Posted: July 9, 2018 in Uncategorized





It is the end of times. You, like me, wait in the shadows. You feel safe, alone, anonymous; brave in your Splendid Isolation, one step removed from ‘The Danger’; one click, one word, one phrase, one text away from Armageddon. (PAUSES; SMILES) I love it when a plan comes together. (PAUSE, SMILE, AFTERTHOUGHT, QUOTE-FINGERS) Hashtag The Devil’s in the detail.

(touches mother-media on the shoulder, who instantly regards her PC screen)


ROFL? ROFL? What does that mean?



Your lives are deeply uninteresting.



Please help! I need some chickens for my Farm! Send!



Being cryptic is your salvation.



Oh no… not again… W…T…F…exclamation, exclamation, exclamation….Post!


WTF? What does that mean? WTF? Well… that’s… fantastic?


Your lives involve much waiting for affirmations



But don’t worry! I’m okay with it…exclamation, exclamation, exclamation…(PAUSE) …exclamation…Saddest Face! Post!


There will be longing…


Sexy Carolyn Squire. Search!


…and a slightly soiled raincoat of self-delusion


Not single. Hmmm…married-now-divorced? (PAUSE) Hyphenated her last name?


Some people just don’t want to be found. But you are determined, often with moments of genius…


Check her friends!! (PAUSE) Now, what was Ugly Debbie’s second name?


…and moments of beautiful self-enlightenment on the road to Gomorrah.


Oh my God, I’m a bloody stalker! (PAUSE) Ooh…she looks nice. Click!


You have the World, nay the Universe, at your fingertips. All life, all knowledge available to you at the touch of a button


Ooh, puppies in hats. Click!


The food of knowledge is an unimaginably vast banqueting-table laid out before you, ready to sate your appetite for fulfilment, your thirst for enlightenment.


Big breasted women…dressed…as…clowns. Search!


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, when he is well dead, will turn eternally in his grave, like a pig on a spit-roast.


Spit-roast!! Search!


I have returned, and you will remember (QUOTE-FINGERS) hashtag Call Me The Saviour Of Love



Hey you! Smiley-face! How’s life?? Please confirm we went to the same school. Send!


Who the hell is she? Nice rack! Add as Friend! Click!


Your lives are layered with crushing self-doubt, not to mention appalling poor judgement.



God, are those really my breasts?!


You say, regarding your naked selfie. And you think…


I probably shouldn’t…  


But you type…


Something to brighten a lonely evening.


And you send! (LAUGHS) You are my favourite comedy of errors…



I’d like to take your panties off with my teeth (LEERS) Send! (PAUSE) Shit! (CALLS ON PHONE) Mum? I just sent you a text by mistake. Don’t read it…it was meant for dad…just telling him… what I… got you for your birthday… (LONGER PAUSE) Call me when you get this message. But don’t open that text.


It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. Your capacity for self-delusion is heart-warming.


Proud auntie of a beautiful niece…


Photo attached…


…no idea where she gets her beauty from


Self-deprecation. Deeply false.


…Welcome to the wonderful world, Kalifornia…


..with a ‘K’…


…Oasis Smith


You think…


Jesus, that looks like a monkey in a onesie!


But you type…


Beautiful. Smiley-face! Smiley-Face! You must be so proud. Kiss! Kiss! Send!


But know that I am proud of you. You have flourished in this age of enlightenment, scaling heights I hardly dared imagine all those millennia ago, when I was on my haunches in my cave, sulking and bored with your lack of progress.


What do you mean my tits are trending? What does that mean? I thought a text was the same thing as a tweet. Send!


My children of the night…


Someone sent me a cow…and I’ve got a tractor! Woohoo! Send!


You text WOOHOO, I send ZONINO.


Zonino?? What is it? What is it?? What does it mean??


No, Mum! Of course I don’t want to take dad’s panties off with my teeth…


Down the rabbit-hole we go…


Why will no-one answer? I need help!! Please!!! Send!


I embrace you, all who embrace me. Your vigour. Your gusto. Your blind, unflinching trust in progress. I watch you turn like ballerinas in a musical-box. The tune, of course, is mine: your despair the only playlist on my iPod; your misery my own personal YouTube Fail compilation.


I need to get out more. What can fill this aching void in my solitary life FFS?!? Send!




FFS? What is FFS? I do not understand the lexicon of the internet. I do not love this progress. I love the weight and the smell of a real book, the wind through my hair on Sunday cycle-rides, small-talk with friends in the coffee-house.




I long for the touch of my sweetheart. Her grainy, naked selfies no longer fulfil me. I long for date-nights on the sofa, flowers for no reason, fish-and-chips on the seafront on rain-soaked bank-holiday weekends.


NO! NO! NO! You will not turn from me! You will not deny me the coming days of moral decay, social disintegration, the rise of humans without opposable thumbs. I have waited too long for the ticker-tape parade of your misery to let you spray me with your banal sentimentality and sickening sense of community.



When I want you, in my arms…



When I need you and all your charms…



Whenever I want you all I have to do…


NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Behold, my greatest creation, bile and hatred, fashioned in a pretty package, just for you…






…Pokemon Go!!




Sainos1Every crowd has a silver lining
P.T. Barnum

She came into my life for the briefest moment, then she was gone. But in that moment, when our eyes met, I knew she would fall; it was written in the stars – we were both meant to be there, at that precise moment, on that day, to share something special; Me, as witness, her as Diva, Goddess, Heroine…

I watched in awe, I gasped in wonder….I laughed my funking head off, like a drain – why a drain?? What does that even mean??! – A shameful witness to an unstoppable act of physics which I could not, I don’t think, have prevented even if I had been given the opportunity. I could only marvel at the cosmic comic genius of the scene as it played out before me – I walked forwards whilst looking backwards at the carnage, missing lamposts and uneven kerbs as I went, destined to offer testimony, all these years later, to The Sainsbury Diver.

The year was 1986.

She was old. And when I say OLD I mean closer to death than other people I associated with at that time… I was 20…life stretched out before me like a milky thigh; women to be loved, challenges to conquer, hair to lose… and she was in the grassy lowlands of her life…

Busking!! I busked, on my own and laterally (is that the right word? I have no idea about Former and Latter, or how to spell Gaurd!!) with ‘Easter’ Johnson (so named because his name was/is Greg… so, Greg rhymes with Egg, and you get Eggs at Easter!  Watch out Carol Ann Duffy – your job’s not safe!!!)Busker

We froze,  sweated, drank lunchtime beers with our gains, but most importantly, we attracted chicks!! An attractive girl once requested a Bowie song, which we played, then realised she had nothing smaller than a £5… so, embarrassed, she put it in the hat (it wasn’t a hat it was a floppy guitar-case but…) and went to walk off…both Easter and I objected, so she took change and left…

Not that great a story to be honest on reading it back – bit of a loose beginning, a weak middle and no punchline really. Sorry…

We once came home with an umbrella that someone left after listening to us. We once got paid to let someone play a song for us. I once got money lobbed at me by a scary skinhead in Middlesbrough and told to get a f%*&ing job. I pointed out that I had a job and he made a motion with one fist that looked like he might be shaking coffee-beans…not sure…

Anyway, we busked to fund our evening excursions, usually on a Saturday, outside Sainsbury’s, in the town-centre – it is no longer there (Sainsbury’s, not the town-centre) – It has become a ‘New Look’, and whilst I am obviously not the demographic they are aiming for, sometimes, when I see some of the clientele entering or exiting this Emporium of Chic, I think  it would be better served if it were called ‘Old-Looking’, ‘Don’t Look’ or ‘Look-WTF’…

But get me! This invective from a guy who thinks grandad-collar shirts were, are and always will be the height of fashion!

Sainsbury Fareham

So, Sainsbury’s was opposite the lifts of the multi-storey carpark. Under-cover, it was almost the perfect busking spot – natural reflective reverb and amplification; a captive audience coming out of the store with change; coming out of the multi-storey to go to the shops; standing arounding waiting for the painfully slow lifts to arrive.

The only drawback was that the design of the structures turned it, some days, into a bit of a concrete wind-tunnel – wind that snatches your voice away as soon as it leaves your lips. Wind that shoots dust into your mouth and eyeballs at one hundred miles an hour, blinding and choking; Wind that destroys umbrellas and blows old ladies hilariously over with its ferocity.

There are certain rules buskers should observe in order to achieve success, maximise profit and avoid lynchings. So here are my tips, for a better, more-fulfilled life as a busker:

  • Dress-down – nobody likes an Armani-clad busker collecting cash in a Gucci bag – choose mismatched clothes, the oldest shoes you have, a scarf, ripped jeans, maybe one fingerless glove. If you have the luxury of hair, go for tousled but not definitely unwashed…
  • Look happy yet malnourished – Puppy-dog eyes whilst singing ‘Leaving on a Jet-plane’ can secure cash; smiling or saying Hi to the children of potential customers can elicit cash; wrapping ur hands around your cup of coffee on a cold day and looking close to hypothermic can tug at the heart and purse-strings simultaneously. In extreme circumstances, some dark eyeshadow under the eyes can give the right air of talent-in-despair – not too much though: the Tipping-point into looking like a drug-crazed pyscho is only some makeup away.
  • Choose your songs carefully –  Nobody on a Saturday shopping trip, especially if they are with their daughter/son/elderly parents/Parish Priest really wants to hear you singing Bodies by The Sex Pistols – “She was a girl from Birmingham, she’d just had an abortionBodies, screaming f#*&ing, bloody maaaaaad!!” – it is enough to put anyone off their latte and Krispy Kreme, and will not persuade them to part with their cash.
  • Hide your Cash often – Another psychological tip is to regularly ‘harvest’ large-denomination coins from your hat/case, and secrete them somewhere out of sight – less money makes people more inclined to give – and less money makes little chavs on skateboards less inclined to take…
  • Finally…Never have a Dog on a RugNEVER , (but if you absolutely have to , then do not have a Pug) – Here is the psychology of the Benevolant passer-by, to a Dog on a Rug – (I have transported this tip to busking in Scotland, for Comic Effect!) – “aah, listen tae that sweet Sex Pistols’ music, I luv this soang,” – taps foot, sings along – “Screaming f#*&ing, bloody maaaaaad!!” – stops in amazement and growing disquiet just before dropping her 12 pence into the money-jug (Never use a jug!!), and regards the Dog on aDogOnARug Rug, pointing it out to her daughter/son/elderly parents/Parish Priest – “Look at tha’ – he’s beggin’, bit ‘e’s goat a dug! ‘e’s goat enuff money tae ha’e a Dug…AN’ it’s oan a f#*&in’ Rug! A Dug oan a Rug!” -Everyone around her is now staring at your Dog on a Rug, and at your growing discomfort, as the Maternal Head of the Coatbridge Mafia ploughs on – “An’ it’s no’ even a nice dug – it’s a pug-dug oan a rug,” -grumbles from the gathering crowd now, sensing blood. Mama Buckfast carries on- “I am no’ pittin ony oh ma cash in yoor jug wi’ yer pug-dug oan a rug! ‘Hink am a Mug?!” A slight pause and a ripple of applause from those in the crowd with the ability to make their hands meet and make a noise, “C’moan Mither…f#*&k this!” …and as soon as they came, they are gone…..So…Never have a Dog on a Rug

But yet again, I have been blown far from my point.

After a hard day’s busking, on my own for once, I had packed up and was making my way up the hill from Sainsburys, guitar in one hand, money in a bag-within-a-bag-within-a-hat – my earnings for the day doubling as a weapon if anyone decided to attack me.

Bag LadyI was following an old lady who had just been shopping for provisions at Sainsbury, evenly distributed in two bags, one in each hand – probably denture-fix, some soft fruit, a few ready-meals and a pack of incontinence-pads (I don’t want to be harsh here but I was the one following the trail up the hill…)

QUICK-Incontinence-Pants-ASIDEAn older gentleman I knew had started to require such pants, but was troubled by the fact that, if anything, he was wetting himself more than he had been when he wasn’t wearing them. It transpired that he was putting them on outside-in.

But having sorted the problem, his house quickly began to smell of wee. This was resolved when his wife was told it was probably best not to wash them out and hang them over the house-radiators…

SO Anyway…. I am following this old-lady up the slight hill – not following in a dangerous, stalkerish way, but at the same time not rushing to overtake her. As we crested the brow of the hill our paths diverged – she went left, and I went right – she stepped off the kerb to cross the road and took a little stumble, nothing major, just a little skippety-hop type step, then she recovered her composure and crossed the road safely.

Of course she had attracted my attention with her jaunty footwork and I couldn’t take my eyes off her, waiting for her to negotiate the kerb at the other side, which she did with panache and speedy aplomb. But I think this may  have been her undoing – her confidence was buoyed.

But physics is a funny thing, and I watched as the scene unfolded almost in slow motion…

Her step up the kerb had obviously triggered some sort of pendulum thing between the bags and her arms – the movement was almost imperceptable to begin with, but each swing increased the arc, and as the bags swung forward, in unison, the old lady had to speed up her little legs to keep up. BUT…she wasn’t getting the speed right, so she was moving past the bags, and then they were swinging forward in front of her again until they stopped swinging, and just seemed to stay in front of her….

So now, it looked like she was actually chasing the bags even though she was carrying them. But it was a chase she was not going to win.

Her little legs were getting faster and faster, and the bags seemed to be getting heavier and heavier, getting closer to the ground. She hit her maximum speed, the bags must have hit their maximum density for her to carry, and either gravity took over or she gave in to the inevitable and dropped both bags at the same time.

Of course this didn’t save her, because she was still running full-pelt…until her feet tripped over the bags she had just dropped and she tumbled, face-first, to the floor, making a comedy Oooof-ing noise.

I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed it (shades of Double-Poo in my head), and luckily there were 2 others who had…and they were running, distressed, to the old lady’s aid. This gave me great solace, and also the permission my body was crying out for…to laugh out-loud at the comic misfortune of it all.

I don’t know what I would have done if the other 2 samaritans hadn’t been there – I suspect I would have gone to her assistance, but as it was, my walk home that night was accompanied by sporadic bouts of spontaneous laughter.

No-one asked why, but they all kept their distance.

And Me? I made sure my guitar and my money did not swing an inch.


TheKrays “Well, well, well, all the pretty boys together, eh?
George Cornell, The Krays (1990)

As I have mentioned before, witness the Newspaper-round debacle (And from the Darkness… ), I have perpetrated my share of thievery in the past – mostly when I was young, and certainly not now I am older – I gave it up because it is wrong…and it quickly became apparent that I was no good at it!

Like the time, on a school trip, in the gift-shop at some castle or other, when I tried to nick a small Pocket-Notebook. No idea why – I didn’t want it I am sure, but I’m also sure I felt the desire to get something for nothing.

I waited until the 2 tweed-clad grannies who were behind the counter had turned to serve some other snotty reprobates from my school, then casually slipped the Pocket-Notebook into my blazer pocket…only, despite looking like a Pocket-Notebook, and saying, quite clearly on the front the word ‘Pocket’, the bloody thing didn’t fit in my pocket!! I rotated it and made panicked ramming motions downwards to try and make it disappear. But it wouldn’t go. It still wouldn’t fit.

The Damp Facecloth of Fear settled on my neck; it was obviously a Pocket-Notebook for adults, who had bigger, deeper, more useful pockets; this Pocket-Notebook was theft-safe, and anti-kid in size. It would disappear easily into my teacher’s voluminous cagoul chest-pocket, but not into my bloody blazer pocket, useful only for the remnants of a timetable, a hairy, melted chocolate, and the condom found on the way to school that got a laugh when inflated if the teacher’s back was turned!

I looked around, burning with the certainty that he would be there, cagoul-hood up, even indoors, glowering with the angry promise of The Belt and a firm and frank discussion in front of my parents (if not also my peers and the police, me standing naked in assembly, holding said book for all to see and learn from).

But no-one was there, except other knowing kids, basking in my epic incompetence. Panic enveloped me, and rather than tuck it down my trousers or under my armpit, I sort of lobbed the Pocket-Notebook counter-ward, where it landed with a slap, slid all the way across and dropped out of sight onto the floor on the other side of the counter. One of the grannies looked over, spotted the book on the floor, and retrieved it. With a quick glance at the back of the Not-Pocket-Notebook she smiled and said, “There you go. 40 pence please young man.” Her pensioner-smile suggested that she could read my original intention, and her gnarled old hand, extended in expectation, was like a grey-skinned magnet that my guilt just could not resist. I fumbled out my money and duly paid, being careful not to touch her. She thanked me and I walked out of the shop on shaking legs where, in a welcome breeze which cooled my burning face, the Pocket-Notebook slipped easily into my blazer pocket!handcuffs

In my world, Crime does not pay; I pay; for things I do not want and do not need!! Theft has to be done with conviction, and often is when you get caught.

Anyway,  the year is now 1991.

I worked at the time for a large Government establishment involved in counting stuff – our personnel numbered 800-ish, rising every few years to 1200 when the stuff that needed counting got too much for the regular counters.

As there were such numbers, with a large demographic-spread of short, tall, thin, fat, bald, hirsute and the category I remember as ‘otherwise unemployable anywhere else’, on this particular day the police sent out the call that they required our assistance. Not to count things, but to supply some of our number to assist in an identity-parade.

The specifics were: 6 to 8 males, between the ages of 24 and 30, between the heights of 5’10” and 6’3″, with a full head of dark hair.

Bingo-bango-bongo – that was me! (sadly it is no longer me – in 2 of the 3 categories at least – and NO I haven’t gotten shorter!)

We would be required to attend the police-station for the afternoon, where we would stand in a line, with someone who hadn’t managed to get the Pocket-Notebook into his pocket in time, and try not to look too much like him, but just enough like him to justify our inclusion.

Double-bonus news followed – we would be paid to be off work for the afternoon AND we would be paid by the police for our services into the bargain! £15 may not seem a lot, but my chosen drink was only £1.29 a pint at the time…

So, into the Black Mariah we all trooped and headed for the police-station. I have to say I was a little put-out by the other members of the group. They looked nothing like me at all. One had a moustache, which I didn’t recall being in the job description. Another was fat and definitely at the lower end of the height-requirement, though it may have been his girth which made him look shorter. And one of the guys was deaf, which shouldn’t be a barrier to participation, but as you are to find out, it could have been!Mariah

We arrived at the police station, driven in through the back-gate, which was imposingly high. My palms were getting a bit sweaty; that feeling that you know you haven’t done anything wrong, but you can’t help but feel guilty; for laughing at, and not helping, The Sainsbury’s Diver (more of her in another post!), or for having keyed the bonnet of that car with the word ‘Wanker’, belonging to a guy you hate, one drunken night 3 years previously…

We were hustled into the back-door and along a corridor, all the time my heart pounding and a terror-grin on my face – you know the grin – the kind of grin (or  mad laugh) that appears inappropriately when someone tells you someone has died, or when you are running from someone who wants to beat the shit out of you! I had perfected this look during my school-days! We were greeted by a cheery desk-sergeant who said something deeply comic about ‘condemned men’ and told our ward to take us into a room down another corridor.

We were treated to tea and biscuits, and sat around a table like a scene from 12 Angry Men, waiting for something to happen. Then a policeman came in and explained what was going to happen – we would all stand in a line, with the alleged Mass-Murderer among our number (I heard Mass-Murderer, but he was in fact only accused of attempted robbery! I use the word only, not to lessen its gravity, but because he wasn’t even in this situation because he’d robbed someone; he had attempted to rob someone, and had been caught after failing! Double-Lose!), the alleged-victim would stand behind the door, which was the split, stable-door type, and had a 2-way mirror on the top-half, so that we couldn’t see her face but she could see us. We were just to look straight in front of us, with our hands by our sides, feet together, whilst she looked.

With everyone drilled and comfortable with the procedure, they brought in the Perp and his Brief…and he looked just like me! The spitting image! My Doppleganger!

Actually he didn’t; our similarities were height, build, and hair-colour, so the police had done a sterling job on that front. Apart from that he didn’t look like me, I just felt like he did. I am sure everyone else in the line-up thought the same. Except the guy with the moustache obviously, as there were no other incriminating moustaches in the room; and the fat guy obviously, who looked woefully out-of-place.

But the deaf guy was still in the running. As was I.

So, after whispered discussions between The Accused and his Brief, we were ordered to line up. Then there was another discussion about where Ronnie Biggs was going to stand and hide among us. I was looking straight ahead, already in Line-up pose, but my eyes kept flicking over towards the guy. What did it matter where he stood? The only possible reason he wanted to choose would be that he wanted to be next to people he considered looked like him. Like me.

The Brief asked for the guy on my right (Mr. Moustachio) to be moved to his right, so I was now standing next to Mr. Deaf…and then The Baddie came and stood between us! He was next to me – brushing my shoulder – insinuating his possible guilt onto my jumper – shit – I was going down for a long stretch, I just knew it; but I knew I couldn’t do time, I couldn’t cope, I’d go stir-crazy, I was handsome enough to end up being the A-Wing-bitch!! Dear God…..

We were told to adopt the position (like I needed to hear that as my mind replayed Midnight Express in my head) and stand still. The policeman went out, as did the Brief, and the door was closed, leaving us alone with the Madman and a single policeman. Suddenly, the bottom section of the stable-door opened and the policeman popped his head under to check we were ready then disappeared again.

But he didn’t close the bottom of the stable door. So we were treated to the legs of the alleged victim coming into view and just standing there. My eyes kept flicking to the door, and at her legs. Did she have victim’s legs? Were they the legs of someone who might misidentify me as responsible for the crime? The only thing I gleaned from looking at her was that she was definitely the victim of having ugly legs.

And just as soon as they’d appeared, the legs went away again. We all continued to hold the pose until our policeman came back in and told us to stand easy. “So,” he said, “the woman didn’t want to be seen, as she feels upset, understandably, by the whole affair, but she’s decided that, despite her upset, it isn’t enough to just look through the glass, and wants to get a little closer.”

There were a few glances exchanged and then he continued, “So she wants to come in for a closer look. But she also wants you all to put balaclavas on.” balaclava

Balaclavas? Brilliant – a level playing field for all of us; well not for the fat guy, who would still look fat. But it brought Mr. Moustachio back into the frame. One less chance of me going down.

Of course, they didn’t have 9 balaclavas in navy-blue, so they sent someone down the shops to buy some, and when they finally appeared, after another cup of tea and some biscuits, we all had to don them. I have never experienced anything quite as bizarre – they didn’t have mouth-holes!!

So we all stood in position again, but The Robber was now stood on my left. He obviously felt comfortable in my innocent shadow. The victim came into the room this time and walked up the line. She was quite small, and I had to fight to stop myself from flicking my eyes down at her. She stopped at me and stared. My face was itching and balaclava-hot. I’m sure I was snorting like a horse after the Grand National. I thought about affecting a smile, but she wouldn’t have seen it. She passed me by and continued up the line. Fat-boy never even merited a glance.

Again she left the room, and we broke ranks. Some of the guys kept their balaclavas on, living out some fantasy or other I’m sure. I was looking for water and a flannel, and possibly a place to lie down.

The policeman came back into the room and got us all lined-up again. the Baddie was back on my right-hand side – mixing it up, keeping everyone on their toes. “Right,” the policeman said, “she’s asked that you do one more thing. She wants you to say ‘Where’s the keys?’keys

That was beautiful, brilliant, sweet music to my ears.

I may not have mentioned it up to this point, but I am Scottish. But more importantly I am a self-exiled Scotsman, living in the South of England. I have a different accent to my colleagues, friends and everyone else who isn’t Scottish in England.

So it couldn’t have been me. It would be apparent to the woman with unfortunate legs that I had not tried to do the thing that someone else had tried, and failed, to do. I was happy to say anything anyone wanted at that moment. Even if the balaclavas didn’t have mouth-holes, I would mumble the words to Jerusalem if required.

People had already started rehearsing their line when The Accused turned to his Brief and said, “I’m no’ fuckin’ saying tha'”…. in the broadest Glaswegian accent you can imagine!!!

Glances between authority-figures were quickly exchanged as the defendant’s crew went into a conflab. The policeman looked at all of us standing confused at this turn of events and asked, “Has anyone else got a Scottish accent?”

At that point I was forced to raise my arm and finger myself…

Luckily, The Baddie didn’t want to say it, his Brief didn’t want him to say it, the police couldn’t make him say it, so he didn’t say it.

We were dismissed, cash distributed, back in the Mariah, and back to work just in time to leave and hit the pub!

God Bless the Legal System.

I only wish they’d let me keep the Balaclava. Or I wish I’d just stuck it in my pocket…

But we all know where that gets me!!

The Usual Suspects

LoveIs…the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.
George Carlin

Simpler times never usually seem simple at the time, they only become simpler through the warm, fuzzy, wrong-way-round telescope of memory.

Love is…a bit like that.

The year was… well, as you’ll see, there are too many to mention – snapshots of moments of love, lust and sheer desperation that stick in the memory, like the chewing-gum I once decided to save between classes at school by putting it behind my ear – I thought it was a cool idea – people in the 70s did it all the time – the teacher wouldn’t see it because it would be hidden by my then-lustrous mane of hair, and I would have the gum when the lesson ended, thus, importantly, saving one piece of juicy-fruit for later in the day.

It was genius – it stayed there for the whole lesson, whilst giving me a gorgeous whiff of fruity juiciness every now and then. Lesson over, I strolled out into the corridor, basking in the glory of my cunning and salivating at the prospect of my gum…which was now, unfortunately at one with my lustrous hair.WrigleysI thought I could salvage the situation at first by careful teasing, but a lesson’s worth of dehydrating in the dry air of Mr. Taylor’s History class had fixed it firmly in place. Panic set in! The humiliation of gum stuck in my hair – it was now hanging like a pooey-chugnut off a long-haired retriever’s arse.

There was only one thing for it – Art class next period – I needed to take a pair of scissors to it…

My association with haircuts, up to that point, was not one which excited me. Usually my dad would take me, on a Sunday, to the father of one of his friends, who had been a barber before he retired, and still did it from home, presumably to fund his drinking of whisky and his obsessive smoking of Capstan.

This man was Old-School; he was incredibly scary, but incredibly talented as a barber. He could do a variety of cutting-edge styles of the day, as long as you didn’t mind it always ending up as a short-back-and-sides!! NO-ONE I ever saw come out of his living-room ever looked anything other than either having just been conscripted or just been demobbed. I knew why they all wore hats…Navy Cut

If he nicked your ear or neck when he was cutting, he would just stick a dash of aftershave on it and carry on. This was when aftershave was made from lemon-juice and acid. I don’t think Kevin Keegan or Henry Cooper had launched the Man-smell revolution at that point. If you made a fuss about being cut he would ask if you were a big baby. And fidgeting because the hair was prickling your neck and going down the back of your shirt was punishable by a deliberate nick with the scissors, followed by the aftershave and a finger forced into the wound!! (this is only a personal suspicion and has no basis in fact!)

Haircuts at home didn’t offer any more solace – my mother decided one day that she could cut my hair as well as any barber, and that she would cut my hair. Only, unfortunately, not as well as any barber. In fact she was probably less talented in barbery(sic) than a barber with pickled gherkins for fingers, wearing oven-gloves, who had been blinded by his own blunt scissors in a foolish running accident!  I am sure I protested before she began, but it was her, or the big-baby baiter.

As a rule, I think fringes should be cut straight in the first instance, but if you find it is slightly uneven or at an angle after a first pass, the worst thing to do is start repairing the damage from the too-short end – my mother did not know this handy tip.

I ended up looking a bit like this – only without the makeup and uneven colouring.Eno

My mother did, however, once dress me up in women’s clothes, complete with full makeup and a hair-piece, but that is another tale for another time…

Okay, it was for a fancy-dress competition, and she decided I was going to go as Miss World. The year was 1974 I think.

So, not only a young boy dressed as a woman, and not just any woman – the most beautiful woman in the world!! But also forced to walk around our housing estate in front of peers and neighbours, in a swimsuit with a padded bust, and a sash that declared my Miss Worldliness, in a neighbourly, yet slightly sinister parade of other less fanciful fancy-dressers.

And I was in a pair of my mum’s heels as well! My feet were killing me by the end of it!

Did I win I hear you ask? Thank the Gods, NO!!

Gail Ferguson was brave enough to walk beside me. She was dressed as a traffic-light, with here head, arms and legs sticking out of a cleverly painted box, but when I pointed out to her that traffic-lights didn’t have arms, she told me Miss World didn’t have a cock! It was blunt, but a good point well made. We remained friends, mostly because she was the first girl to show me her fou-fou, on the top-deck back-seat of the school bus home one afternoon.

Anyway, I made it to art class (Remember? Juicy Fruit chewing gum in my hair?), and managed to sneak a pair of scissors from the box at the back of the room to relieve me of the offending gum.

Unfortunately, in the interests of safety, the only scissors in the box were the round-ended ones which require a sawing action to achieve anything at all. They don’t actually function as scissors, but rather as an implement which creases and holds paper and card and allows you to rip it into untidy shapes.

But it was the best I had, so I set about sawing at my hair, holding the gum/hair combo taught as I did. Each stroke gave the plinky-plonky sound of hair ripping until the thing came free in my hand.

I almost vomited into my desk’s inkwell. In my hand was a massive chunk of hair, and a tiny piece of chewing gum. I stared at it and reached my hand slowly up to my head. It was a hemorrhoid moment – If you’ve ever had one, you’ll know the scenario – after a particularly spiky poo, you think you might have one, and you want and need to be sure, but you don’t really want to check. So…do you investigate with a finger, or do you squat over a carefully-positioned mirror to get a visual? I even considered asking someone to check for me once, but they only do the toilets once an hour in McDonald’s and the sheet said it had just been done.

Anyway, the result of the investigation was that there was still a substantial amount of gum left in my depleted hair. I didn’t want to risk any more cutting – the sawing action was actually creating a burning smell. So…I put the scissors in my bag, and after the lesson I asked Pamela to cut the rest of the gum out for me.

Pamela, it transpired, had gone to the same hair-dressing school as my mum – she cut, pulled, and sawed with bags of enthusiasm but with little thought for the aesthetic. She did eventually get all of the gum out, but she also managed to fashion a soft toy roughly the size of a hamster from my ruined hair.


So, a piece which turned out to be about something that I hadn’t intended – there’s nothing like falling back down the tangential rabbit-hole to dredge up something you hadn’t considered for a while.

I will deal with love another time…

If I were to tuck chewing-gum behind my ear today, it would just look like chewing-gum behind my ear, or possibly the latest new-fangled hearing-aid, such is the devastating migration of hair from my head to places on my body I never realised could house hair; who would have thought that ‘An American Werewolf in London’ wasn’t all fiction?!

My elbows might be the only place on my body where hair of some sort hasn’t tried to find purchase.

Back, arse, shoulders – no area is too hostile an environment for hair to grow – my beard is moving towards my eye-sockets and I have eyebrows that sporadically go nuclear, with overnight growth-spurts that leave me virtually blind on waking – squirly, twisty, industrial-thickness lengths of gray hair with the tensile strength of trapeze-wire which resist tweezers. When they do relent and allow themselves to be pulled out, it is the equivalent of sticking a Scotch-bonnet directly onto your eyeball, such is the outpouring of involuntary tears!

I have suffered the indignity and itchy pain of a woman kneeling on my chest, one foot under my chin, sweat dripping from her straining body, using a pair of pliers and a corkscrew, pulling with all her might on the strongest of such hairs, only to see her fly across the room as her tools lose purchase, leaving me with the hair still attached, but transormed into something from Shirley Temple’s head nestling smugly back above my eye, just in my field of vision enough to make me think, for a second, that I might have a fringe again.

Maybe it is time to call my mother…


ExtraExtraGo and never darken my towels again.
Groucho Marx

As mentioned previously, I once had a paper-round. I loved my paper-round; it provided me with a bit of financial independence – usually to buy sweets I didn’t need, or things I didn’t really want, but at twelve, the exquisite feeling of money burning a hole in my pocket was great.

I had embarked on money-making schemes before, usually with my best friend, Norrie – he was always Hutch and I was always Starsky when we played Starsky&Hutch – he looked more like David Soul than I looked like Paul Michael Glazer, but I looked more like Starsky than Norrie’s brother looked like Huggy Bear that’s for sure!

We would skid over car-bonnets (usually later at night, and only over cars with disabled stickers on them because we knew that, at least if we were spotted doing it, there was no danger we’d get caught in the ensuing chase!), and obviously we didn’t have a Gran Torino so we used Skateboards.Gran Torino

We were big fans of ‘Action’ (http://www.sevenpennynightmare.co.uk/) a super-violent, super-cool comic, which had a character called Hook-Jaw, a Great White shark with a grudge against humans, one of whom had left it with the eponymous hook sticking out of its jaw after a fishing-trip that went tits-up.

So in 1976, driven by the love of gore and the need for cash, Norrie and I created a comic of our own, with our very own killer shark called, I think, Killer Shark – we were nothing if not direct – and filled its pages with a lot of blood, severed limbs and Action-derived storylines. It ran for two issues, both bought by a school-friend called Callum who had more money than sense, before we got a bit bored of the labour-intensive nature of the business and moved on to something else.HookJaw

We made the princely sum of 10p if I remember rightly, which was enough to get us some sweets. Not really enough to scare Rupert Murdoch, but we were chuffed.

I also helped my uncle deliver turkeys and sundry other meat products at Christmas one year. It was great – I got paid something amazing like £2.50 for four hours work, along with a cup of Bovril to ward off the cold, and the butcher, with his white pork-pie hat (how appropriate) and his bloody, stinky meat-covered jacket, treated me like an adult. He shook my hand, which smelled like arse for the rest of the day.

I was working with my uncle, who did the job at weekends during the rest of the year, but needed a hand at Christmas because it was so busy. We drove round like Starsky & Hutch, only we were meting out dead animals rather than justice.

My only beef(sic) with the whole thing was that there were a lot of Christmas tips coming our way – 50p here, £1 there…and my bloody uncle kept the lot.Cow Parts

So, I digress – back to the paper-round – I loved the job from maybe March until September, when it was light in the mornings, and the streets were quiet; I didn’t love it so much the rest of the year, when the darkness was filled with murderers, robbers and a troll that lived under the scary bridge I had to cycle across every morning. Coupled with a cold so cold it sometimes caused my penis to invert, they were, both figuratively and literally, dark days indeed.

I taught myself to whistle during this time, because in my world that’s what paperboys did, they whistled as they worked, filling the morning with a cheeriness that couldn’t help but enthuse those who heard it. It would be the signal to those in bed that another brilliant day was beginning, in my world, the world of PaperBoy, people would wave out of their kitchen windows as I walked or cycled by, smiling at my enthusiasm and my jaunty tunes; people on their way to work would wave as I whistled my happy refrains.

The Children’s Film Foundation had a lot to answer for.

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that i couldn’t whistle through my lips – and please, you’re not funny if you’re reading this and saying, “well, what did you whistle through – your Johnson?” – I have no idea why I couldn’t whistle with the same casual pucker as Roger Whittaker but I couldn’t – I know that I could have, because I can now, but I suspect it may have had a lot to do with an unwillingness to practice, or a need for immediate expertise – I could have been fluent in French, but when I couldn’t hold a conversation by the end of day one of learning I lost interest and just learned the swear-words.

So lip-whistling evaded me, but whistling through my teeth came easily, and to my ear it was beautiful, beautiful music. To everyone else it was probably pain. Of course when my mother pointed out the fact that the very act deserved a punch in the face and would probably result in one if I did it on the paper-round that early in the morning it was like permission-by-denial – I took to it with a vengeance – I particularly enjoyed ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles because I had heard a (probably) apocryphal tale that Paul McCartney first realised he was famous when he heard his milkman whistling it one morning as he dropped a couple of pints and some buttered morning rolls on the doorstep.

No-one, to their credit, ever complained about the whistling, but tips at Christmas were pretty thin on the ground.

Anyway, another perk of the paper-round was that my dad gave me 7p  (that’s right, that’s what it cost to buy the daily paper back then) every morning to bring back a paper, to save him having to go and get it himself.

The year was 1979.

I quickly worked out that if I added a paper from the stacks of papers that were being collated into the rounds by The Ginger Wanker (nothing against ginger-haired people in general, but this guy gets capital-letters and a pseudonym because of his part in my demise) that I could save the 7p and buy sweets.

We can call it theft because that’s obviously what it was, but at the time I rationalised it as something else – a perk of the job I think.

On this day, my last day in the job, I had positioned the paper in with my round of 32 or so papers, and had bought my provisions for the journey. I hoisted my bag over my shoulder and stepped out into a beautiful late-summer’s morning. I straddled my bike and was about to push off when my boss appeared at the door and beckoned me over,

“Take yer bag off son. You’ve got a paper in there that you haven’t paid for, so bring it back in and then you can just go and don’t bother coming back.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing – if I’d been quicker, I would have whipped the paper out of the bag and shoved it into the post-box by the door, pleaded innocence and bluffed it, but I was flustered and guilty and panicked because it was true, but much, much worse, the guy was actually a good friend of my dad, so I knew I was in a pretty massive pile of poo.

Walking back into the shop I immediately knew I had been grassed-up – the Ginger Wanker was standing behind my boss (ex-boss!) smiling from ear to ear. Everyone was looking. All eyes on my, being stripped of my dignity, and my shiny, orange-vinyl paper-bag. No longer was I one of that select group, that happy band of workers who invisibly powered the country.

“Anything to say?” my ex-boss asked.

I couldn’t speak; my throat closed up and my eyes were filled with the tears of the embarrassed and caught. I shook my head, turned, and stumbled out of the door. I held the tears-proper until I was a little way up the street, then they burst forth in a terrible wail. I cycled almost blind, snot and tears pouring out of me, making that comical braying noise kids make when tears are not enough. I’m surprised I didn’t crash into something such was my blindness. I shoved my sweets into my mouth to comfort me, but this only brought on more tears as I realised that not only had I lost my job, but I had spent the money I had for my dad’s paper on the sweets and I didn’t even have a bloody paper to give him! Never had a whole packet of Opal Fruits tasted more like a lump of poo in my mouth than they did that morning.

opal fruits

I actually cycled the route of the paper-round one last time, not out of any kind of desire to reminisce over the good times we’d had, but just because I really, really didn’t want to go home and face the inevitable Sweeney-like interrogation and humiliation that I knew would come.

I got home and put my bike into the shed as quietly and slowly as I could – God knows why; silence and tardiness wasn’t going to save me – I walked into the kitchen, where my mum was pottering about in the kitchen.

“You’re early,” she said, followed quickly as she regarded my ruined, puffy face by, “What’s wrong?”

I started silently chuffing and braying again as more tears came, gulping in air as I tried to speak, until I could frame my answer in a way that I thought was less damaging than ‘I’m a thief! Your son is a thief who stole a newspaper for his own selfish gain, and to satisfy his own wants and desires!!’

I said, “I…I…I took a newspaper without paying for it. And now I don’t work there anymore.” More tears and a lot of gazing at the ground ensued.

She made it worse by not shouting – at the time it was unbearable, but as a parent myself now I understand the power of silence.

She said, “Oh dear…” and left it hanging in the air.

I didn’t have any breakfast – I felt sick – not only because of what had happened but because there was another trial to endure…

My Dad! He was still in bed, and I would have to face him.

I put off going upstairs for as long as I possibly could, but it couldn’t last forever. I had to clean my teeth and get ready for school.

13 stairs isn’t a lot but it seems like a mountain, stretching into the darkness, when you have to use them to walk towards your doom. Dead Man Walking! I knew every creak on every stair, and I padded up them slowly and deliberately, crossing from side-to-side depending where the next board moved or gave. JasonI was an expert. No sound did I make. My breath was held tight inside me. I felt like Jason and the Argonauts trying to get through the Clashing Rocks. Only difference being that I didn’t have a dove in my pocket to release to make sure it was safe to pass!!

I reached the top stair and turned towards my bedroom. It was going to work. I was going to get to my room, change, forego cleaning my teeth, throw myself down the stairs, suffering personal injury if necessary, just to delay facing the wrath.

But then it came from the gaping maw of the slightly open door of my parent’s bedroom. And from the darkness the voice said four small words:

“Was it worth it?”

Tears filled my eyes again, and I tried not to sob as I replied, “No,”

There was a horrible, extended silence, and then the voice simply said, “No…”

But so much worse was that it was followed by a terrible, sad sigh. Of resignation. Of disappointment.

The sigh of a father who felt he had failed, and knew in his heart that his Son would from that day forward and forever be The Sun-Thief.



Posted: April 12, 2013 in LifeSniff
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.
A.A Milne


It is always, always a bad day when this happens:

The year was 1979.

I used to live quite close to my secondary school – just ’round the corner, across the field, up the hill, Bingo’ – a 10 minute walk. This was both a blessing and a curse for the following reasons:

Blessing: You could sleep in and still be on time; Less distance to encounter the legion of bullies who plagued my life; You could nip home quickly if you forgot something, or for lunch;

Curse: Never any excuse for being late

Of course I was never late and never slept in. Not because I was a model pupil, but because I had a paper-round.

A paper-round was often the first source of independent income a teenager had in those days, and it was something of a tradition. Like National Service. Which is quite apt I suppose, as the delivery of the Nation’s newspapers required an army of beautiful, doomed youth, flush with the pride of their first pubes, ardent for some desperate glory, jumping, bleary-eyed each morning onto their Grifters, Chippers and Choppers. Or in my case, my Raleigh Nondescript.chopper

I had souped it up with extra-long cowhorn handlebars, sold to me by a big bloke called Duggy (I’m not sure that someone who makes you almost soil your pants every time you round a corner and see them should be called ‘a mate’, but he was one of the very few ‘hard-men’ I knew at school who didn’t think my testicles were part of school sports equipment.) He didn’t have a paper-round. He earned his money nicking stuff and selling it on at school, and I have no doubt that my extra-long cowhorn handlebars were stolen from some unfortunate kid who had probably lost his paper-round because he could no longer get to work due to having an unrideable bike.

Occasionally I would bump into Wee Stephen, fellow paperboy and genuinely tiny person, at the end of our respective rounds. We would scavenge (I use that word because it is more comforting than ‘nick’ or ‘steal’, and someone I know might read this and tell my mum) a pint of milk each and a couple of buttered morning rolls from doorsteps nearby, and sit on a bench somewhere and eat them.

It was weird because on those mornings Wee Stephen and I shared a sense of fraternity, even though we never associated with each other at school. I always felt slightly sorry for him because he invariably smelled of urine. Not out-and-out stank, just that insidious, catch-a-whiff-on-the-wind smell. He shared a bed with his younger brother, who was a bed-wetter, and most mornings he would wake with damp pyjamas and/or hair. I suspect he was oblivious after a couple of years of nightly dousings, but it never seemed to leave him. My sympathy, however, was reserved for those moments on the bench, with the milk and the rolls. At school he was an annoying, stinky prize-twat. I like to think his brother actually stood over him each night peeing on him, and grinning like Chucky!

So, I would do my paper-round (until I was ignominiously, but justifiably sacked – more of that later), get home, eat a bowl of cereal piled, pyramid-like, as high as I thought I could get away with before mum would give me a death-stare and tell me that unbounded fatness and jaw-destroying tooth-decay was just one more oat of loveliness away! Sugar-Puffs, Golden Nuggets, Frosties. Corn-flakes with sugar if there was nothing else (always milk in first, so the sugar stuck) – anything with the ability to give an instantly gratifying sugar-rush! 2 cups of tea – no sugar! (You can have too much of a good thing) – 2 pieces of toast with Golden Syrup, then bag packed, teeth cleaned in a desultory fashion (I was more likely to get my teeth punched out before they had the chance to decay their way out of my head), and off for another day on the frontline, taking circuitous routes from class to class to avoid those who would harm me.

Anyway – past the papershop, where I had bought the obligatory handful of crap – maybe a Texan bar, or some Fruit Salads or Bazooka Joes. My personal favourites though were cinnamon jaw-breakers  called Daredevils – 3 in a packet, and as you sucked them they went from hot, to cool, then hot again until you reached the obligatory little anise seed in the middle – if you ate too many they gave your tongue the consistency of a Brillo pad, but they were great.

Picking up dog-poo (in little, insubstantial clear plastic bags which proudly display their condensation-streaked contents to everyone) is a relatively new phenomenon. Before the drive to make dog-owners responsible for the disposal of their own dog’s product, clearing or picking it up was really only the domain of council-employed workers, individuals with mental health issues, or Mikey Philbert, a guy who liked to throw it at me whenever he had the opportunity. I suspect he may actually have carried spare ones around in the pockets of his school blazer, wrapped in newspaper, specifically in the event of a random encounter with me.

In 1978, crossing the field between the papershop and the path to the school was a little bit like crossing an Afghan minefield. Obviously there was no danger of losing life or limbs, but the danger to your Clark’s Commandos or Doc Martens was ever-present, in the form of randomly distributed dog-poos hidden in the long grass.Clark's Commandos

The situation was made all the worse by the fact that the field had a football-pitch in the middle of it – a Mecca for the dreaming youth of the 1970s, and of course incontinent dogs, who seemed to have rationalised that 2 sets of goalposts represented the boundaries of a communal, open-air convenience for relieving themselves on. There is nothing worse than doing a brilliantly-timed sliding tackle only to stop sliding and find a perfectly formed, undamaged, often still-moist dog-shit up the leg of your shorts.

So there I was, crossing the field, not really minding where I was stepping when I felt the familiar, forgiving movement underneath my right foot. I looked down, knowing what I was going to see, but praying for something different. But there it was, gleaming up at me – not the fossilized husk I hoped for, but rather something akin to a morning-after-the-night-before Dhansak, clinging to and surrounding my foot.

This had been deposited by something other than a poodle. Best guess; a Doberman. Maybe even a party of Dobermen. It was the size of a poodle anyway.

I quickly looked around to make sure no-one had spied my misfortune. The only thing worse than standing in poo, is having witnesses to standing in poo. The stuff was laying so deep that it was up over the substantial rim of the sole of the shoe, touching leather. Then the smell hit me – I had obviously broken the skin of the beast and it was announcing its presence, and letting me know that even if all visible trace were removed, it would taint the air around me for days to come. A gift that would keep on giving, to me, to family, to friends.

The strategy in cases like this is simple -lift the foot vertically out of the shit – no sideways movements should be considered, in much the same way that up/down strokes rather than side-to-side strokes are always employed in shaving – anything else just makes a mess! – then after extrication you perform The Drag, pulling the offended foot through the grass to clean the shoe off.

In theory it looks easy, but there are important elements to consider –

  • Public Perception – some may want to offer help because they think you’re disabled – others may think you’re mocking the disabled and tut at you – the rest all know you’ve got shit on your shoe and will laugh heartily or point, encouraging other people to join in.
  • The Stamp – after the vertical-lift, sometimes a good, firm stamp down is all it takes to dislodge the shit BUT:
    • NEVER stamp back down immediately – remember – there is a shit underfoot
    • Stamp down as far away from your other foot as possible – if you don’t, you can experience the undesireable Shitleg, where poo-spray coats your standing leg and foot
  • The Flick – this requires external tools, like leaves or a stick. These are not always available, but if they are they can help remove a significant amount of shit before performing The Drag. BUT:
    • If you use leaves, be careful they don’t have holes in them or are so dry they crumble on contact. This can lead to Shitfinger, which can impact on everything from eating, nose-picking and running your fingers through a girl’s hair
    • If you use a stick, ensure it is strong enough for the job – if a stick snaps during The Flick, you can end up with Shitshirt, Shitface, and in the worst instances, Shitmouth
  • The Squash – if you don’t get the drag-angle of your leg and foot right you can end up just smearing shit further up your shoe, onto the toe, and if the mass of shit is great enough, onto your laces – this is the worst-case scenario, because once it’s in the eye-holes, the battle is lost.

I performed The Stamp, with a modicum of success, without any Shitleg, but the volume of shit was huge, and the sole of my shoe had a ledge that was keeping a significant amount of it in place and in danger of being smeared when I performed The Drag. I grabbed a nearby stick for The Flick and that cleared the majority from the ledge. I moved onto The Drag, still concerned about the possibility of The Squash, but conscious that I was standing around looking like I might have shit on my shoe.

So I started dragging my foot gently through the grass, hoping that I looked casual to anyone observing from a distance. The first Drag was good – no Squashing as such, but still a smear on the actual leather of the shoe. I adjusted the angle of my leg to bring that part of the shoe into contact with the grass. I Dragged – three quick ones in succession, hoping for a speedy resolution – and as I did I looked around again quickly to make sure I hadn’t attracted an audience.

It was all clear. All good. Mission accomplished.

Unfortunately not! The third and final Drag was my undoing.

Such was my concern about my public image, and with my leg and foot at the optimum angle of attack, the final Drag took my shoe directly through the dead-centre of a second shit!! Far smaller in size though it was, it was also a lot darker in colour and way, way stickier in texture.

And it was caressing my laces, and shining wetly in the eyeholes.

It is always, always a bad day when that happens…Doc Martens

Leo Sayer’s Head

Posted: April 11, 2013 in LifeSniff
Tags: , , ,
Leo Sayer's HeadYou make me feel like dancing
Leo Sayer /Vinni Poncia


It is not a question you hear uttered very often around the dinner table, but in my quest to try and establish whether I’m alone in the experience or not I think about it occasionally, though I have only ever had the courage to ask it once out loud. So far the answer is a resounding ‘NO’, but I live in hope.

And the question..? Well, the question is…

Have you ever seen your granny’s fanny?

I have – not seen your granny’s fanny, but my granny’s fanny (unless, of course, you’re my sister and you’re reading this, in which case the fanny in question is one-and-the-same)

The year was 1978.

My granny was a larger lady – small in height but big around – she smoked, was very funny and whenever I saw her in her house she’d be dressed in a nightie and a housecoat. And why not…

So I went to visit, and took my place in my usual spot in the chair opposite the sofa. She was in the kitchen making some coffee – I use the term ‘coffee’ loosely – it was ‘Mellow Birds’ which, in the 1970s, could apparently make you smile, and was often marketed as a ‘New Milder taste’. Mmmm…mild, powdered coffee…

She gave me my coffee, grabbed a fag from the mantlepiece, and sat down on the sofa.Milder!!

I didn’t notice immediately, because I was looking at something on the TV, but when I turned back to face her…there it was.

Bearing in mind it was the end of the 1970s, and I was probably 12 years old. Life, up to that point, hadn’t prepared me for anything like this.

As I said, she was a big girl, and as is so often the case with larger people, it’s quite difficult I think to sit with any real ease when your belly is forcing your thighs apart. Which in this case it was, and they were. Wide apart.

I did a double-take, unsure of what I was seeing. I slouched down a little bit for a better view. The hot prickle of guilt licked my neck and I felt my face colour. Granny was talking about something, but all I could hear was blood in my ears.

A third glance confirmed that I was looking at what I thought I was looking at – my Granny’s fanny!! But there was still something unexpected; something odd. Something not quite right. Another sneaky-peek confirmed it – hair! There was hair, and masses of it! It looked like she’d sat on Leo Sayer’s head!! There was more hair than a barber’s dustbin at Saturday closing. I was fascinated, disturbed and conflicted all at once. Suddenly the stereogram held a deep interest for me; her porcelain butterflies from Portugal, adorning one wall were fascinating and I wanted to move from that place, to get up and walk around. But I was afraid I might pass out. Plus, Leo’s head was just like the car that’s crashed on the opposite side of the road that you have to look at, despite yourself, when you’re driving home. You don’t want to, but you can’t do anything else; you’re compelled by the not-wanting-to of it all – the little voice says, ‘maybe someone will be hanging out of the windscreen, or maybe there’ll be a severed head rolling down the road!’ Leo’s head wasn’t going anywhere – it was well and truly wedged between my granny’s thighs, and if he could’ve wriggled free from that vice-like grip I knew he would not feel like dancing.

Poor, tiny Leo Sayer’s head. I have never been able to look at him the same way since.

Granny, sadly, is long-gone, and this thing was never spoken of, but whenever I see re-runs of Top of the Pops from 1978 and Leo’s head is on there, I always feel a pressing need for a coffee and a shave.

Why-Fronts? “begin my studies with this paper and this pencil and I’m working through the grammar of my fears
Emily Ann Saliers

When I was around thirteen I had a life-defining exchange with my mother.

The year was 1979.

Whilst emptying the washing-machine, she regarded the label in a pair of my underpants. She looked at me and said, “I think it’s time we bought you some new pants,” I loved my pants – they had come as a pack of three – purple, orange and blue. They were speedo-style. They defined my 13-year-old idea of sartorial elegance in an undergarment much more than the vests I was made to wear in winter (and in particular the string-vests I had received as a hand-me-down, from my granny, when my grandad died.) I didn’t want to give my splendid pants up. They didn’t have any holes or excessive wear in any area. The elastic was still holding firm in the waistbands of all of them. Their colour had not been compromised by washing or the occasional pubescent skidmark.

“Why?” I asked, panicked at the thought of breaking in new pants. She carried on folding washing into the basket and said, matter-of-factly, over her shoulder, “Well, you know what happens to boys if their underpants are too small,” …

It wasn’t a question. It was a statement of fact. A statement of fact without the pertinent fact, turning it into a sort of question without the necessary punctuation. Something was implied that I couldn’t grasp, didn’t understand, wasn’t seeing. I looked at the back of her head quizzically, though of course she couldn’t see the cartoon question-mark hanging over my head, couldn’t feel the hot prickle of embarrassment creeping across my neck; I didn’t say anything; I was thirteen. I didn’t want to talk about my underwear with my mother. And her casual delivery suggested I would know what happened to boys whose pants were too small; that I should know what happened to boys whose pants were too small.

But I didn’t.

Even now, so many years later, I’m still not entirely sure what she was on about.

The underpants disappeared. A new set, with the y-front design that allows easy access, replaced them. Bigger in size, neutral in colour, nylon I’m sure, possibly even Paisley in design. Manufactured to chaffe, more prone to staining (a bit like me and the ‘Monster-of-wank’ phase I was about to move into in my life, but more of that later..).

But with that one non-question, which was never spoken of again, something in my life was defined in me forever – an inability to ask the pertinent question when I needed to, when I didn’t understand, when I was embarrassed.

So I guess this collection of musings is really my attempt to lay out some of the things in my life that are worthy of note or ridicule; small curios of manner, faux-pas and secrets that have been hidden away in my heart for years, observations I’ve made, or questions I’ve always wanted answered but was afraid to ask. Maybe even just simply inking the things that need to be looked at when they’re written down…

I am not searching for God. I am not trying to define a Philosophical movement.

I just want to be comfortable in my underpants.

So if you feel inclined….please…

Sniff This…