Friday, February 15, 2013

Strangers On A Plane

Ah for fuck sake. 1 hour internal flight south from LA. Hot hot day and  I'm squashed between two massive fatties and the window. I look down as the plane rises out over the ocean and stare in shock at the amount of sharks I can see thrashing about down below. White caps cutting this way and that. Dark crescents beneath the blue surface. Sharks. Hundreds of them or waves. I'm deep In confusion and disbelief wondering if there's a massive feeding frenzy just off a Californian beach or whether I'm mistaking the sea's natural state when Mrs Happy Fatty nudges me and says"So where you going?"
I look across with utter dread. i am not good at talking to strangers. I have no small talk just big horrible tactless talk.

"I'm going to interview a band called Public Enemy for an English music newspaper."

the two massive fatties coo and wow and offer me some food. I am small, skinny, suedeheaded in a Lacoste Shirt I picked up In Brazil. I have dark blue linen shorts. On my lap sits my luggage. A bag with long trousers. A too hot Duffer top. A tape recorder and some tapes. A book.

They have their luggage. Food. My short attention no tolerance narrow minded short circuited inability to make small talk or friends already has them pegged as obese boring Americans using a short internal flight to scoff.

"Peter and I love music. We are going to see Dick Dale."

I think Robin Hood. Dick Dale. Alan A Dale. maybe some wooden faced MOR crooner?

"I've not heard of him."

Both of the fatties. "WHAT? Dick Dale, the guitar man. we goto see him everywhere. Every show we can afford. Conference centres, theme parks, rock and roll reviews, he's our favourite."

I'm trying to work out how they can both talk perfectly in unison. maybe they've said this many times before. I start to soften. they push a bag of Beigel Chips at me. I'm 21 and go on the road interviewing and reviewing bands.

"Well we have a lot in common then ..."

"James. I'm James. I'm the Features Editor of the New Musial Express in London. I love America. how often do you see this guy?"

The fatties have become people. Music people. I have something to talk to them about but they do all the talking. In unison.

"We've always loved Dick, ever since we were young. The other live bands just dropped away or broke up but Dick kept going. he's a great showman, his guitar music came before Surf music. You have such a great job. You get paid to do what we have to save up to do. but we don't let things get in our way. It's what we love doing.

"We have a son about your age but he prefers films, he works in a video store. All the time it's films. we can't understand why he doesn't want to come and see Dick with us any more. He used to when he was a little boy and we'd drive across state to see him but not now. he's got his own thing. we love Dick dale. he loves films."

We start to descend and they begin wrapping their food and putting back in boxes and "aloominum" foil. I check my bag and my pockets for my folded up itinerary. I've gone from narky narrow minded hungover cynic into having a great twenty minute blast of enthusiasm about this guitar player I've never heard of from two people I'd judged before I even talked to them. Welcome to my outlook.

I've gone from being trapped by size in a sun hot window seat wondering if there's an ocean of sharks below to happy and warm and inspired.

We land and stop and they struggle out of their seats, pushing the ones in front down. we are the last people off the plane, they are buzzing and upbeat. Happy music people, they can't move as fast as I but I wait after I've crossed the Tarmac at the steps up to the airport.

"it was nice to meet you, enjoy your concert. I'll look out for Dick Dale in the future."

"And you James, so nice to meet an Englishman in music too, you go and buy some of dick's records and if you're ever in Orange County look us up. Peter and Cathy Tarantino."

James Brown

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



It is like a chunky digital watch fastened around his ankle. It isn’t too tight. He rolls down the leg of his tracksuit bottoms and stands up, walks up and down the front room. It feels strange but not uncomfortable and there is no discernible bulge. You could look and don’t even know it was there. They connect the box up to the phone line and set the parameters around the house, twenty-five feet from the front door and the same for the back. They explain that he is able to leave his home after 06.45 am and that he must be back within range of the box by 18.45 pm. He tells them that he knows all the terms and conditions, that they’ve been explained to him several times over the past week or so. We are legally obliged to make all of this clear to you, they tell him. He signs the papers that confirm he understands and then they wish him all the best and they leave.
   He makes himself a brew and then sits at the kitchen table and rolls a smoke. He looks outside, at the back garden and the fence and the garages and houses beyond. The sky above the rooftops is dishwater grey with the promise of rain.
   He looks at the clock on the wall above the oven. It is twenty-seven minutes past two. Four hours and eighteen minutes to go. This time yesterday, that seemed like a lifetime.
   Today it is nowhere near enough. 

Russ L

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Horsemeat Surprise

“So Liam, why not tell us in your own words.  We think we know what you’ve done but the how and the why are evading us” said Sergeant Palmer.  Liam Noble looked back at Palmer with a look of disdain in his eyes.
“Have you even bothered to read my mission statement?” he asked tersely.
“Mission Statement?” Palmer replied.  “Is it in amongst that pile of papers we recovered from your van?
“Yes, it’s there along with my Risk Register, Risk Assessments of each project and a Method Statement.  Put them all together Sergeant and you’ll have your how and why”.
“Ok but how about you talk me through them, and then I’ll make sure to go back and read them later to get the full picture.”
“Fair enough” replied Noble.  “I’ll start with the mission statement.  It’s what defines my current project.  Something punchy that sums it up in an easy sound bite.
“I will be the most professional serial killer this country has ever seen”.
“And that’s it?” Palmer asked.  “And how exactly are you going to achieve this professionalism?”
“This is where I shine” grinned Noble.  I’ve been taking an e-learning course in Project Management.  I’ve even got a recognised qualification.  My genius is to take sound business skills and apply them to me more esoteric hobby.”
“Esoteric Hobby?”
“Well the qualification is called MSP – Managing Successful Programmes.  But I’ve applied it to my hobby is MSP is now Murdering Simple People”
“Mmmmmmm Ok but how does that fit in with your actual job?  I mean you aren’t some high flying suit in the city.  You deliver groceries for Tesco”.
“But don’t you see Sergeant – it’s perfect.” “Nobody ever sees a grocery delivery man as a threat.  They want you to come to the door, they’ll actively engage you in conversation and if your lucks really in you can even take the groceries inside so you get a look at their gaff”
“Look, I spend hours practicing smiling in the mirror.  I’ve got that down pat.  I read books on body language so I’m always presenting a non-verbal message of “He’s a cuddly little bear who won’t hurt anyone”
“I even follow a CSI tech on twitter who tweets from that day’s crime scenes.  You’ve got to get all the tips you can if you want to be the best.”
9 times out of 10 it works but sometimes you get a person who’s a bit more attuned.  They always take a second look in my eyes.  Nothing you can do about the eyes, can’t wear sunglasses on the doorstep.  My eyes are predators eyes.  Like a sharks.  Dark and emotionless, all they see is prey.  These are the customers who’ll complain that the driver was late or rude.  They know something wasn’t right but they aren’t sure what.
“How does this all fit in with your MSP?” Palmer sounded genuinely perplexed.
“Look, you’ve got the mission statement – you know what I want to be” The rest is easy:
Each delivery is a fresh risk assessment.  Have they got a dog? Are there too many shoes in the hall or on the doorstep indicating lots of kids, will they let me in with the groceries?  If they do let me in what kinds of locks do they have, is there an alarm panel, where’s the phone line etc”
All these things added with any info I can get during chatting with them let’s me colour code them in my risk register.  Red is a no go.  Amber – possible with difficulty.  Green is a lovely colour.  It means they are prime for a little re-visit at a later date.  Just me and my little toolkit with its collection of very painful toys.
“Right” Palmer sighed.  “I get it now.  Every delivery of yours is a stakeout of potential victims.  Ingenious in its own twisted way but how did you manage to gain entry to the houses you coded green on your register?
“Well this is the method statement.  My method is to attend the house later the same day, gain entry, subdue my chosen playmate and enjoy a few minutes or hours of recreation depending on how much fun they are being.”
“Ok but that’s not telling us how you actually got in.”
“Well the problem with the method statement was that I needed a trigger.  Something to switch off their guard when I knocked at the door.  And then Findus rode to the rescue.  Or pranced, trotted or jumped depending on which equestrian joke you prefer”
“Carry on” Palmer said fighting an urge to grab Noble and strangle the life out of him.
“The whole Findus Horse Meat debacle gave me the excuse I needed.”  “What I did is add an additional question to the risk register.”
 “Have they ordered Findus Lasagne or Tesco Everyday Spaghetti Bolognese?”
If they were green and ticked this box as well, all I did was knock at the door and explain “that the store had identified that they had bought a contaminated product.”
“All us drivers had been asked to work overtime and visit customers to retrieve the item as a precaution.”
 Invariably they turned away to go into the kitchen.  I’d step in smartly behind them, a strong blow to the back of the neck put them down and that was it.
Cable ties and a rag in the mouth and outside for my toolkit.  Play time.
“How many times did this work?” Palmer responded not quite believing what he was hearing.
“You’re the policeman and you have all the paperwork” Noble grinned  “Time to do a bit of legwork I’m afraid but I can guarantee you aren’t going to like what you find”  “I’m a very very good delivery driver”
Palmer got up and walked out. 
Noble relaxed back in his chair, all the difficult work was done.  All he had to do now was sit back and revel in the undoubted adulation that was coming his way.
Project Complete.

Brian T


I’ve took two of my tablets, but they haven’t touched the sides and now I’m back down here with a cup of hot chocolate and the gas fire on. I’ve tried to watch a bit of telly but it was the usual claptrap, so I switched it off. I’d put the radio on for the news, but it’ll just be the same stories they’ve been running all day; disgraced politician due for sentencing, heavy snow expected overnight, two lads from Wakefield killed in Afghanistan. She said she’d be home by midnight, but the hands on the clock don’t lie and they’re telling me it’s half past.
   There’s no chance of me sleeping. Not yet.
   I can hear voices going past the window. People coming back from nightclubs; no, not nightclubs, it’s not time for that yet is it? Pubs stay open longer now. Past one o’clock, some of them. That’s what she told me.
   Another cup of hot chocolate.
   Ten past one.
   I remember the first time we fostered. We’d heard an advert on the radio. It was that actress, that chubby one who was the vicar Of Dibley. She fostered as well. In real life, I mean. It came on while we were sat in traffic. You could really make a difference, she said. We’d talked about it, me and Raymond, discussed it from every angle and then we decided we were going to go for it. We waited for the advert to come on again. I kept a pen and a piece of paper ready and then a few days later I caught the number and rang them up. They come round to do a proper visit, make sure you’re clean living people with proper values.
   Quarter to bloody two. What time do nightclubs finish? It’s two o’clock, isn’t it, nightclubs?
   She might not be my daughter but she’s my responsibility. Until she’s eighteen years old, I’m held responsible. She’ll come back though. She always does. She’s just trying my patience. Testing the boundaries. I know her game. She must think I haven’t been through this a thousand times before. If Raymond were here she wouldn’t be acting up like this. That I do know.
   I’ll hear the key in the door and she’ll creep in with her shoes in her hand and I’ll be sat here with the lights off and the gas fire on and she’ll get the fright of her life Serves her right an’all, the fright she’s given me.
   Now then, Madam, I’ll say. What sort of time do you call this?

Russ L

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An encounter with The Great Beast

John, his wife, and the three kids, piled into the car still bleary eyed. It was 4am. Ahead of them was a nine hour slog to the remote end of Loch Ness.
John had rented a crofters cottage on the far shore, no phone signal, no internet, nothing.
The kids were giddy, tales of the monster abound. On arrival, the kids ran from room to room excitedly, arguing over who sleeps where. John looked at his wife. They both smiled.
John had set about bringing logs from the wood pile, pausing to take in the hypnotic majestic vista. The Highlands have a unique light. Ever changing. Liquid.

“I have to go into Inverness John” his wife said. “Forgotten allsorts.”
“Its miles away woman, we’ve been on the road since four”
“I’ll take the kids” she replied “you have a kip love, I won’t be long”
John passed her two twenty pound notes.
“Get a decent bottle of malt love, when in Rome and all that”…

John opened up the Ordinance Survey map onto the bed and pin pointed the position of the cottage. He noticed a name, written in tiny print. Boleskine House. It was less than a mile away along the shore.
Boleskine House is written into Scottish Folklore and has a dark history. Previous owners include several eccentrics and famously at one point, home to Led Zeppelin.
Its most infamous owner however, was one Aleister Crowley. Intellectual, Satanist, drug addict, madman. Got to have a nosey round that thought John, be a couple of hours before they’re back.

He approached the main gate from the Marshall Wade Road, September sunlight filtering
Through the vast  pines that lined the road. Apart from the occasional tweet of a songbird, Silence. The gates were padlocked. ‘For Sale. View by appointment only’ read the sign, It was empty.
John had a look around, then climbed over the low stone wall and into the one time lair of the man they called ‘The Great Beast 666’
A gravel drive led down to the property. The building was not what he’d expected, but a very large bungalow, whitewashed, and annexed at both ends. He cupped his hands up to his face and peered through the window, trying to imagine the tales those walls could tell. Murder, suicide, sacrifice, drug fuelled orgies, black magic ceremonies, and that was before Led Zeppelin moved in.
Round the back is an ancient burial site, leading down to the shores of Loch Ness.
John walked down, past the Gothic headstones, some dating back 900 years. Silence.
He’d never swallowed all that Hocus Pocus, ghosts and ghouls type stuff. It only exists in people’s heads. A fear of the unknown. All bollocks.

As John reached the Loch, thinking how great it would be to see the fabled creature, he noticed a small stone out building. Above the door, expertly carved into the lintel, was a pentangle. What horrors had that place witnessed? He wondered if it was done by the man himself.
Best get back thought John, they will be back from Inverness soon.
As he walked back toward the house, like something from the cheesiest horror film, a strong wind whipped around from nowhere. Clouds the colour of ink rolled in from across the Loch. Thunder cracked overhead, John’s pace quickened. He laughed to himself at the notion that he felt a bit uneasy. Time to leave.
As he approached the Croft, His wife was outside. She hurried towards him, clearly distressed.
“What’s wrong girl?” he said as she opened her arms.
“ I got a phone signal on the way back, your brother has been trying to get in touch, I’m so sorry John,.. your mum died suddenly this afternoon”

By the next morning, the bottle of fine single malt was empty.
All coincidence?...Yes. Still….


The Turquoise Nylon Multi pocketed Packed To Stretching Rucksack Explodes....

The Turquoise Nylon Multi pocketed Packed To Stretching Rucksack Explodes....

Every day my journeys are rapt with fear and fantasy. I take a mini-cab, a tube train, a bus, a bike or I walk but at some point I am either gripped with the possibility of terrorist attack - a rotten cheating unstoppable way to die - or lost in the make-up world my music gives me.

The music started in car parks, I realised one day I could appear in my own thriller scene. Taking something mundane and letting music and motion place me somewhere more intense than the subterranean office car park full of Mondeos. Everytime I glided into the car park at work three jobs ago I would slow the car right down and roll it as if in slo-mo. Picturing it from so many camera angles. A key moment in a thriller, the strange artificial light gliding between the concrete pillars and parked cars. Electronic pop coating the tension with icing. And then I would sit in the dark, staring at the wall until the song had finished. Those final moments of dread before the daily employment strait jacket is fitted again transformed into something dangerous, mysterious, exhilarating.

And then, when I didn't drive to work any more I would take the underground to the always spring fresh Sloane Square and hit OHMSS by John Barry and walk down the Kings Road with that startling Bond soundtrack pounding. I felt I could see myself from different angles again. A man doing something far more important than the daily commute. A man whose brain is multi-tracked with cinematic images, looks, sounds. I didn't consider myself to be in a film, just that my life was being filmed. that the parking of the car or The walk to work was singularly more gripping than it had every been for a few decades.

And then the fear started set in too. I started to notice it. from fantasy to paranoia. Just as my imagination allowed me the possibility of an existence as thrilling as the music I listen to, so it can condemn me to a possibility of terror.
the terrorist bombs on the underground in recent years, the attack on gay Old Compton Street before them, the IRA bombs in the burger bar years before that. all places I pass and use. It could have been any of us, it could happen again. that rucksack, that suitcase. Clothes or nails and explosives?

If I sit by the Perspex divider will the blast fly over my head? If I change carriages will it help? If I play music will it take me out of real life fear and into fantasy? Are they the same?

The decision to imagine a camera that gives a new purpose to a journey illustrated song. Is it any different to a decision to imagine darkness, noise, deafness, terror. The inability to stay alive in the face of a bomb.

And so I sit and look at the rucksack at my feet and wonder. Is this fear, is it fantasy, am I someone else? The music stops, no-one shouts cut and the Turquoise nylon multi pocketed packed to stretching rucksack explodes....

James Brown