Waterlow Park – Chapter 04

Another day. Another chapter of the aborted ‘Waterlow Park’. Interestingly, someone seems to be reading this. Had an email from a small indie publisher in America yesterday who wants to see more. Well here’s the more:


Chapter 04
“What’s wrong with you?” says the kid called Smitty, whom I don’t even know.

“Nothing,” I reply.

“Well why’d you keep looking around everywhere? What are you scared of?”


I don’t know Smitty’s real name. I don’t even know if he has a real name although I suppose he must have. In fact, I don’t know much at all about Smitty. Except that he isn’t a giant like all the other boys at the new school seem to be.

“Well something’s wrong. I can tell something’s wrong.”

It’s been two whole days since I found the bag of money and Smitty’s started following me home. He’s in the same class as me – 7W – and it turns out he lives just around the corner from me. I don’t know how he found this out, and I certainly didn’t invite him to start walking home with me. But here he is – walking home with me for the second day in a row. What an idiot.

“I’m telling you… Nothing’s wrong at all.”

“Well you’ve hardly said a word since we got into the park.”

“I’ve got nothing to say…”

Smitty doesn’t know the reason why I’ve got nothing to say but I obviously do and it’s freaking me out quite a lot. It’s because we’re walking through Waterlow Park and I can see the bushes where I found the bag of money. Standing only a couple of feet away from that spot is a man. A really big man dressed completely in black. And he’s looking right at me.

He wasn’t there yesterday. And he wasn’t there the day before. In fact, nobody was there yesterday or the day before when I walked home from school. Just when I was beginning to think that whoever the money belongs to had forgotten all about it.

I turn away. And then I wait a few moments and try and get a sneaky look at the man. He’s still staring at me. I quickly turn away again.

“Look at the size of that bloke,” says Smitty.

Another sneaky look. He’s still watching me.

“What bloke?” I say.

“That bloke’ says Smitty pointing right at the man.

“Stop it!” I say, grabbing hold of Smitty’s arm and pulling it to his side. “Stop pointing at him – it’s… It’s… Stupid…”

Smitty looks at me with a puzzled expression on his face. From the corner of my eye I can see the man still staring right at me. He also has a puzzled expression. I think.

Without realising it, I increase my walking pace. Smitty, who is really fat and really unfit is soon out of breath and struggling to keep up with me. We get closer and closer to the man. So close that I can see his grey eyes. He’s old and craggy and sunburned like he’s been under the grill for too long. He has grey bristles growing out of his chin. He’s wearing a woollen hat and a black jacket. He looks really weird, although actually to other people he probably looks quite normal. He’s so close that he can hear us talk. Except we’re not talking.

“So anyway,” I say, attempting to remedy the situation, “School’s really boring, isn’t it…”

“Huh?” says Smitty.

I try to wink at Smitty but I’m not getting any better at winking. “I said: school’s really rubbish, isn’t it?”


“OMG. I said: school’s rubbish! It’s rubbish, isn’t it?”

“If you say so,” shrugs Smitty, looking at me really oddly.

We walk past the man. He smells of some sort of weird perfume or aftershave. As we pass, his head swivels around to follow us. Quite blatantly. He doesn’t even pretend to be looking at something else. I’m wondering if I even saw him smile a little. A really evil little smile. It had to be.
I eventually shake off Smitty and hurry home. I’m covered in sweat, partly because of the walk and partly because of the man. Sofia’s waiting for me. Her school’s closer than mine and she always gets home before I do.

“I just saw someone,” I pant, hardly able to get the words out.

“Congratulations,’ says Sofia. “I saw at least… Let’s see… Probably about a hundred people today.”

“No – idiot! I mean I saw someone in the park.”

“Really? Shall I call the newspapers?”


“Shall I call the newspapers and tell them that you saw someone in the park? Do you think it will make the front page?”

As well as using big words and constantly finishing people’s sentences, Sofia can be very sarcastic.

“Somebody standing near the bushes…”

“The bushes?”

“…The bushes where I found the you-know-what.”

Sofia goes white and quiet for a moment as the penny drops. She reduces her voice to a whisper. “You mean the money?” she asks.

“Yes! The money!” I reply. “He was standing right next to where I found the money. And he was watching me.”

I describe the man’s appearance to my sister. And as I do so I remember more detail. “He had sharp pointed shoes. He had a leather leash wrapped around one of his hands.”

“Do you mean a dog lead?”

“I dunno. A leather leash. He kept looking at me and Smitty.”

“Who’s Smitty?”

“I told you yesterday. He’s a stupid fat boy in my class. He wants to be my friend. He keeps walking home with me.”

“Oh… Well maybe you should speak to him.”

“I do speak to him. I keep telling him to go away.”

“No. Not Smitty. The man in the park. If he’s there on Monday speak to him.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Because it might be his you-know-what. It might belong to him. He might give you a reward.”


Red Christmas – a tale of torture and woe

Cover version 02

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 bum. 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 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 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 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. I’m not kidding – she was really evil. More evil than Margaret Thatcher ever was – well maybe not. 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.



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 don’t already know, 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 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 a 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 to be cooked like you might find in other peoples’ houses. The MacKenzies never 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 journey 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, 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 like 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 cutting the Christmas dinner into succulent slices. Still tied up on the floor was Santa Claus, who was weeping profusely.

“Stop crying you big baby and have a bit of dinner,’ said Felicity.

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

“Oh stop fussing,’ said Felicity. “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 watching as the Queen gave her annual speech.

“Philip and I would like to thank everybody for giving us all of your hard-earned money 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 said. “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 when the National Anthem was playing. Then they sat back down again to watch a Bond movie with a 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?

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!

On television, newscasters told tales of the hated devil named Santa Claus. Police and politicians were interviewed, universally condemning this once loved 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 MacKenzie’s front door. “He’s in here,” said Felicity to a man waving an identity card. Early in the 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.

“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 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. 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. Then 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.



The ecstasy and the agony – why you should never take ecstasy


Back in the early nineties when ecstasy really was ecstasy not the tepid shit that they sell to the kids these days I smuggled a couple of tabs into Zante. Only two tabs: one for me and one for Marie – enough for her to fall in love with me for a night and me with her. Although I’d lost count of the number of times I’d been carrying I always got a little nervous when I went through customs. However, I prided myself on my originality when it came to hiding things. I’d never needed to swallow anything or shove it up my arse, I was too subtle for that. So on this occasion I individually wrapped the tabs in clingfilm and dropped them into a bottle of thick gloopy yellow shampoo. Then I wiped the top and put a smudge of PVA around the thread. This would add a little authentic stiffness to the lid on the off-chance that an overenthusiastic customs guard should decide to open it. I shook the bottle and held it up to the light. There was no way you could tell it was concealing anything.

Even so, I was sweating a bit when I went through; that musty, under-the-arms kind of sweat that always smells bad. Stupidly, I was wearing a biker’s jacket, a personal statement which guaranteed that I would be stopped and searched at customs. On this occasion they went one step further and pulled me into a little room and got me to empty my suitcase. If I say so myself I showed a great deal of panache as I did so, affecting the resigned but amused air of somebody who was obviously put out by what was happening to him but apparently viewing the experience in a post-modernist existential kind of way. In a display of unfeasible braggadocio I even handed the shampoo to the plump matronly uniformed woman whose job it was to go through my socks and underwear. But she wasn’t interested and eventually waved me away with mock embarrassed shrugging.

Marie was waiting for me by the MacDonald’s with that dumb face of hers sitting blankly atop a body that she appeared unaware of, although this couldn’t possibly be true. She asked me what had happened, which seemed a completely senseless question but for the time being I was content to indulge her innocence and her stupidity. If everything went according to plan I would soon have my hands on that body of hers, which seemed adequate compensation for such admirable patience.

But things started to go wrong.

Inevitably the hotel was a shit-hole. It was damp and smelled of piss. Whatever colour it had once been had been bleached away by the sun. Nothing like the picture in the brochure. And there were two single beds, which fucked me off no end. Worse still when I poured the pills out of their hiding place they had somehow reacted with the shampoo and more than doubled in size. They had become soggy, clingfilmed pouches of shampooey dust that were no good to anyone. I resolved to let them dry out in the sun for a while and curtail my nefarious plans until later. This turned out to be a bad idea because as soon as we hit the bars Marie was immediately surrounded by panting admirers who were oblivious to my presence. And before I knew what was happening she was sitting on the lap of one of them, a seven foot Devonian cavemen who really was Neanderthal, not in the pejorative sense but an actual, living breathing Neanderthal, complete with bone jutting brow, undersized eyes and oversized hands and feet capable of crushing my puny Public School digits. And then he took Marie home with him and presumably had sex with her, leaving me alone to wank away my frustrations back in that shit-hole of a hotel room. That was Day One – surely things could only get better?

On Day Two we did the beaches. Marie in a bikini, inevitably already bronzed. Me in shorts and a t-shirt that made not even a cursory attempt to hide the rolls of fat beneath. I didn’t mention the events of the previous night to Marie in the hope that they never actually happened. The Plan was back on and I was once more Dick Dastardly. We had lunch and then lay together on the sand listening to a radio. I took off my shirt, sucked in my belly and allowed the hot sunshine access to my flabby white torso as I fell into a dream. When I awoke four hours later that torso was still flabby but now it was pink and radiated its own heat source, moreover I was shivering like it was the middle of winter. I spent that second night alone again, trying to keep warm under the flea-ridden bedsheets in the shitty hotel room as everyone else on the island broiled in the Mediterranean heat. Marie was nowhere to be seen.

The next morning hit me with dehydrated agony, every part of my body blistered, my taut skin ready to crack. Unable even to turn my head. Unable to leave the hotel room for fear of the cruel burning sun. Round about six Marie finally rolled in. She had bite marks on her neck and her eyeliner had run to form black tears. She refused to speak and slumped on to her bed, immediately falling into a deep coma. I lay in the next bed listening to her grind her teeth, my balls aching and the rest of me slow cooking, too sore to sleep.

I lost track of time: Marie disappeared and I spent days and days on my own prowling the island. Staying in the shadows like a vampire, avoiding direct sunlight. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of Marie in the distance with her various companions. As well as the tall Neanderthal one, there was a black one, and a white one, and what looked like twins. One time she saw me looking at her and waved at me happily. Not a trace of concern for my well-being on her beautiful face or any regret for abandoning me. As the days trundled by I got drunker and drunker and stumbled blindly into women, desperate for attention, for companionship. Even the ugly ones swatted me away as you might do an irritating tick. However, one woman spent the afternoon with me, drinking my drinks and telling me tales of woe, of unwanted children, of beatings. She was attractive in a proletarian way and my standards had dipped so down below the bar that I would have happily have clambered on top of her. Finally, she asked to borrow money and I gratefully obliged. She said she would go back to her hotel to retrieve her forgotten purse and pay me back straight away. It would only take five minutes, she said. Then we’d get drunk together. I never saw her again.

Gangs of youths in Gazza t-shirts marched the dusty streets squeezing wobbly plastic glasses of expensive cheap flat beer between their brutish fingers. Their yells made no sense to me as I submerged myself in a bottomless lake of alcohol. I swam in that lake and through a heat haze found myself talking to one of these pink-faced youths. The words refused to emerge but I still managed to say something that this person took exception to. He was smiling like an indulgent father as he smacked me hard in the mouth and I jinked to the floor like a cow in a slaughterhouse, blood squirting from somewhere within the roof of my mouth. ‘Fucking cunt!’ he said, the first time anybody had spoken to me in what seemed like a lifetime.

In blood and pain I somehow made my way back to the room. Marie was there applying the evening’s make-up. She looked at me in confusion. ‘Are you having a nice time?’ she asked, frowning at the blood and covering her love bites with a silk scarf.

And then it was suddenly the last day. If I was ever going to enact The Plan it had to be now. The sun had turned the soggy ecstasy into a fine dry powder and I took a shower and dressed myself in clean clothing. I put on aftershave. I cleaned my teeth. My flesh was peeling like a snake shedding its skin but I felt clean for the first time since we had arrived in Greece. Marie looked even more beautiful as she sat across me at the dinner table later that evening. For the first time in close to a week we were actually alone and I was able to put my Oxbridge charm into play, pretending not to talk about money and watching the effect it had on her. I fed Marie glass after glass of gin and her words began to slur as I produced the powered ecstasy and slipped it into her drink. Then I poured the other tab into mine and downed the mixture in one. I grinned.

Marie looked puzzled. Then she looked worried. And then she nervously asked about the powder in her drink. When I told her what it was she didn’t want to know. She had never taken ecstasy, she explained, and nothing I could say or do would make her swallow the contents of her glass. ‘But I’ve just taken it…” I protested in slow motion. I’d just taken the powdered ecstasy and was about to embark on a trip that would last the whole night.

We argued for a while. I tried to make her see sense. But it was a waste of time. And so I did what any sane person in my position would do: I picked up Marie’s glass and drained it too.

Smooth fade:

I find myself standing on a beach. The biggest sun ever seen by the human eye sinks slowly beneath the waves as I’m overcome by a feeling of profound overwhelming absolute love for the world and its entire contents. I wander up to strangers and engage them in the deepest conversations that they will ever be party to. My mind travels at the speed of light. The people around me shrink to the size of pinheads. There is nothing around me but love. Love. Love. Love.

The seconds last minutes. The minutes last hours. Love. Love. Love.

I’m sucked into the midst of a crowd. Every one of them my best friend. Every one of them a stranger and an intimate. We drink and we and we drink and we drink until there is nothing left to drink on the island. But it has no effect on me. I could drink the entire world if I wanted to. I am Jesus. I am God. I am love. Love. Love. Love.

Smooth fade.

There was a loud bang and I woke up on the pavement with a cut on my shin and two pairs of eyes inches from my own. Beside me was a buckled motorbike with its engine smoking, wheels still spinning. The owners of the eyes were shouting at me angrily in Greek. They wore police uniforms. In my MDMA haze I tried to make sense of where I was and what was happening. It is only much later that I realise that I had somehow stolen the bike and been hurtling through the Zante town centre at top speed, lucky not to kill anyone. To kill myself. The shouting continued and quickly escalated. A pair of handcuffs were produced. I was about to be arrested and put in a Greek prison cell.

It was then that a miracle happened.

‘There he is!’ shouted a female voice. ‘He’s always doing this. Give the stupid sod to me and I’ll take him home.’

Four Greek eyes and two English eyes turned in surprise towards the source of the voice. She was in her late twenties, mousey blonde, Essex accent, nothing much to look at.

‘Come on,” she continued. “You two boys can leave him to me… He’s going to get it when I get him home!’

And this was the miracle: I’d never met this person before but she’d been passing by and noticed that I was in trouble. And even more of a miracle: the two Greek policeman put away the handcuffs and did as they were told. As they walked away I picked myself up and thanked my saviour. ‘You all right then, mate?’ she said, moving away from me. ‘See you around…’

And see her around I did. Because lo and behold who isn’t sitting right behind Marie and me on the flight home? And strangely enough, her name is also Marie.

By the end of the flight I was sitting next to the other Marie. And when the plane landed she did indeed take me home, as she had promised the Greek police. And I’ve never left. I even married the girl.

She’s in her late-forties now, mousey blonde, Essex accent, still nothing much to look at. And when dinner is eaten and coffee has been poured we never tire of telling our friends about the the day that we met.


God Save Jeremy Corbyn


Let’s get this straight: I’ve got nothing against Liz. I’ve never met her, I’m never likely to meet her, and I’m really in no position to make personal judgements. Moreover she’s old and wrinkled and has fluffy white hair. And everyone knows that when a person gets to a certain age you’re not really allowed to be nasty to them.

That’s not to say that there are certain things about her that I am not at liberty to comment upon. I don’t like the blue coats, for example – too much like Maggie; and I don’t like the way she waves – although I can understand that it must be quite tiring doing it all day. And I don’t like the voice – although you can’t really blame her for that. And that’s just about it really. Not much of a hate list.

But I do hate everything she stands for. Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate it. Hate to the power of twenty.

I’ve never met her husband and once again I never will. But I’m actually pretty close to hating him. He’s a racist: he makes racist comments. He makes them publicly all over the world. And he seems to be under the impression that we still have an Empire while being totally unaware of the enormous privilege that life has gifted him. He probably smells, too. I don’t like him.

And I don’t much like her sons: The eldest is obviously not the sharpest spoon in the drawer; if you’re to believe the press (yes, alright…) he apparently talks to plants, dreams of eating Tampons and seems to see himself as a self-appointed arbiter of good taste. All harmless good fun. I still don’t like him though. Although not as much as I don’t like his horrible father.

The middle son seems alright as far as he can be. He seems to keep his head down flying women and chatting up helicopters or whatever he does. He survived the recent underage sex accusation, as any celebs must do these days, and he’s not such a baldie as the rest of his brethren. We’ll never be friends but I can’t really slag him off with any great sincerity. In life you’ve got to at least try to be reasonable about things.

Can’t say the same for the youngest son, however. I actually did meet him once and he really did come across as a prime pillock. A prime little pillock flanked by embarrassed looking bodyguards. He’s tried this. And he tried that. And he’s failed at this. And he’s failed at. But then haven’t we all? Still, in fairness it can’t be easy being under the spotlight trying to make your way in the world.

The daughter: well again she’s another who seems to mostly keep her head down these days. She was bigger news in the 1970s, of course, when she won a gold medal for sitting on a horse while telling reporters to ‘naff off’. You’ve got to feel a little sorry for her: she looks even more like Queen Victoria than Queen Victoria did.

That’s the immediate family dealt with. The ones in line so to speak. The rest I steer clear of. If I see an article about them in a newspaper or magazine I generally turn the page over. If they’re on the telly I tend to look away and do something else. I have difficulty naming most of them. I know that there’s a Will and a Harry, although I couldn’t tell you who’s who. I sort of like the ginger one because he seems like someone it would be good to have a beer with. And one of them’s married to someone called Kate, who’s just dropped yet another royal sprog, a future royal baldie with genetic pattern baldness.

But why should I know who they are? Why should anyone know who they are? And why are they still here?

I can’t answer any of those questions because the very existence of a Royal Family in this day and age bemuses me.

That’s not to say that I don’t know how they got here. That’s easy. They got here by killing anybody who happened to disagree with them or had something that they wanted over a period of thousands of years. And they consolidated their power by amassing a ginormous army of bullies and simply marching into other countries and helping themselves to whatever they wanted in order to aggrandise their ‘dynasty’. And when their army of bullies got too big to afford to pay their wages they taxed their ‘subjects’ to death and duly dismantled the catholic church (not a bad thing as it happens) and appropriated all the treasures that the catholic church itself had stolen from thousands of unfortunates.

So I think we’re agreed that the Royal Family got to be the Royal Family because they were better at raping, pillaging and stealing than anybody else. They were the biggest bullies in the playground. That’s not me saying this. It’s a historical fact.

Let’s also agree that whatever power they had has gone. They’re not allowed to kill people anymore and would probably get a very firm rap on the knuckles should any of the dysfunctional bunch ever do so.

And that’s why I don’t want to be rewarded by these people. I don’t want an OBE or a CBE or an MP3 or whatever they call these phoney baloney awards. I don’t want a knighthood, a dayhood or any kind of hood. Moreover, I’ve never done anything of enough note to warrant one. I’ve never kiddy fiddled or made millions singing songs or worked in banks ripping people off and drawing massive bonuses; I’ve never told jokes (I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried), I’ve never pretended to be somebody else on stage, I’ve never killed anyone, I’ve never kicked or hit or swallowed a ball for money. I’ve never done anything and more than likely never will. I will never do enough to catch the attention of this murderous family so that they might pin a little bit of shiny metal to my lapel. I don’t have a lapel.

And that’s why I don’t sing their tune. Don’t get me wrong: I’m as patriotic as the next man. On those rare occasions that England score a goal in the World Cup finals I’ve been known to frighten my daughter to death with my drunken shouting. I get all tense when Andy Murray loses. I even paid a fortune to go and cheer some anonymous canoeist go for a dip in a lake during the Olympic Games. But I won’t sing their song.

I don’t believe in God and I most definitely don’t want him/her/it to save our Queen. Because she has no more right to continue breathing indefinitely than anybody else does. So if you want me to sing for my country you’d better change the song (I always thought Bohemian Rhapsody would be a good choice) because I’m not raising my voice in deference to this murderous clan. And nor should anybody else.

Yes, the queen is now old enough to have achieved the ‘bless her’ suffix but that’s as much as she’ll get from me. And from anyone with half a brain. And if she really wants her own personal tribute concert she should go and do what everybody else does to earn one: i.e. get locked away in prison for 27 years or get hungry. Very, very hungry.

And this is why I tip my non-existent hat to Jeremy Corbyn. I don’t want a political leader who wants God to save the queen. The idea is frankly preposterous. I want a political leader with the good sense not to waste time singing pointless inane songs about pointless inane tyrant offspring. So God save Jeremy Corbyn.


This is the world we live in


This is the world we live in:
Where people live and people die,
Where people fuck and people cry,
Where people walk and drive and fly,
And don’t know where or when or why,
This is the world we live in.

This is the world we’re lost in:
Where God is love and God is hate,
Depending on which town or state,
Or street where you originate,
For that is where they seal your fate,
And point you down the road you take,
This is the world we’re lost in.

This is the place we hope in:
Where bombs explode and all the while,
You go to work and try to smile,
And wonder why they want you dead,
Perhaps it’s something that you said?
More likely those who use your name,
To do their deeds and play their game,
Whichever case, it ends the same,
It’s you who is the one to blame,
This is place we hope in.

This is the place we love in:
Where people starve to death in pain,
And children die before they’re named,
For want of but a fist of rice,
That rains down on the bride,
So nice…
…to see that they are having fun,
Lives just beginning, others’ done,
This is the place we love in.

This is the land we dream in:
Where those who have are given more,
And those without are shown the door,
Where rich stay rich, and poor stay poor,
And live their lives below the law,
And kill and rob and maim and whore,
To raise themselves above the floor,
And crane their necks towards the sky,
But never know the reason why,
This is the world we dream in.

This is the land of freedom:
Where actions cost but talk is cheap,
About a megabyte a week,
Is all you need to squawk and Tweet,
And with that you can wipe your feet,
Of all the prayers you should be praying,
The info you should be relaying,
The demons that you should be slaying,
(Only saying…)
This is the land of freedom.

This is the world we live in:
A land of plenty for the few,
The rest of us must just make do,
And try our best to make it through,
This is the world we live in.


The wedding picture

Wedding image

This image was sent to me out of the blue the other day by my mother via Facebook Messenger. It seemed somehow incongruous that a snapshot from a bygone age would arrive in such a thoroughly modern manner. Still. I suppose that we’ve all got pictures like this in dusty biscuit tins somewhere at the bottom of cupboards. But given the events of the last few years this one struck a deep resounding chord with me.
I’m the little chap at the front, by the way, the young fellow in white with the somewhat less than masculine stance. Although in my defence one is never really going to look macho wearing white shorts and a bowtie. I guess I must have been three or four at the time and if I really strain I do actually have some sort of dim recollection of that day, well of those shorts anyway. Standing next to me is my elder sister. We both look so innocent, as should be the way with the very young; she not knowing that she would run away from home at the age of sixteen and be mother to two of her own girls within three years; me never guessing that the shock of hair I was casually sporting at the time would also run away from home by the time it reached thirty.
Standing behind me with an inscrutable expression on his face as he watches, presumably, the best man snog his new bride, is my Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack was semi-famous in Burnley, the location for this picture, for apocryphally playing football for Blackpool, for bearing a passing resemblance to Freddie Garrity of Freddie And The Dreamers fame, and for most definitely possessing a black belt in karate, which he ofttimes used to dispatch much larger men after closing time.
Directly behind him is George Wright, my step-grandfather. Despised by my own father but loved by the infantine me, George was a long distance lorry driver, one-time stand-up comedian and former sheet music salesman on Blackpool Pier. George liked to boast that he always carried £100 in cash. (When he died it was discovered that his stash was actually newspaper sandwiched between a couple of tenners.) George also had a strange penchant for having his Brylcreemed hair combed by yours truly. As a child I would spend hours and hours combing and brushing his hair as he sat and watched TV. He a special stainless steel coiffure set that he would bring out for this purpose. George would literally purr with delight as I did so. It wasn’t until years later that it struck me just how bizarre and possibly perverse this seemingly innocent activity might actually have been.
Before George died of cancer in the 1970s, he paid a visit to our house in Bristol. I remember watching him eat chicken, chewing it to a pulp and then spitting the remains on to his plate because he could no longer keep his food down. ‘I’m getting t’goodness out of it,’ he would explain in the same heavy Northern accent that sometimes advised that the best way to play snooker was to ‘hit it where it shines…’.
Directly behind him in the black bow tie is my father. I’m guessing the tie was the one that he wore when he was ‘singing in the clubs’. A fact that he would proudly remind people of ad nauseum. How I loved and hated and loved and hated and loved and hated my father. He was a source of pride and terror to me; something I’ve never really gotten over. He was an autodidact, a working class hero, an abused child, a Labour councillor, a bully, a sloth, semi-alcoholic. A mass of contradictions that even he didn’t understand. He didn’t understand me either, and probably didn’t even try to.
In the picture he looks handsome and content. When he died last year he was apparently in the running to become mayor of Weston-Super-Mare. For a control freak like him this missed opportunity will have been a source of frustration that he carried to his grave. We spoke maybe five or six times in the last thirty years. How I loved and hated him. How I despised him. How I respected him. How I wanted to be him.
Standing right behind the bride is his wife, My mother. She sought to protect me from my bullying father’s all too frequent ‘good hidings’ by smothering me with love. Literally choking me, squeezing the air out of my lungs with love. For this reason it’s difficult to determine if she’s looking at the bride or actually craning her neck to stare over at me and check that I am all right. She looks pretty in the picture, I think. I like the beehive and remember the choking odour of cheap hairspray that used to saturate the house. When I was a kid I used to think that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Prettier than Elizabeth Taylor, sexier than Wilma Flintstone.
Towering over George Wright and my mother is Uncle Ken. He was a former Royal Guardsman and stood something like 6’ 4” in an age when 5’ 11” was considered tall. When he left the guards he worked on the trains; sometimes I would be playing football at the end of my grandmother’s street and see the train go by, him standing filthy-dirty in a heap of coal, shovelling it into the burner. When he wasn’t doing this he was drinking. And when he wasn’t drinking he was beating up Auntie Shirley.
If you look over to the right, that’s Auntie Shirley. She dressed as a bridesmaid and even though the photo is old and grainy you can see those teeth of hers that were always her defining feature. She was a naughty girl, was Auntie Shirley, and always mine and probably everybody else’s favourite. Running away to London at 18. Married to her handsome guardsman soon afterwards. Four kids. Lots of laughs. And lots of bruises. I particularly remember the bruises. The black eyes. The split lips. And I recall with crystal clarity the abject poverty that even we were shocked at when we went to her terraced house when I was a kid.
I also remember her kindness: of how I called around unexpectedly in the late-70s and when I said I liked the record she was playing she took it off the turntable and gave it to me without batting an eyelid. She didn’t have much but what she did have she was happy to give away.
And I remember the last time I saw her: about five or six years ago when I visited Burnley and she was in the latter stages of leukaemia. Of how I crept into her bedroom and held the fragile yellow hand of the jaundiced body that lay motionless on the bed. And of my cowardice later when I avoided seeing her again later because it was simply too hard for me to take. I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough to provide her with the comfort that she probably – most definitely – needed.
She’s glowing in the picture, though. Young and cheeky and effervescent and toothy, which is how I’ll always remember her.
To the right of Auntie Shirley is my grandmother. She was a former bus-conductress who fractured her pelvis in a road accident in the 1960s and never worked again. People used to say that she looked like the Queen, and if you hold this picture up against a £20 note you will probably get what they were talking about. She’s even wearing a coat like the Queen’s and holding her handbag in the same manner.
Some said she had Spanish blood in her, others that she was Jewish. Although in truth I can’t even remember where I got that information from, or indeed if I’ve simply made it up. What I do remember, however, is her love for me. And the oasis of safety that she provided for me as a child. I remember her dog, Sheeba; I remember the ornaments on the mantlepiece that used to fascinate me, I remember the bowl of fruit on the window ledge that seemed to be eternally self replenishing.
And her kindness was not only limited to me: when she learned that Uncle Ken’s violence also extended to his children, she took in the eldest, a girl named Lynette, my cousin, and legally adopted her. She brought Lynette up, gave her opportunities that she would surely never have had if she had stayed with Auntie Shirley.
I remember when George Wright died and my grandmother took Lynette and I on a tour of Europe, not wanting to waste the ticket she had previously purchased for her recently deceased husband. And I recall sitting with her in a Dutch bar listening to her explain that the last time she had visited they had played ‘Delilah’ by Tom Jones, a song that George loved. Of course, naturally, inevitably, the song stuck up again the very next instant and I was left to comfort my grieving grandmother in the awkward, clumsy way that only a fourteen-year-old boy can.
Eventually Lynette left home to join the army and years later paid a surprise visit to her adopted-mother-cum-actual-grandmother. And this is what killed our grandmother, who was so shocked to see her darling Lynette turn up expectedly that she had a massive heart attack and tragically died instantly.
These are the people whom I know and remember in this photograph but there are others faces that I dimly recognise. Is that Auntie Florrie standing to the left of Shireley? The little old lady who was actually my great-grandmother, the woman whose house was adorned with home-made rag carpets and who kept a commode in her bedroom? Is that Uncle Jordie on the far left? Auntie Florrie’s quietly spoken husband who worked down the pit and painted exquisite toy soldiers as a hobby? I don’t know but I’m sure my mother will tell me. The woman who has just messaged me while I was writing this to tell me what a ‘bonny little lad’ I was.
Not so bonny any more. Not so bonny…


The Great Tea Wars (2001) – A Modern Parable

36 Reporter

It would be an over exaggeration to claim that Ian was delighted when Linsey offered him a cup of tea. Delight was really not the word. Nevertheless Ian was at the very least pleased with the offer: he was new to WMP and Linsey was tall and busty. It was far better than being ignored. Even when the beverage in question arrived and it was rather less than steaming and tasted more like rusty puddle water than anything that had allegedly originated in the exotic Chinese sunshine.
Ian was careful to drink the tea with a cheery smile. Whenever Linsey looked happily towards his desk he raised the cup to his lips and gave the thumbs up like Paul McCartney announcing the breakup of Wings. It was his first day in his new job and already he’d made a friend.
However, little over an hour later Linsey’s happy demeanour began to change. Her smile rotated 180º and the crease of a frown was seen to distort her features. It took a while for Ian to comprehend the sudden change. And when he did he could have slapped himself around the head for being so dim. Of course! What an idiot! Linsey wanted him to return the favour! She wanted him to make her a cup of tea! What a delightful place to work this is, thought Ian, everybody friends together; everybody making each other cups of tea. Why there’ll probably be a biscuit run soon.
Linsey introduced Ian to Sally, a small hunched figure, whose attempts at surgically removing 20 years from her age had left her with a face like a burns victim. Wouldn’t it be lovely, said Linsey, if Ian made Sally a cup of tea as well as making one for her? Wouldn’t it be lovely indeed, agreed Ian. Heading to the kitchen to undertake his side of the bargain.
Ian certainly put some effort into it. He really wanted impress his two new friends. He washed the scum off the cups, warmed them, made sure to use the freshest boiling water and was able to deliver quite possibly three of the best cups of tea that had ever been made in this country since Catherine of Braganza forced Charles II to drink some back in the seventeenth century.
And then it was four: soon Maggie was added to the little rota, and Tom. And Lucy. And Malcolm from the picture library. Debra from accounts. The tea rota quickly became a living, breathing entity. It was like Woodstock all over again. Everybody loved one another and delighted in the creation and consumption of sacred tea. It was a branch of Communism that actually worked. Karl Marx would have been proud – and he would have been delighted with the unremitting quality of brew that was served up. But like all self-perpetuating systems there was a flaw in its flue. And in this case the flaw’s name, amongst others, was Jon.
Jon was in middle management and the wrong side of forty. Like a lot of people of that age he had a face that he deserved, which looked like it had had three previous owners. Like everyone else at WMP Jon was impressed by the exotic flavour of Ian’s tea. And he was also happy to join the rapidly growing ranks of the tea rota. What he wasn’t happy too do, however, was actually make the stuff. Why should I? thought Jon. Somebody else can do it.
Within a fortnight the tea rota had begun to swell out of all proportion. It was beginning to reach an unmanageable size.
The unlucky person whose job it was to make tea for everyone now had to patrol the office with a notepad, writing down the particular likes and dislikes of the tea rota’s members.
Some wanted sugar. Some no sugar. Some wanted milk. Some no milk. Some wanted almond milk, some soya. Some wanted decaffeinated tea, some wanted Earl Grey. Some liked their tea hot, others liked it tepid. Sandra from production refused to drink her tea unless it was in the cup with ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here – but it helps…’ emblazoned on the side. Murray the maintenance man would only drink coffee. It was a logistical nightmare. Something had to give.
Clever, devious people such as the aforementioned Jon from middle management sought to circumvent the tea rota. Whenever it happened to be his turn to make the tea he would arrange it so that he was engaged in a long telephone conversation. ‘Sally, would you mind getting this,’ he would mouth, with his hand cupped over the telephone receiver, ‘I’ll do the next one.’
Of course, there was never a Next One for people like Jon. And he was not the only one displaying a peculiar talent for avoiding tea rota duty. Ian could not help notice that Linsey was always doing something in the Ladies whenever it was her turn. He felt betrayed. It irked him that the person who had been his tea rota co-creator was always in absentia.
Ian began to hate Linsey. It was a gradual thing. Suddenly it did not seem to matter that she was tall and busty. That was purely incidental. The important thing was that the ugly cow never made tea. And as for that wanker Jon in middle management…
The weeks went by and the hatred and resentment swelled like an unlanced boil. The once jovial atmosphere at WMP was replaced by an atmosphere of mistrust and loathing. Woodstock was over and all that was left were empty Coke tins and plastic bottles full of piss. Utopian Communism had been replaced by grim Conservatism in which those who had exploited those who hadn’t. A fuse had been lit. An explosion was imminent.
As always, alcohol was the catalyst for the looming explosion. At the office Christmas party Linsey danced with Jon and neither of them stood their round. Drinks were bought for them with nothing in return. The office separated into two distinct factions. Them that did. And them that didn’t.
After the Christmas break the dids studiously ignored the didn’ts. The didn’ts merely shrugged, as if to say they didn’t care a hoot for what the dids did. Needless to say the dids didn’t make tea for the didn’ts. Civil war was a whisper away.
And then one morning Ian had had enough. Although nobody could have guessed that it was to be the very last time, Ian made one final tea round.

Clutching his notepad he made one last circuit around the office and took down everybody’s last orders:

Linsey, tea, white with no sugar
Sally, tea, black with two sugars
Jon, tea, white at no more than 70º in temperature
Malcolm, tea with lemon
Sandra, Darjeeling, microwaved for precisely 16 seconds and then gently fanned for six minutes
Chris, cream tea with scones made from Yak cream
Trevor, decaffeinated latte with a lactose free chocolate dusting in the shape of a heart with an arrow going through it

And so the list went on. Each person an individual. Every person making their own particular demand. For one last time Ian put the kettle on. He’d been hoping to ask Polly from editorial to do this for him, but she’d gone away somewhere.

Ironically, Jon was the first to notice that something was wrong. He’d already drunk more than half of his cup of tea before he began to cough. At first he thought it was just a tickle but the cough quickly grew worse. And then he felt a painful burning sensation in his throat. As he climbed to the feet in absolute agony, Jon could hear other people coughing. The noise was accompanied by the sound of groaning. One by one the entire second floor of WMP fell to the ground. Within five minutes every staff member was dead.

Everyone, that is, except Ian. Who stood alone, silently impressed that Amazon had been so efficient with his cyanide order. It had only taken a day to arrive and they had posted a card through his door telling him to pick it up from his neighbour when he got home. Ian would certainly use Amazon again.

Naturally the papers couldn’t get enough of it. The story of the  serial killer who wiped out an entire floor of co-workers dominated the headlines for more than a week. At the trial the judge looked at Ian like he was a cross between Ted Bundy and Tony Blair. He was given a life sentence, as well as a lucrative advertising contract with P G Tips.


Life in prison was even grimmer that Ian had imagined. Locked alone inside his cell for 23 hours every day, Ian had plenty of opportunity to reflect on his behaviour. And then, on his seventh day in captivity Ian was finally allowed to interact with another human being. In the exercise yard, a young prisoner approached Ian with a welcoming smile: ‘It’s not so bad here,’ he said. ‘You really do get used to it after a while.’
‘Is that right?’ said Ian grimly.
‘Listen,’ said the other man. ’The name’s Brian – fancy a nice cup of tea?’
’No I fucking do not!’ replied Ian.