going some, especially with a zimmer frame! Would he be more likely to use childish exaggeration and say something like ‘half a mile an hour’?
    Just ignore me if you think I’m talking rubbish of course!


    • Well it certainly can. And for me it gets harder the older I get. It’s hard to believe I once sold 100,000 books in the US. It seemed so easy at the time. I had no idea how lucky I was.


  3. Pingback: Waterlow Park, a serialised children’s book from Ian Probert | Daily Echo

  4. Really tried to get away from boxing myself, as a ‘fan’ that is. It’s illogical, violent and thick with corruption. But sickening as it can be, this ‘sport’ has many fascinating stories to tell. Kudos to you, Ian, for writing ‘Rope Burns’. I’m so glad that book exists, as someone actually shared my exact mentality about boxing. You are honest in your observations and thereby put things in perspective, along with a dose of very (very) crafty humor. The only comparable book I managed to find was ‘This Bloody Mary’ by the late Jonathan Rendall. Not going to beg you to write ‘Dangerous’, Ian, but you bloody sure would make this fella’s day (again!)


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