Friday, January 11, 2013

Ten Pound Goal

Usually it’s a smell that triggers it something experienced that day during my graft, the catalyst to send me back to places long since forgotten. Random stuff never remembered floods back.
I’m on the floor, I’ve got that dull ache you get when you’ve been smashed in the face but I can smell tarmac stones in my palms after a fall then it’s hazy sunny days, bark on my hands and arms, leaves in my hair, white dog shit in the street, spanish gold sweet tobacco from buckles, the worn bits of strap in the buckle on my satchel, warm milk with the blue straws. I love those places I go there when I’m wrapped up in the brown shroud. Then it fades, then the reality peels off the shroud of gear. “get up yer cunt, yer dirty fkin smack head”, he’s stood over me snarling like a pit bull in a vest, with shit tats and a big fucking choppa round his neck . He reeks of car auctions, tap rooms and bookies. I picked the wrong mush to rob. I’m in ball I can feel the fists at first an then the feet the heel of his dealer boots to my head but he can’t penetrate my hedgehog curl, thankfully I know these beatings don’t last, vest man wont want my blood anywhere near him. “if I catch yer round ere again yer fuckin dead yer dirty pikey smack head cunt”. Charming I thought, I only wanted his chuffing bird box. Cigs Julie from the Cramner wanted one for her auntie and was prepared to give a fiver, that’s half a bag, Not worth a beating but still half my days work done had that gloit not come back from the post office from getting his dole. Twat. 

Rich C. 

Lucky Socks

Not sure if I’ve told you about my lucky socks before, I may have done, they grey with pink polka dots; I’ve had then about eight years.

Now these Lucky Socks are not to be abused because there is only a certain amount of luck contained within a pair of grey socks, there socks for gawd sake.

I only wear them when I really need a push in the right direction and I’m sure they’ve never let me down, the problem is that although my lucky socks are still lucky, they do look a little thread bare, now these socks are senior in sock years because as any god fearing person will know that for every 1 human year a sock lives for 6 ¾ sock years, thus making my lucky socks about 54 so my pair are struggling a little, not as easy to get out the washing machine, stuff like that

My point to this little story is that I’m looking at putting the lucky socks out to pasture, they’ve done there bit for me during there life, been through the trails and tribulation of my business and personal life but where is the luck going to come from to assist me in the daily grind of life? I hear you ask…

Luck isn’t something that you can gain from anything, if you find it in something it needs to be natured and honed into a lucky thing and I feel that my new red tie could be the new lucky thing, my Lucky Red Tie.

Things seem to go my way when I’m wearing it, not that it’s over for the lucky socks, and the tie can learn a lot from the socks, the tie is doing a Good Luck Apprenticeship so to speak…so there we have it, Lucky Socks

Stuart Everard


Joan stirred. She had once again been woken by Mike's pathetic attempt at sneaking in. She waited half comatose for the next stage when Mike  would try and sneak into the bed. She heard the rattle of drawers and the banging of a table accompanied by incoherent grunts. She looked at the digital alarm clock : 3:45 a.m.
'That pig bastard stuffing his face after a two day piss up' she thought.
She didn't bother trying to ignore it anymore. Not for a long time. Once he had scrambled up the stairs he'd do a few circles in the bedroom before she got out of bed and lay him on his side. Then she'd take off his shoes and pants  which were not always dry. Surprisingly, his homing radar would always get him back to the house he just needed  a bit of help directly hitting his desired target.
She waited and listened. After ten minutes of silence Joan went  down to investigate. There was no sign of Mike. Just a note on the kitchen table:

' Dear Joan,
I'm sorry I fucked up. I'm sorry we din't have a happy end. I'm sorry it took so long to leave.
I did love you
xxx '
Joan held her breath. It wasn't the apologies.  They were frequent. Mike hadn't told her he loved her since 1997. her stomach turned. This was unusual. She found a block of half eaten cheese on the table and when she shut the fridge door and saw the bloody hand print she dashed for the phone.
The police arrived within twenty minutes asking questions. Joan drank  boiling coffee and lit one cigarette after the other. The police told her there were a few cars around the town looking for him but the search could not begin thoroughly until the morning . Joan had a sick feeling. Even after all the trouble through the years, the entire soap opera, there was something about this that caused her stomach to turn. The note and the blood and the gut feeling told her this time wasn't the same as the others.
She knew they'd find him. They'd find him too late.
'Is it unusual for Michael to stay out drinking?' another officer asked. 'No' said Joan,again.
She didn't sleep. Early the next morning more police appeared asking more or less the same questions. Then they all left. It was just a matter of when. Joan knew that as she sat alone in the kitchen. She could not eat. She hadn't moved in hours. She should have told him she loved him. Stubbornness  is a sin that they were both guilty of but that didn't matter now. She should have been the bigger  person. She should have told him how much she loved him instead of calling him a pig bastard all the time. She wished she could take it back. She knew somehow that now  she would never get the chance.
He was here the day before.She could have told him then but she never.She could have told him at any point during the cold years but she never. But if she could .If she had one chance she'd just tell him she loved him.If  he wanted to hear it or not. If he said it back or not. It didn't matter.And now they were checking the canals and the alleys and the mountain for his body.

The back door opened behind her. Joan turned quickly and there he was.
Mike. Head down in shame as usual. Staring at his shoes.
'Sorry Joan. I was with Rob. We had a few'
Tears rolled from Joans eyes as she stood and stared at him. After a minute s he  took a deep breath and spoke quietly.
'You came back last night. You ate half a block of cheese and left a note saying you were leaving. You wiped blood all over the fridge. The police are looking for you  and so is everybody else. I thought you were dead '.
Mike looked at her. 'Oh fuck'.
'Do you remember writing a note?' asked Joan
She  noticed the bandage on his right hand.
'What happened to your hand?'
'I  tried to punch a hole in Rob's TV. We were arguing about football'
The feeling of dread left Joan. She looked at Mike and remembered what she'd promised herself she'd say if she could ever see him again.
'Fucking pig bastard!' she screamed and stormed up the stairs.

Will Roberts

Based on a true story.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Portrait of a Lost City

Portrait of a Lost City

Good places can often seem rough under the dimmest of lights. Funny how rough places never look good under the brightest of bulbs. Bridgeport train station is a far cry from the majestic grandness of the great rail stations of North-East America - Grand Central in New York, Union Station in D.C, and 30th St Station in Philly. This place is sketchy. I know if they could swing it, commuters from the valley and border towns like Shelton, Trumbull, Derby, Monroe would avoid Bridgeport. Local news stations would actually have to report Good News if it wasn't for the shootings and fires and car chases this city offers. 

- Does this train go to White Plains?
- No, I think you might have to transfer at Stamford.

From one rundown hole to another I think. This pimp and his catatonic whore. 

- Anything you can offer to help us get there?
- No sorry mate, I work for a living. I have my own pimps to deal with.

His face says he wants to hit me. I think I could take him. He's not the toughest looking pimp I've come across. Trust me, when you live in Bridgeport, you'll be amazed at how frequent you'll see them. The other night I went to the gas station to pick up some milk for the apartment. It couldn't have been past 6:30 in the evening. There she was. Strutting her massive fur coat covered body, up and down the East Main St./Huntington Tpke crossroads. Standing over by the entrance to the shop was her boss. Gold chain to match a few teeth. In total plain sight. If you can imagine, its becoming more and more frequent. The city started cracking down on all the rub and tug joints. I doubt it's for the right reasons. Somebody forgot to get an envelope, I suspect. The older this city gets, the more often it does its dirty deeds out of the shadows. 


New Year's Resolution

So there it was staring up at me. My penis. Erect (what's new ?). I was lying down watching some TV, when an ad comes along that wakes my dinky dong from it's sleepy slumber. An ad that featured a bevy of semi-clad, pseudo cheerleaders. You know the type.. War paint for make-up, tight boxers for a skirt, all bouncing around with their pom-poms in hand and super sized breasticles almost head butting (tit butting ?) their chin. I obviously have no idea what the commercial was trying to advertise or promote but I didn't care. As it's been almost exactly 9 months since my last foray into a womanly crevasse, this reaction has now become a regular occurrence.

While sitting on the number 65 bus to Kingston, listening to some Beastie Boys old skool hip hop I began to feel a knocking against my belly button. I glanced down to find the culprit looking up at me with a cheeky squint in his eye and a noticeable timber like quality to his stance. I began to break down what might've stirred this rascal from his kip. Hmm.. I wasn't thinking of anything TOO naughty or explicitly sexual. The Beastie Boys and their white boy rap didn't normally get me off, could I be turning into some sort of Hip Hop deviant ? Then it struck me.. The vibrations on this old London red bus may have simulated some sort of sexual experience that might have set my loins alight with lust, and fooled my penis into thinking it was feeding time.

So.. My new year's resolution is to coach and coerce the big man downstairs into keeping out of sight when in public. I may also boycott buses for a while too, well, either that or I'll just have a wank.

 Declan R

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fancy a trip to New York?

"Fancy a trip to New York?"
"Joe's playing in New York"
"New York? When ?"
"April, he's doing five nights"
"Fuck yeah"
"Been looking at flights. Cheap as fuck since 9/11, even cheaper if we get a connection"

A few minutes pass

"Right I've booked two flights, just need your credit card details. Buy mine and i'll pay you back"

Before I knew it, I'd just bought two tickets to New York City thanks to R'kid. That was just over ten years ago.
Strange how life pans out. I had no intentions of visiting America, let alone marrying a yank and living in New York, but that's exactly what happened.

He still owes me for his ticket.

Nick P

Joe is, of course, the late Joe Strummer.


You sense something’s wrong the minute you walk in, but you can’t put your finger on it. It feels like there’s someone else in there, waiting in the spare bedroom or crouching up in the attic until you’re asleep.
You take every room in turn, slowly, walking like you’re in a film. Nothing. It’s just a feeling, like air. Cold winds inside you.
It’s night. You’re taking your make-up off at the dressing table when it first catches you. You blink, squint into the mirror and then check round to see if the reflection’s lying or not. It’s not. It’s there, lodged in the far corner of your bedroom between the end of the curtain pole and the picture of your parents. Not a picture technically, a crosstitch, but people can never tell when your work’s so neat. It was always the same, all through school; the one thing everyone wanted from you. A gift you were born with, your mother always said. A gift from Him.
A gift from bleeding fingers and fear.
You cross yourself and then the room, sending a silent apology to Mr and Mrs McLeavy-in-stitches. It has a tag wrapped around its neck, rubbing up against them in a manner you suspect your mother might have found disconcerting. You pull your glasses down off your head.
In memory of Janie Brown
It says, handwriting bigger than the house.
43/2000: may light always be
You read it twice and screw it into your dressing gown pocket. The thing looks tired, you think.  A too-long traveller. The skin pinches in pools of sunken puckers, and oily marks streak across the red. Probably shiny once. Now more like scuffed shoes and chairs in waiting rooms, hovering in that half–distance between floor and ceiling. Not quite ready. Not quite.
They never move as fast as you hope they will. When you jimmy open the sash window, it sort of curls away from you and bump bumps ungracefully down the roof tiles, out of view. Still, there is air and breath. Wind. You open your mouth, feel the fullness of writing in your pocket, let it in. 

Dina murphy

Tourist Trap

We'd been warned, that much we couldn't deny,  don't cross the border without the correct exit and entrance stamps. We were backpacking round South America, this leg of the journey from La Paz, the highest city in the world,  over the border and into Peru, where hopefully we'd hit Lima in about a week. This leg of the journey was fourteen hours. Somehow we managed to sleep  despite the colourful bus stopping at just about every  village, where brightly dressed children and women came out with water and corn.
We were typical Brits abroad, couldn't speak the lingo, just relied on sign language and other people to get by.

We got off the bus to stretch our legs, not surprisingly the children homed in on us,
"Meester, meester buy water." I went to my 'loose change' wallet to grab a few pesos for the water, this was my first mistake, as the child snatched it off me I ran after him which proved to be my second mistake. The kid went round the back of some shacks, I followed him and bumped into a card school of what looked like four policemen.

I've no idea whether they understood me or not but it seemed having your wallet nicked was a crime round here. Next thing I was up against the wall, then the punches came, first my kidneys then stomach, the punches turned to kicks before I was dragged into the police station.

I was unaware my girlfriend had followed me as by now I was barely conscious. I briefly remember seeing her appear at the door, I saw the look of panic on her face and I saw her sneak up behind one of the coppers, grab his gun from his belt and shove it in his face.
I must have drifted out of consciousness, when I came round we were in a siege. Somehow she'd managed to cuff the coppers together but someone had alerted the authorities and outside we were surrounded. I could hear helicopters above us and someone with a loud hailer outside shouting God know what to us in Spanish.
If we'd bothered to learn at least a little Spanish, we'd have understood the coppers outside were not addressing us but the four 'coppers.' We only found out later we were the victims of a scam which moved from village to village along the bus route. A kid steals your wallet, you chase him and run into four 'coppers' who charge you for crossing the border and fine you if their in a good mood. If their in a bad mood they beat the shit out of you and steal all your possessions.

It took six hours for someone from the British Consulate to speak to us through the loud hailer. Some people on the bus had alerted the local authorities. We still look back on it now 20 years later and realise how lucky we were. We could have been fined for crossing the border.
R Jordan

Last Bus Home

A chilly, northern, November night is no time to be wearing PVC pants,
particularly ones that have been subjected to nearly two hours of continuous
and frenzied pogoing in a hot, sticky club; and Darren was fast beginning to
regret choosing these over his ripped denims. He reflected on his decision to
go for the leather clad Adam Ant a la 1977 look as he made his way to the
central bus station in sub-zero temperatures with his favourite ‘leather look’
kegs clinging, clammily, to his skinny, white legs. The lining, which in the
stifling heat of ‘Zero Hour’s’ cellar disco had felt pleasantly warm and moist,
was now transformed into a skin-tight, icy cocoon with the clammy
consistency of a cold seaweed wrap that seemed to be inducing rapid
hypothermia with every step. Luckily the station was only about five minutes
away and the thought of sitting on the downstairs back seat, absorbing the
heat of the warm, toasty engine, was putting extra purpose into every stride.
The smell emanating from his plastic pants was something else altogether
and reminded Darren of a cross between sweaty, French cheese, old people’s
underwear and wet dogs, straight after a dip in the local canal. He dreaded to
think what effect this would have on the other bus passengers as the warmth
of the engine began to turn this relatively benign aroma into some kind of
devil’s pot-pourri on the journey home…
With his ‘real’ leather jacket zipped up under his neck and his fingerless PVC
gloves providing as much protection from the cold as such a hopelessly
inadequate item of fashion wear can do, he entered the almost deserted bus
station and glanced up at the 70’s style clock. “Five to eleven,” he thought.
“The last bus leaves in two minutes!” Panicking, he began to run towards
departure bay 12, conscious of how much noise the segs in his black,
motorbike boots were making as they clattered and skidded across the
concrete floor. He fairly shot up the escalator, stumbling near the top and
attracting the attention of a man waiting at departure bay 2, just to his left.
There was a brief exchange of smiles and a bit of embarrassed eyebrow
raising from Darren as he picked himself up, checked his pants for rips, and
continued his quest to catch the number 667, which would drop him virtually
outside his flat and save him a 4-mile Arctic trek on foot. He arrived just in
time to see his bus pulling away. The driver saw him, and could indeed have
stopped to let him on, but, having noticed Darren’s appearance, decided that
a cheerful smile and wave goodbye in his rear-view mirror would suffice.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell!” spat Darren, through gritted teeth, as he struggled to catch his
breath. “Fuckin’ townie bus driver.”
Now ‘Townies’, or ‘Tetley Bittermen’ as they were sometimes called, were the
punks’ sworn enemy, well, apart from Teddy Boys and Mods and Football
Casuals. Townies, though, they were the worst; Farahs, soul boy haircuts,
Pringle jumpers, slip-on shoes with white nylon socks, bad taste in music and,
particularly in the North, a liking for Tetley’s Bitter. Darren had lost count of
the number of times he’d been abused, punched, kicked or just chased
around the city centre by pissed up Townies, pouring out of nightclubs with
names like Cloud Nine, Blue Lace and Dukes & Silks, usually with their porky
girlfriends in tow, sporting white mini-skirts, white stilettos and dodgy perms
and shouting encouragement. He could really have done without one of them
being in charge of his last bus.
“Bugger it.” muttered Darren, “Looks like I’m bleedin’ walkin’ again.” Sighing
deeply to himself, he pulled up the collar on his leather jacket as far round his
close-cropped head as he could and began the slow trudge back into the cold
night air. His legs were now numb with cold, and he was just considering
whether to attempt to jump a taxi when a voice from nowhere made him
“Excuse me. I don’t suppose you’ve seen a young lad, have you? About 13?
I’m supposed to be picking my nephew up and he said he’d be coming in on
the last 637, but I’ve been waiting for 15 minutes and I think the last one’s
been and gone. You didn’t see it, did you?”
“Eh no, sorry.” Replied Darren, noticing the voice was coming from the man
who he’d clocked on the way up the escalator. “I haven’t seen a kid or a bus.
To be honest, I was concentrating on catching mine, but the driver thought
it’d be a laugh to not let me on ‘cos I’m a punk.”
“I was wondering what all the leather gear was about.” Commented the man,
eyeing Darren up and down. “I thought you must have had your motorbike
nicked, or were just on your way back from one of those fetish parties, or
something!” The man laughed a little as he said this, but stopped quickly
when he noticed that Darren wasn’t sharing in the joke.
“I’m sorry,” said the man, a little sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to cause offence,
it was just a comment.”
“Yeah, hilarious.” Darren replied, as he decided he’d had enough of pisstakers
for one night and started to walk towards the exit.
“Hang on!” Shouted the man. “I really didn’t mean to annoy you, I’m just a
bit angry that I’ve come out to pick up my nephew and he’s gone and made
his own way home and left me waiting here like a lemon. If you’ve missed
your last bus, then maybe I could give you a lift instead? My car’s just in the
car park. Which way are you going?”
Darren stopped momentarily and half turned to look at the man again. He
pondered on how wise it would be to get into a complete stranger’s car at this
time of night. Then he had a good look at the man who couldn’t have been a
day under 50 and was probably 5 foot 2 at the most.
“If he tries to abduct or kill me,” Darren thought to himself, “I should be able
to sort him out. After all, I’m a good 30 years younger than him and, if it
comes down to a straight chase, I should be able to outrun him, even in
these boots.”
“I’m heading towards Keighley.” Darren told the man.
“Well that’s great.” Came the reply. “I’m headed that way myself so, if you’re
interested? It is a cold night, after all.”
Darren didn’t like his tone much, and what the hell did he mean by ‘if you’re
interested’? But, it was a bloody cold night, and he felt as if he’d probably get
frostbite before he’d got half way home, so he reluctantly agreed to the offer
and followed the man down the steps and towards the main door.
As they approached the man’s car, Darren noticed how small it was. He didn’t
know much about cars but he thought he’d seen this type before in The
Italian Job, not a Mini but one of those tiny Italian cars. What were they
called, again…”
“The Fiat 500!” Announced the man in a very jovial voice. “Italy’s solution to
traffic congestion. Drive anywhere, park anywhere, put it in your pocket when
you get home!”
Darren eyed the miniscule motorcar and began to wonder exactly how he
would get his gangly 6ft 2 frame into the thing without actually doing himself
some irreparable damage.
“It’s very small.” He said.
“Don’t worry,” said the man, reassuringly. “It’s a bit like Doctor Who’s tardis.
Once you’re inside you’ll find it’s really quite roomy.”
Darren opened the door, got in, and found the man was lying. In fact, if it
was possible to have a tardis in reverse, this was it. It looked small from the
outside but was positively Lilliputian inside. The effect was rather like climbing
into a contortionist’s Perspex box, but not as comfortable.
As Darren struggled to jam his feet into the foot well and move his head into
a position of least resistance against the roof, he noticed the man gliding
effortlessly into the driver’s seat before pulling the seat as far forward as it
would go, ensuring that the steering wheel was virtually pressed against his
Being in such close proximity to this funny little man in his funny little car,
particularly as he found himself stuck fast in his seat with his knees jammed
under his chin, made Darren feel very uncomfortable indeed. As the man
turned the ignition time and time again, pumping the accelerator to attempt
to get the car’s circulation going, Darren observed just how scruffy and
stained the man’s overcoat was. It was, or had been, a sort of beige or khaki
colour but now looked as if it served as a coat, a blanket and a tablecloth,
and perhaps a towel, too. His trilby hat had also seen better days and
reminded Darren of the one that Harry Worth used to wear in his ‘hilarious’
TV show, except the man’s looked like it had been chewed. Perhaps he had a
After what seemed like an eternity, the tiny, Italian engine spluttered into life.
The man gave a little whoop, winked at Darren, and pulled out of the car
park. The first part of the journey was made in silence as they passed
through the city centre and on to the main Keighley Road.
“Does the heater work?” Asked Darren, concerned that he might actually end
up frozen in his current position, like some piece of crappy modern art.
“It’s on.” said the man, “But it’ll take about 20 minutes to warm up. The
Italians don’t see car heaters as a priority, and with a tiny car like this it takes
twice as long as your Saabs or Volvos.”
“Fuckin’ great.” Thought Darren, as his teeth started to chatter. Still, at least
he was getting a lift home, and the bloke seemed to be concentrating on
driving. Hard not to, with his face squashed up almost against the windscreen
and his body touching the steering wheel. Not having the heater on also
prevented his PVC trousers from bursting into fully pungent life, although,
judging by the state of the man’s clothes, he might not notice Darren’s odour
over his own aroma of stale biscuits and dirty linen baskets. Darren was just
beginning to feel bad about questioning the bloke’s good intentions in offering
him a lift when the man finally instigated a conversation.
“So, do you do a lot of sport, then?”
Eh? Thought Darren. “No.” He replied.
“Don’t you play rugby or football or anything like that?” The man continued,
glancing across at Darren.
“No, nowt like that. I used to play at school, but that was ages ago…”
“Really!” Said the man. “I thought so.”
“How do you mean?” Said Darren, shuffling towards the passenger door as
best he could.
“Well,” continued the man, leaning over and slapping Darren’s leg just a little
too hard. “You’ve got a great pair of thighs on you. You look good in leather.”
As he said this he squeezed his leg, gently and moved his hand up towards
Darren’s crotch.
Too shocked to speak, Darren looked out of the windscreen and noticed that
they were coming towards the lights just by the park and that they were
turning red.
“Red light!” Spluttered Darren.
“Shit!” Said the man as he braked sharply, moving his hand from Darren’s leg
to change down to first.
As they came to a stop Darren started to frantically search for the door
“What are you doing?” Said the man. “We’re not there yet. We’ve got another
couple of miles to go!”
“I can walk from here, thanks.” Replied Darren, as he finally found the handle
and pushed open the door.
“Don’t be daft!” Pleaded the man, “I was only making an observation. I didn’t
mean anything by it. I’m not a pervert or anything - I’ve got a wife, you
“All the same, I’d feel safer walking from here. Thanks, anyway.” Said Darren,
as he slammed the door and quickly crossed the road.
As the lights changed to green, Darren glanced back at the Fiat and noticed
that, instead of going straight on, it turned left and headed up by the side of
the park. The man never looked back as he disappeared from view, his face
still pressed against the windscreen.
“Bloody hell, that was close!” muttered Darren, to himself, before allowing a
little, wry smile to play across his lips. “I look good in leather, do I! The bloke
can’t even tell leather from PVC, what kind of pervert is he? Still, maybe
choosing them over me ripped denims was a good move. After all, it got me a
lift, didn’t it?!”
He laughed out loud as he began to stroll the last mile to his flat. No longer
conscious of his cryogenically frozen limbs, he mused on what a strange night
it had been. He thought about what might have happened if the bloke had
had a knife, or a gun? He wondered if it was a one-off, or whether he was
just the latest in a long line of victims, and if he did the same trick every
week? He even wondered whether his 13-year old nephew actually existed?
“Still,” he said to himself, “it could’ve been a lot worse. He could’ve been a
This last thought gave him a warm feeling all over - even in his legs - and he
began to hum the song that had been playing as he left Zero Hour that night:
his favourite Adam & the Ants track, ‘Car Trouble’...

HJ Lawrence, who writes really quick, or needs a new clock...

Ghost of Christmas Last

As Harry passed right through the closed front door he chuckled “that’s never going to get old”. He could almost feel the tinsel tickling the back of his neck as he emerged into the hall. Not three months ago it would have taken ten minutes and several testy arguments with that lovely nurse with the lively bosom to get him and his wheelchair into the living room. But here he was floating along like, well, like a ghost. That made him laugh again, and not an old man’s wheeze either, a bright, violent cough of a laugh.
The kids were tearing tornado-like around the living room. Toys were scattered, ignored, or clasped with a dying man’s last strength, the wrapping and boxes given just as much attention and love. Food smeared faces were lit by smiles and smudged with tears. Grubby little paw-prints were everywhere. An aberration that would once have had him reaching for a heart pill, a calming pale ale or, more likely, caused a tetchy volcanic outburst. Christ, what a waste of energy that was. All those old man clichés he’d indulged in. He’d pretended to hate Christmas for as long he could remember. It was almost like he’d cast himself in the role and over the years forgotten that he was acting. He wondered if Grace had done the same with her over the top love of all things tinselly?
Outside the kids were beached around the table. The grandkids were either wrestling the great-grandkids into submission, stretched out in the sun by the pool or playing with their gizmos. He liked calling them gizmos. If only to see their exaggerated despair and hear them say slowly and loudly “it’s a MOBILE PHONE Granddad, it’s like a computer, but smaller, and a telephone”.
It worked every time.
As he cast his eye over the scene, a retired Scrooge and recently employed Marley, his eye naturally sought out Billy. There he was, his youngest son holding court - a bright ball of fierce intelligence. What they called in those days an accident, a full 11 years younger than Julia, it had seemed like he arrived fully formed. Engaged, talking and walking before Grace even woke up from the worst of all the kid’s births. You’re not supposed to have favorites and Grace would never have admitted it. But no one had to. It was a given. Everyone adored Billy. The girls had the toy to end all toys - a blue-eyed living breathing doll, with an almost supernatural life force. The boys had an admirer, a willing accomplice and a scapegoat. A scapegoat who could never actually get into trouble no matter what they enlisted him in. He’d smile at the annoyed teacher, irate neighbor, or exasperated milkman and they’d simply melt.
And yet somehow, Harry had hardened.
As the years passed, and Billy burned his happy way through what should be murky teenage angst, Harry became stifled in his presence. It was a slow insidious suffocating. Back then, when it mattered, he just couldn’t do anything about it. Billy’s jokes, wild University life and his success, built a barrier between them. He’d tried to hide it, but Grace knew, and it broke her heart.
Of course, now he understood.
Billy and his burning charisma had scalded his ego and intimidated him. How shallow. How stupid he’d been.  
Billy looked across at his Sara. She knew. She knew how hard it was for him to maintain this façade. But somehow that was the role he’d been cast. And what was the alternative? Lose the plot? Self sedate with single malt? Curl up into a ball and sob? No, he had to make them smile. Amuse the kids and entertain the adults.
Even at the funeral he couldn’t shake the part. He’d like to get hold of the casting director of this shitty made for TV movie and give him a strongly worded slap around the chops.
The cruel irony of it was so obvious now. All these years he’d been trying so hard to get his dad to smile and ruffle his hair and yet in the trying, the overt effort, he’d pushed his dad away. His beautifully, restrained, dignified dad. 

Chris Williams

More from Chris here -

They don't piss like they used to do

As a boy of six or seven, the journey into the gents' toilet unaccompanied was somewhat intimidating. Back then they didn't have the knee-high junior pisspots you see these days; you were among the men, up on your toes straining to cast your pecker over the rim of the urinal so as not to slash on your Golas.

Huge men towered around you,  zipping down the flys on their deep-ridged chocolate cords, burping, farting. This was behaviour you didn't see in the outside world; this was the inner sanctum, anything goes, and it was hilarious. But you didn't laugh; you didn't want anyone to notice you in and among them, because then the attention would turn to little you dribbling out your Umbongo piss.

Then the men would do something fantastical that you don't tend to see these days: urine in full flow they'd let go, hands to their hips, groins thrust ever-so-slightly forward like Lord Flashheart in mid-woof. Magnificent men propelling unsupported arcs of piss into a trough. What a display of poise and control for a young lad more familiar with wet shoes and damp pants.

Reflecting on this, and having never felt able to assume that role now I'm a grown-up – at least not in public; privately I've stood back from the bowl, legs planted firmly and apart like Rick Parfit riffing and projected my stream – I do at least understand the need for a stable environment. Where it shouldn't be tried is on a moving train, though someone evidently had on the 22:05 from Scarborough to Huddersfield last night. It was a damn quagmire in there.

Jim G

Amie Getting Married

Amie Getting Married

It always seemed ironic her name was the same as the French word for friend. Cruelly ironic. Ah-mie, never Amy. She was the girl I fell in love with. Its never the easiest word to say and sometimes it can be the wrong one. You don’t throw it around as much as fucks and cunts, do ya? Strange that... I can say she’s a fucking good cunt and mean it in a totally respectful way, almost. Say that you love her... alarm bells start ringing and doors trap in words when others have already left. Amie getting married. Cruelly ironic. The invitation still sticks to the fridge. Held up by a Belfast City magnet I got years ago. It shares its space with other wedding invites I haven’t had the pleasure to decline yet. Reluctantly of course. Weddings as you can imagine aren’t for me. The DJs blast House of Pain. I’m sat at the table talking to some guy I’ve never met before and I feel like I’m failing to justify my existence to him. I said yes to Amie’s. Why did I do that? The days of sharing the sheets are longer past than when they were happening. Guilt? Love? Self-inflicting pain? I’ll leave the reasons to the man or woman with the crossword puzzle as I lay on a cushioned couch one day. The car doesn’t seem to have any power. If I broke down on the side of the road right now, I wouldn’t mind. 5 hours to Maine. What am I like? Gluten that’s what! I’ve come to far now surely. Next exit is Maine. Across the bridge on I-95. I used to come this way loads when we were back in college. 5 hours that ended in the middle of the night. Camp fires, beers, and weed. I always passed on the Mary Jane. “Any mellower...” I used to think. A few more exits and I’ll be there. I cringe at the thought of seeing her. We’ve never stopped knowing each other. We’ve had our share of fall outs, but we got it together to give the illusion of a couple from time to time. Now she was marrying some fat git who worked for Wal-Mart. I shouldn’t say that. He works at the distribution center. Genuinely nice guy, which makes it even worse - I can’t even hate the cunt. The exit is up ahead. Take first left then 3rd right. Almost too simple. Cuelly simple. I feel my face getting red as the balloons usher in cars down a long drive way. It comes to a roundabout infront of an old stone building. I don’t recognise many. The few I do, don’t see me. I want to be invisible. I want to not be here. I feel sick that I’ve tricked my soul into coming. 2nd exit to park. 3rd exit to bring you back to the front gate. I say to myself out loud “Oops!! I have the wrong place.” I only do it so I save my soul and I fool those who might’ve seen me. I need to get petrol, I have an easy 5 hours of driving ahead of me.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Gun’s Wife

Lula was pissed. As she sat over the tin bath full of rapidly freezing water, cleaning the piss and shit off his breeches, she was pissed. No matter how slow or fast she scrubbed, his snoring followed the same tempo. She sped up, he went into a full whine, she slowed down, he became a fat sow. And when she stopped he gurgled in the back of his throat.
As annoying as his snoring was, and as much as she hated scrubbing the piss, shit and the smell of other women out of his stinking breeches, she was pissed because in two days this would all be stopping. The feckless idiot, only three days home from chasing a fruitless bounty in the Black Hills, would be leaving with those asshole Johnson brothers to head down to Lubbock, Texas to try and bring in a wild gun they called Texas Red. Three days, she thought as she worked on a particularly stubborn piece of shit, three days he’s been back and he’s only fucked me properly once. If once includes him not moving and then finishing before she’d even got started.
But she loved him. She’d loved him since the moment, as a 13-year-old, when he beat her elder cousin Bo for picking on the handicapped boy who lived with his drunk father at the back of the saloon. The way he did it, no trace of anger, just a stern look, a whispered threat and a solid backhand when they didn’t suffice.
Two years after that she’d watched him come and go. He was 10 years older than her and every now and then he’d ride into town with another woman. She hated that, but couldn’t help admire that he’d bring whatever woman he wanted back. Black, Injun, Mexican, he didn’t care, the only thing he cared was that they were pretty in the face, heavy in the chest and wide of hip.
By the time she hit 15 she knew he’d started to look at her. It was July 1876, not long after the railroad began sneaking out towards their town. He’d arrived back a week or so earlier with a hellcat Mexican woman with eyes like the devil. From her window Lula could hear them. The screams when they fought, the crashes and bangs when she threw anything she could get her hands on and then the iron bed rattling the death train as they made up.
It was wet that morning. After three weeks of dust storms the clouds broke and God pissed all over them. Dogs wallowed in the sod, kids bathed in the puddles and Old Man Hickey, who’d been three parts mental since birth, drank so much of the water that was contaminated with horse shit that they had to stick him in the gaol after he tried to grope one of the whores in O’Reilly’s.
She’d been on the porch peeling Daddy’s potatoes when she heard the yell. Before she looked she knew it was him, and there he was, chasing that Mexican out of his house, his body naked save for his gun belt and boots and the contents of the chamber pot the hellcat had emptied over his head. Lula never did ask why that had happened, but listening to him snoring she could probably guess. He was just about to turn back into his house when he stopped and looked over his shoulder, normally he’d have just nodded but his gaze washed over her as he looked her up and down and smiled. She blushed like a spring Primrose and tried not to look down from his eyes. At least not until he turned around.
They were married three weeks later. Her Daddy wasn’t happy at first, but after he’d beaten him at Stud and drank all his whiskey, they came to an arrangement. Lula was Daddy’s favourite, on account of her looking and acting like their dear Mother and not him. In every other child he saw his deficiencies. The huge bent nose, the sallow Irish skin and the red hair he thought a deficiency. But she was all her mother. 5’3”, hair raven black and eyes that he said danced like a pair of wild Mustangs in the moonlight. She had to take Daddy’s word for it as her Mother had died when she was three of the consumption
The first year they’d been married was heaven. She persuaded him to stop Bounty hunting and take a job dealing cards at the saloon. They were happy, he’d saunter home every night and they’d drink a little, smoke a little and fuck a lot. They fucked all around that little house, her held in his arms and balanced on places she never even thought she’d sit, let alone do that.
Then came the first miscarriage and the sex had to stop for a while. He was fine about it, not like Duane Widdows who everybody knew was back on his poor wife the moment she had given birth. He looked after her, even cooked for her, and he didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. But after the fifth, when she was too broken inside to consider anything but the Laudanum, he quit his job at the saloon and took up his guns again.
Three years now it had been this way. She knew he still loved her, still wanted her, but she’d lost some of him along the way. For months at a time he’d leave, and it’s not that she minded him seeking a bed when he was away, after all he was only human and she’d come very close with young Charlie Widdows when he came to chop her wood. It was that he wasn’t there. That they were no longer the exception to the rule in a town where women kept their mouths shut and their skirts open.
But she could never hate him. As she wrung his breeches out and went to the kitchen he stirred and mumbled something. She walked over to him, hoping that he was asking for her, that he wanted her to climb in with him. But he wasn’t, he was dreaming about something. Fool’s Gold, Whore’s skirts, who knew, what she knew that it wasn’t her.
As he rolled over and turned his back to her, she walked to the kitchen, picked up his tobacco and headed to the porch. She knew the busy body from across the street would tell everyone that she saw Lulu Hackett rolling her own cigarettes and drinking whiskey, and she also knew that they’d say that was why she couldn’t have a child. But she didn’t care. As she put the cigarette between her lips, a mangy dog walked up and slumped in front of the porch. Normally she’d shoo it away, fleabag that it was, but she figured they had a bit in common. Inhaling deeply she began to rock to the beat of his snoring, replacing the thought of him leaving with the sight of Charlie Widdows chest under that shirt.

 Owen Blackhurst

Strange meetings

Strange meetings

There is a strange camerarderie that builds up amongst commuters. Forty years ago on this line it would have been stockbrokers and overpaid clerks all respectably dressed like the extras from a Monty Python sketch. 

It isn't like that these days, but there is still a lot stiffupperlipperiness about it all. But not so much about the the starch of empire and middle class mores. More the qawkiness of a youth club disco of the time. It is what you would expect I guess.

Commuting turns you into a geek of course. No, no scrap that, take responsibility for your own foibles. It actually brings out the geek in you. Most mornings two thirds of the residents carriage three know each other. Not to speak to, except for the odd  harrumph at the vicissitudes of the integrated transport system, or disconcerting t the introduction of an irregular carriarige into the role of coach three, or the odd muttered apology crashing after an embarrassed space invasion at some dodgy points you should have remembered. 

By Clapham Junction its like a Friends Reunited reunion. 

But you do begin think you know what these fellow travellers like, what they do, who they are. Perhaps it's all in your head. In this case it clearly was. The girl in glasses and the duffle coat, with the sad eyes and the tenor voice that surprised you on the odd occasion she spoke surprised us all that day. 

I see my friends from that carriage all over the train these days. We wouldn't dream of talking about it. Plus ca change.....

Mike Hughes

Weekend's End

I had been given a festival spot, and it came with a comp ticket. I asked my mate to come with me for the weekend, and we were both up for it. It had been years since we had done this sort of thing, so we were as giddy as school-kids on the drive down. We were going to grab the weekend by the throat and have the kind of messy fun that had been such a part of our adolescent experience.

The guy who we bought them from was typically shady, the sort of bloke who you wouldn’t buy a paper-clip from, but that all seemed part of the thrill, part of the experience.

The area we were in was playing a lot of dub-step, and it saddened me to admit to myself that I didn’t get it, or particularly like it for that matter. There seemed to be some sort of disconnect between the bass groove and the drum-beat, so any attempt to try dancing to it made it look as though you were suffering from the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.

We decided to go to a different arena. We were already pretty drunk by that point, and the first one didn’t have any effect, so we made the somewhat junior error of taking more instead of waiting a bit longer.

After about half an hour, I turned around and looked at my friend. He was sweating a lot and he had gone fire-engine red. I felt quite sweaty myself, and I could the little rushes of electricity move up and down my spine. Then it really kicked in.

It all became too much. The noise and heat and light made my head swim, and I rushed over to the side of a speaker and spewed up. It came out like a hot rush of lava.

I could tell my friend wasn’t feeling too great either, so we staggered back to our tent. A couple of young girls shook their heads at us as we passed them. We had become the middle-aged ravers that we used to sneer at years ago, the Hacienda causalities that would stand in the corner of the club in their day-glo t-shirts, chucking out shapes in some furious attempt to stop the onset of age and maturity.

After making it back to the tent, my mate went off on one, and starting getting paranoid about his job and his life and the fact that he hadn’t spoken to his son in over six months. Eventually he went off to sleep in the car.

I crashed out on my sleeping bag, and started to repeat the mantra in my head that helped me to get my shit together in the past:

“Get over it, ride it out… it will all be right in the morning.”

We went home early.

Joe H

Time Stood Still

It’s my birthday 36 today no big deal but the family are over for some food.
Not very often do I get to see both my sister and my dad and my auntie all in the same day but it was today.

Usual takeaway food nothing too special a few cards no beer im playing football tomorrow.
These Sunday mornings tend to be very much the same up at 7.30 bit of toast get me kit together and then my dad turns up and we are off.

Today will consist of the highs and lows of life we are off to Dishforth for a league game if you don’t know where that is check the map.

Magic 828 on the radio our passengers some fellow team mates always love it I just think they are still a bit drunk from last night but they sing along regardless.

So as the windsock comes into view I know we have arrived big orange thing blowing in the wind.

We got changed and headed out to warm up as normal then I get a shout from my dad he has to leave.

‘Where are you going? I asked ‘its your sister there is a problem back home’ he replied I have got to go.

The game passed me by I know we one but I couldn’t concentrate wondering what was wrong I did hit the bar but that’s pretty much it from me.

Once back to the dressing room my phone was full of missed calls and messages from my dad asking me to get back as soon as I could.

One of the lads agreed to drive me back and drop me at the Lawnswood where my dad was waiting.

Then he told me ‘its Kyle’ I thought there had been an accident.

There wasn’t an accident he had hung himself at work 20 years old I didn’t know what to say.

The day became a blur I went to visit him with my sister and family and he looked like he was at peace why did it happen we will never know.

I don’t really celebrate my birthday that much its just a reminder of what we don’t have anymore, 9th March is the date I don’t never look forward to.


Days of Speed and Slow Time Mondays

Days started when I was forced to start them, with a noisy interruption to my dreamed dreams. Beds never felt comfortable enough except when alarms went off and life was constantly held hostage to mass transit. Mornings were routine. Head into the sink, hair first, then face. Bristles tickled my gums and with a quick rinse I was on the pavement. Tan work boots left, right, left, right for three blocks and into the underground with Metrocard handy and through the turnstile. Down the steps to the express platform. The same people, the same faces. That same girl with the hot body reading some book. Standing against a column, her hair down to her shoulders, whisked past her face as the 4 or 5 would plow into the station. A quick brush back with her gentle hands and she finds a seat near many of the hundreds of workers whose faces are harsh and as uninterested in starting another day as I. They sip coffee cups and close their eyes just tight enough to hold onto those last few precious moments of sleep before they have to force themselves up off the train and into another day. Up the steps and back to the pavement. The alomat hoist can be heard echoing through the tranquil dawn. Shepherded into a car like livestock with 10 to 15 guys whose only goal in life was not to end up here like their fathers and uncles. The door slams down and only a few tiny holes remind you of a world outside. Days of speed and slow time Mondays isn’t just a few words in a great song. It’s nearly a promise but most definitely a reminder at 21; life is passing you by and being bored anymore isn’t an excuse... its a disease.

I arrive on the floor by 7:15. The broom and shovel await my dry as chalk hands. The noise of busy-ness erupts with skill saws and screw guns blasting into sheetrock boards. Everyday is the same. Where I busted my ass cleaning up yesterday, is destroyed within seconds. Its a job hard pressed to find motivation. Then you’re told that checks are going to be late. It doesn’t matter, because you’re stuck here, but you still complain all the same. The south side of the floor, the 44th floor, is trashed. I’m distracted by the city beneath me. New York City. Buildings belching from the pavement nearly 50 stories below. Downtown. A gaping hole in the skyline where something is missing and you know exactly where it should be. I sweep. Push. Push. Push. A pile of sawdust is worse than asbestos they say. Electricians tut their tongues and are unimpressed at the lack of green dust compound being used. For a pile like this I feel like saying. A quick look at the phone - 7:30. 9 o’clock coffee is still a ways off. The screeching of screw guns pierce my ear drums like its a board of sheetrock. Again and again, boards fly up and are screwed in. Unused cuts begin to pile up and rolling over a yellow ½ yard container struggles to impress me any further. Cut, snap, bang into the container with relative routine. Cut, snap, bang. Cut, snap, bang. Don’t think, just do. Don’t think, just do. Don’t think, just collect a check.

The floor’s a mess. My foreman will be through the floor soon. Hurricane like force and speed, he finds issues. “... this should’ve been done yesterday.” He’s probably right, but yesterday I didn’t have time. It doesn’t matter. He’s seen it and it’s a strike against me. No such thing as a perfect floor. Floors are never done, it just means you’re not looking hard enough. And, if you’re still satisfied, give it a few minutes. He finds a good few issues on my floor. I knew what they were beforehand but foremen don’t want to hear that you’re working your way round, they want it done before it even fucking happened. I’ll be off this job soon. In construction, all jobs come to an end... for some, rather sooner than others. I probably talk back to much. I’ve failed my entire life to just go with the flow. To shut my mouth and just “collect the check.” In a perfect world, it might be considered a good thing. Someone with half a brain making decisions on his own. Not bothering the boss with silly questions and just going along with the answers given. Not here. Here, I’m rogue. Here, I am not allowing the boss to boss me. He’s the boss. There are many like him, but this one is mine. No thinking, just doing. No thinking, just doing. No thinking... “call the office.”

Tomorrow I could be working or tomorrow I could be off. I’m at the mercy of the office. It’s as helpless as helpless gets. Your fate is never in your own hands. Nearly 7 years later I’m older. Maybe wiser to the system, but still not warm to it. In 7 years, I’ve worked all over this city. The power tie, money hungry offices of Wall St. and the causal campuses of Columbia University. Hanging off the roof of midtown and wishing I could keep this view for hours. Push broom and shovel. Ear blasting roars from tools and their instruments. I feel old. I ache. New kids come in and I cringe at what they say and what they do. They’re dumb. I know they are. It doesn’t matter, they don’t think, they just do. 7 years later and I’m old. I’m old and I ache and bitterness swirls like a chip inserted into my veins. 7 years later. Days of speed in a blur. Slow time Mondays - a promise.   


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Roundabout In Dewsbury In The Rain

I heard he was due to come into the building, but I had forgotten all about it. I was busy. I was trying write a radio commercial for a car dealership in Leeds. It wasn't going very well. The car was some sort of fast sports affair, a brand new shiny model, the dynamics and dimensions of which enthralled me not one iota. An overpriced toy for idiots. That was my initial idea for a strap-line. But I couldn't write that, of course. I had to summon up some enthusiasm. It was my job. I had to at least pretend to be interested for money. It was taking up very last drop of my effort. I read the brief, I looked at the brochure and I typed. None of it seemed to make any sense. Performance, power, APR payments. I could feel my brain slowly seizing.
   There was some minor excitement at the other side of the room. He'd arrived. I could see the open-plan office reflected in the big window beyond my computer screen. It was getting dark outside and had started raining; November tea-time in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. His old stomping ground, someone had said. Where it had all started. The dance halls. Everyone had been very fussy at the thought of him coming in, and now here he was. He was really here. I could hear that voice. He was being led slowly around the desks, being introduced to the staff. They kept using his title. Nobody knew about him back then. People had always said things, but nobody knew for certain. Apart from the people who nobody had believed or even listened to. But this was eight years or so ago. It was easy to dismiss it all as idle gossip. Malicious knee-jerk jibing. He was definitely lecherous, though, I could see that much in the window. There was lot of elaborate bowing and kissing of young female fingers and cheeks. But nobody seemed to object. People were laughing. They were thrilled. I got on with my typing. Cars. Test drives. Tedium.
   Then I sensed somebody directly behind me. I swivelled my chair around and it was him. He looked exactly how you would expect, almost ridiculously so; the purple shell suit, the cigar, the silver hair tied back in a pony tail, the plethora of gold trinkets. He looked old, much older than I had imagined. Small and frail, a paper doll of a man. I stood up, said hello, pleased to meet you. He didn't reply, just lifted a scrawny gilded hand, pontiff style. It was nothing like shaking hands. He wasn't shaking hands, he was allowing me to touch him. I didn't know what to do, so I sort of tapped the back of his wrist, like a polite and tentative smite of a bell on the desk of a hotel reception. It was weird. We just looked at each other. I didn't know what to say to him. I didn't trust myself to speak and not do the comedy voice. I thought I was going to start laughing. Then he said something, I can't recall what exactly, something like "Are we winning, team?", or "Everything OK here then?". Something like that.
   "Not really," I said. I took  the car brochure from the desk and held it up to show him, this sleek and sexy red sports machine. "I'm trying to write this thing about this car. I can't do it though. I can't get excited about it. I'm not a fan of cars."
   He didn't look at the picture or me. He pointed past me, out of the window. "Look", he said. I turned round and looked. We were three stories up. t was raining heavily now, really coming down. The rain blurred the hills and buildings on horizon into blocks of dark green and grey, and I couldn't see anything below us except traffic slowly circling a roundabout. I "Look at that," he said. "Yorkshire. Marvellous."

Russ L

The Brace

Richard really did fancy himself. He wasn’t a bad-looking bloke, but he
reckoned that women found him irresistible and, on the whole, they did. This
meant he often found himself seeing two women at the same time, with the
current ‘lucky’ ladies being Paula and Beverly.
“It’ll just be for a short while, until I get the courage up to tell Paula it’s over.”
He told himself, confidently. “Then Beverly need never know, and only one of
‘em gets hurt. Simple.”
If only it was that simple. He’d been seeing Paula for about six weeks now but
during the last two had found his mind, amongst other things, wandering
somewhat. He fancied her, alright, but the amount of dental work that she was
having done - including the appearance of an unsightly brace across her front
teeth - was playing havoc with their social life, as she was always crying off at
the last minute. This had allowed Beverly to step in to fill the void just over two
weeks ago and, during that time, he had been seeing them both on alternate
nights. As a result, Richard’s powers of deception were being pushed to the
limit, but with Paula recovering from another trip to the dentist the opportunity
for two evenings in a row with Beverly presented itself. Fortunately, Beverly’s
parents had gone to the pictures this particular evening, enabling Richard and
Beverly to get comfortable on the back-room settee. Richard felt something
was different about Beverly and, just as they were about to kiss again, he
“What’s happened to your brace?”
 “What brace?” Beverly replied. “I haven’t got a fuckin’ brace!”

H. J. Lawrence

Barnsley to Bradford, via Flockton & Grange Moor.

Down Dodworth road, onto the M1, foot down for one junction, off at Haigh, the roundabout of despair, literally in the depression, ni mind, just a quick quarter of it.
Fly by Yorkshire Sculpture park, pushing 60. Slow down for West Bretton, 30 school, time it right so no brakes required. Bomb down to Denby Dale roundabout, two lane, quick thinking needed for minimum stoppage. Undertake the Audi, his eyes on the iPhone, first out. Chicken out of trying to outrun the accelerating truck. Patience now, not worth overtaking on the straight up to the Black Bull. Get the fucker on the New Hall prison dip.
Got in front, cutting the corners on the sweeps into Flockton, strict 30 all the way through the village, think of a spoof Twitter account for the Flockton lollipop lady, knows everyone, and no nonsense.
Watch out for the chancers from the two Emley blind junctions, cover your brakes, cover your brakes.
Glimpsed from West Bretton you can see it, not him, not her, it
Elmley moor TV mast, a constant from ever. Sometimes shining, sometimes dull. Cloud can obscure it, just a stump, or a spike and a foot.
Hundreds of times wanted to stop for photos, you can never do it justice.
Past Grange Moor now, looking heath, looking moorland, take a right turn if you want, you could be in the Yorkshire Dales.
But you're not, you can see the Pennine ridges of Marsden, Slaithwaite
But the best is to the East, glimpses over the tops of the drystone walls. Never been confirmed, but on the clearest of days you can make out the Wolds. Right over there between the power stations and the back of Leeds.
Eyes back on the road lad, luck will run out eventually.


The Storm Junkie

Facebook Update 11.03pm 27/12/12 Tony Horner

" I'm a bad weather chaser, when I see those new reports of rivers swelling and the bricks on old bridges crumble and disappear into the green brown rushing waters I'm off straight away. Cornwall, West Wales, West of Scotland. Anywhere the snow or the rain or the winds are doing enough to disrupt the daily lives of thousands who hate bad weather. That's where I want to be.

There's something truly exhilarating about rivers that burst their banks, turning fields into lakes and high streets of small towns and villages into dangerous runs of water, catching and dragging cars along in their wake.

Snowdrifts. My aim is to be ether caught in a snowdrift or even worse washed away into a dangerous river in my car. For the snowdrift I've everything I might need to stay OK under there. The boot has a sleeping bag, shovel, blankets, spare coats, water, food. I can punch a way through into the boot behind the armrest in the back seat. Or if I want save myself some money and drama I can just lift the back shelf off.

I once nearly put a big flashy 4 wheel drive people carrier off a road in Northumberland in the snow. My wife was there and she was pregnant so she wasn't too happy. we were miles from anywhere , too far to turn back, not near enough to our destination to walk. We edged along slowly, for the first time I realized the weight of a vehicle. I was unfamiliar with it. If I'd been on my own I'd have happily been more wreckless but her presence and condition and her state of mind was freaking me out.

Now that's all gone and I'm heading down to the Hills near Hereford again. There's a huge bank of snow predicted and that's after months of rain. Just to stand out there, feel the wet and the wind lashing round me, eating the toggles of my jacket, to keep the hood tight around my face. A different gust can cut straight through, two layers of thermals and over trousers and it can still slay you.

Waiting for a tree to fall, or the groan and sway of a centuries old bridge. Something so helpless about a town divided by the raging bull run of bad weather. Sandbags, hammered and battered doors buckled, mud everywhere. Nature's unstoppable force. The snow's already started and the wheels were slipping beneath me earlier. All the other traffic is going against me. I open the window and feel the air and the sleet. Ahead the black mountains and what?

They've gone now. Cloud, the snow, the cars no longer on tarmac. The lights are hazed. Ten feet too high to see their outline and now they're gone. Out of a village and back into the country. White. Roaring hell....."

From Sarah Horner

To all Tony's friends. This was my dad's last Facebook note I thought you might like to see it. It was in his drafts. they found his car in the Wye yesterday. The police are treating his death as accidental.

James Brown

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Going Underground

10th November 1984 was an unexceptional day in Allerton Bywater. The fog crept up from the River Aire and clung to the low hills and spoil heaps. It was seven o’clock. Lights went on. The sound of ablutions could be heard. All around the village, front doors opened almost in unison, as men walked down the short paths of their terraced house to the front gates.
Many carried rucksacks, containing sandwiches, newspapers, books. There was no canteen underground. Generally well turned out, the miners had an almost incomprehensible obsession with personal cleanliness. In two hours time they would be filthy, crawling in ore-blackened water, their skins grimy and their eyes red from blinking away the dust.

Danny Gofton walked on his own as was his habit. He wasn’t an unsociable man by any means, but a serious one nevertheless. He was looked on by his peers as a leader. Not a position he sought, but one he felt obliged to fill if others deemed it necessary.

He walked through the gates and acknowledged a few mates with a nod. The car park was still empty. Most of the miners were still local men. The car park was generally used by the office staff, skilled workers and management, who arrived later.

He entered the wash-house and lit a last cigarette before going underground.

He changed into his working gear, long johns, a second vest and overalls, then strapped on his lamp, self-rescuer and his gas warning meter. He double checked the equipment, fastened his locker then walked to the pithead. There he picked up his tally and put it round his neck and waited for the cage to ascend.

The cage clanked up the shaft, the banksman opened the metal gates, and he walked in. By now there were a dozen other miners with him, most of them younger. He said little – listening to unlikely stories of their drinking exploits, sexual conquests and plans for the weekend. A weary smile flickered across his face. It was part of the rights of passage for most young men that had passed him by.

The pit wasn’t doing well. Every time the target was met, then it was raised again. There was no overtime. Everyone just had to work harder and smarter, but with tools and techniques that hadn’t changed for twenty years that was well nigh impossible.

The only way was to cut corners. Cages carried more men. Trains went faster, trucks were overloaded, machinery was fixed rather than replaced. Warnings were ignored.

The cage reached the bottom of the shaft, the onsetter opened the cage gates and they jumped on the train. It was a ten minute journey to the coal face. Most people quietened down at this point. Some tried to read their newspapers, others just stared blankly around them. The featureless walls and electric strip lighting provided no stimulus.

The train juddered to a halt and they jumped off and split up into their teams of six. Each team member had a role. Danny was a barrowman. The hewers, with a combination of drills and picks, win the coal from the coal face. It was the barrowman’s responsibility to separate the slate and shale, get the good coal into the tubs as quickly as possible and then hitch the tubs up so that they could be towed away. Their seam was too narrow to accommodate sophisticated machinery, but it contained anthracite of the highest quality.

The tub had their team name on. When it got to the surface it was weighed and the bonus for the team calculated. There was no room for shirkers, no time for rest. Any coal spilled cost money.
There was a slight incline down to the coal face following the dipping Silkstone seam. Pushing the tubs up the incline to join the train needed two strong men.

Danny didn’t like breaking rules. If a deputy or an overman caught you, it was instant dismissal. He fought a constant battle with the rest of the team about basic safety issues. Shoring took time but had to be done. Trucks were clearly marked as to where they could be filled to. The team could be fined if they broke the rules. But still they did it, particularly the younger guys. It caused friction in the team, arguments. Danny knew he was right but he gave in. He understood.

Underground it was constantly wet. Wet from perspiration, from clouds of exhaled air, but most of all from the water that leaked from the coal seams, making the anthracite gleam in the artificial light. It ran down the walls. It dripped from the roof. It often gushed out of the face when new coal was won.
A thick grey corrugated rubber tube ran to the coal face, occasionally moving of its own volition like a tentacle. When all else was quiet you could hear water gurgling through it and the distant hum of the pump that removed the water from the coalface.

Today, as often happened, the pump stopped. It was usually as a result of dust and grit clogging the filter. They were supposed to stop drilling and wait for maintenance to fix it. They all knew what that meant. Lost time and lost money.
As ever, they took a vote as to whether to stop. As ever, Danny was outvoted. They continued, the water rising slowly but inexorably, making the floor slippery.

A tub was full. The hewers stopped. Danny noticed it was well above the limit, but there would be no point in even suggesting unloading. They pushed the tub up the incline, coupled it to the next full one and tramped wearily back down. Sore, wet, tired, lungs heaving and sinews aching.
A dull thud echoed round the coal face. Miners became accustomed to all the noises they heard underground. This was different and immediately Danny looked round to see the tub trundling down the slope, slowly gathering speed and moving towards them. His mate hadn’t seen it. Danny yelled, but the hewers had started up and his mate couldn’t hear him. In desperation Danny pushed him out the way, but as he did so he slipped in the slurry produced by the water and coal dust. He regained his balance but it was too late. All he could do was grab the front of the tub and try and stop it. It was a losing battle. Although he kept his footing, he was pushed inexorably down the slope and pinned against the coal face. A jagged lump of coal pressed agonisingly into his back. The tub recoiled and he collapsed to the floor and lost consciousness.