Friday, March 1, 2013

Wish You Were Here...?

Wish You Were Here...?
We’ve all been there, had a fantastic holiday, the last couple of days ever so slightly tainted by the fact that the wonderful suspension of reality is drawing to a close and you are about to return to your somewhat humdrum existence. It’s only natural to feel a little glum, to find the journey home disagreeable, maybe even shed a tear. Unfortunately I shed far more than that and there was nothing natural about it.
It had all started so well. Having spent an idyllic fortnight on Phi Phi Island quaffing Singha beer, overeating and lazing around in the most breathtaking surroundings, it was now time to draw this wondrous experience to a close. This meant a two hour boat trip from Tonsai to Phuket followed by a night in Patong before taking on the arduous eighteen hour journey to Heathrow via Bangkok.
Patong is essentially my idea of hell, it is everything that is bad about western tourists, the places that cater for us and the ignorant way we behave. Bangla Road in Patong is where I would be spending my final hours in Thailand, a place full of ladyboys, prostitutes, blaring music, souvenir hawkers and cheap booze. Not my usual habitat but for one night I would appreciate it’s unsubtle charms.
My girlfriend and I checked in at our plush hotel and headed for the bright lights and brouhaha. It was quite early and still light so we decided to go for a couple of drinks before finding a restaurant. So far so sensible and civilised. We found a bar called The Shipwreck and plonked ourselves down to marvel at the mayhem in front of us. At this point there was nothing to indicate that I would soon be entering my own personal world of mayhem.

Amazed at the freak show right before our eyes, we decided that we’d eat later and enjoy a few more drinks. A decision which would ultimately lead to me forfeiting my dignity. A rather loud, disparate group of antipodeans soon sat on the adjoining table; this would ordinarily have been my cue to leave but somehow I became embroiled in conversation with these Australian hicks. Fishermen, a fisherman’s mother who’d come to Thailand to have her teeth fixed, her husband who was younger than her son, a strange bunch. 

Before too long my girlfriend and I had fully integrated into this cluster of boozing oddballs, we’d foregone our romantic meal overlooking the Andaman Sea and the tone of the evening had altered considerably to something rather more raucous. No longer handicapped by my usual inability to dance I was in fact dancing, flamboyantly flinging a fisherman’s mother around an impossibly small bar to be precise. What fun. Further drunken chaos ensued until fisherman’s mother, during a break from our gyrations, plunged headfirst from her stool and rendered herself virtually unconscious. With fisherman’s mother swiftly dispatched to her hotel, we continued to drink with our new found friends. Now, my girlfriend is not necessarily sensible where drink is concerned, far from it in fact. However, on this occasion she must have been able to spot the folly in going drink for drink with these interbreeding sea dogs as she had tempered her intake. Believing I could imbibe with the best of them, I applied myself to the task in hand and was probably discussing joining them for a life on the ocean waves or some such rubbish. This meeting of minds continued and following a desperate struggle swallowing some tequila we all headed for another bar. We’re now approaching the outer limits of my memory; I recall my flip flop tearing apart and continuing with it’s remnants flapping around my ankle but apart from that the only thing I can bring to mind is the indignation of being amongst some of the most beautiful women in South-East Asia yet being approached by the most unfortunate looking Thai woman I’d ever seen. To her credit she was quite a tenacious troll, not at all perturbed by the presence of my girlfriend or my polite revulsion. Anyway, these were the giddy highs, all I had now were the degrading lows offered by tomorrow.

I was awoken by violent shivering, an aching, blackened foot and other unidentifiable yet ominous sensations. I slowly orientated myself with my surroundings and tried to process whatever information I could gather. Whilst I couldn’t really recognise the room I was most heartened to see that the figure sharing the bed was not only female but also actually my girlfriend. Result. I briefly wondered if my physical discomfort might be attributed to any of last night’s characters but decided to put that thought to one side.

My girlfriend soon arose as we had a fairly early flight. Ever the gentleman, I told her to use the bathroom before me, an act of kindness for which we would both later be truly thankful. It was finally my turn. The apparition gradually emerging through the steamy mirror bore a faint likeness to me although certainly not the tanned Adonis of yesterday. I closed my eyes and foolishly failed to appreciate what would be my last moment of calm for hours. The toothbrush was the trigger, no sooner had I popped it into my mouth, I began regurgitating like an emperor penguin with a hungry brood. I hung my head over the toilet until the animal noises subsided. Thinking I’d expelled all that was necessary I climbed into the shower, this would revive me, I’d soon be back in the land of the living. Not so. The pain in my body demanded that I adopt a foetal position, all the better for evacuating my bowels whilst retching of course. This was beginning to make Midnight Express look like Center Parcs. Crouched in a shower tray full of liquid faeces and bile my thoughts turned to the gruelling journey ahead, I had about an hour to get myself into shape otherwise I’d be going nowhere.

My girlfriend went for breakfast and left alone in my cell I racked my seemingly shrunken brain for a solution, the same useless brain I might add that had got me into this mess. Lay down on the bed was it’s response. Not exactly a eureka moment considering how little benefit I’d derived from the last four hours of laying down, was another twenty minutes of supine panting really going to help? Of course not. All too soon my time was up and I had to make my way to reception to check out. I say ‘check out’, in reality I just relocated my retching from the hotel room to the restaurant toilets.

A minibus arrived to take us to Phuket Airport and I was still some way from having what could be considered a settled stomach. I was hopeful that we would be the only passengers on the minibus so that I could continue to heave into a carrier bag in a less self conscious way. Obviously that couldn’t happen and two bright, chatty women sat directly in front of us. Although these rather large women had taken an age to haul themselves on to the minibus and into tiny Thai-sized seats, the speed with which they moved on hearing my maiden on-board animal roar was quite incredible, leaping over seats like seasoned free runners. My ashamed girlfriend apologised on my behalf whilst they cowered as far away as possible within the confines of a minibus. Inured to this abasement, I continued to heave, burp and sweat when I ought to have been taking in my final sights of Thailand’s beauty.

For my girlfriend the situation reached it’s nadir at Phuket Airport. Having struggled through check in, I made straight for the heavily used Thai latrine and unloaded from every orifice. Thinking that by this time there was little inside me other than shrivelled organs I joined my my girlfriend who was struggling to find a seat in the departure lounge and to her credit she was still managing to extend something akin to sympathy towards me; this was soon to change. What I hoped was about to be a belch leaped from my mouth in the form of spew. Suddenly free seats in my general vicinity were abundant. My girlfriend was furious but thankfully my delirium shielded me from the vicious tongue lashing I was no doubt receiving. Fighting her natural instinct to disown me, she presented me with a tiny plastic bag to use. This may have been helpful for a hyperventilating toddler but not so a fully grown man throwing up with the force of a water cannon. Even in my exhausted state I could see that the tiny bag would only serve to funnel bile up into my face and as such I continued to use the floor. Now, what would any decent, self respecting man do in this situation? That’s right, half heartedly tread it into the carpet with a flip flop.

This turned out to be the last expulsion from my withered body but taking no chances I spent the next eighteen hours with a sick bag to hand, refusing liquids to the point of desiccation.
I maintain that I was suffering from both poisoning of some sort and amoebic dysentery; my girlfriend insists I drank too much and that I’m an idiot. 

Tim Mac

Some of the names haven’t been changed

Some of the names haven’t been changed

Nev from Buchanans told me Harry used to be an alki.  That he'd to carry the first two pints of the day over to Harry's table.  And, when he'd drunk them, Harry would finally stop shaking.  Nev really should've said "Shaking like a shitting dog."  But this was 1983 and Nev was still only sweeping the floor between shifts and no-one talked to him very much. 

So I’m standing with Harry one day, watching, out of the corner of my eye, the dealers and buyers, who always congregated by the phone box, like they were invisible, or thought  none of the locals would ever dream of ringing the cops.  As I’m spying, Harry surveyed the kids’ new playground.  Young Asians swung, hung and yelled from every piece of apparatus; a shifting rainbow of silk and sportswear. 

“Council’s built it for t‘Pakis,” said Harry, nodding helpfully in their direction.  

Martin C

Monday, February 25, 2013

People Person

People Person

Cheryl used to love her job once. Well actually it wasn’t a job as such, it was a business. She had bought the café outright from her settlement money from her ex-husband Geoff. Years of abuse and treading on egg shells in a violent partnership hadn’t actually been what she looked forward to after leaving college. Fifteen years of not knowing when you were going to receive your next backhander because his tea wasn’t quite up to standard was enough for anyone she thought. After a surprisingly trouble free divorce from ‘the bastard’ as she liked to refer to him in front of her friends had enabled her to buy the café and tart it up into a little coffee shop. In the beginning and for the first few years she loved the day to day chat with customers and building up a regular clientele. Customers would come every day for a chat and to shoot the breeze over nothing in particular on their lunch breaks and to be honest Cheryl thought that she had never been happier.
 Things started to change when customers started to show up with laptops, phones and I pads. No one seemed to want to know anymore they just wanted to stare into the small screen and shut themselves off from the rest of the world. All Cheryl began to see were sets of hunched shoulders with an LCD screen reflecting in the faces of the once chatty customers. Coffee almost seemed to be an inconvenience, it meant looking up from the screen or talking the headphones out to say thanks you if they could be bothered. It wasn’t long before something snapped inside of Cheryl. She was a people person after all, she needed the interaction in fact she loved it. The customers didn’t notice, they were too busy playing Angry Birds or looking at yet another picture of a friends baby on Facebook.
The day after Cheryl’s mind snapped though there were a few changes. Well putting poison in the latte would alter things slightly wouldn’t it? All six customers that day had a good old swig of cyanide in their Latte Grande that morning. When the police finally got into the café a couple of hours later after a tip off from a whizz kid who wanted to charge his Mac and couldn’t get in the cafe for his free electricity they realised what a people person Cheryl was as she held court around one of her larger tables to the six dead customers who were propped neatly around the dining table, which incidentally had a small pile of electronic gear that had been smashed to smithereens. Rumour has it that Cheryl was waxing lyrical about the weather!


Booze Liberation: Part One

Booze Liberation: Part One

I currently have that feeling, not unlike when its my birthday, where I sort of feel special, as though I have a secret which I ought to tell people. And just as one doesn't go telling all and sundry that its the anniversary of one’s birth, I keep this special secret to myself. The special thing which singles me out, my achievement which would interest few outside of my doctor and mother is that I've stopped boozing. I trust you haven't been overcome by this powerful revelation and apologies if you have; compose yourself, take your time, time isn't pressing, in fact time is something I've been granted abundantly since my abstinence commenced.

I know, it does seem as though I'm giving this much greater import than might be deserved but its’ a big deal for me. The background is this, I’m forty before too long and I’ve come to learn that I could have taken slightly better care of my body. It has served me far better than it ought to have done; we’re in an abusive relationship and have been for more than twenty years. I have actually and metaphorically, done the the dirty on it, slapped it around, starved it, drugged it, sexually abused and coerced it. I could go on, suffice to say that my body has seen some pretty bleak lows. In fact, the only tenderness I afforded this carcass was good hygiene and dental care. How the liver must have envied the teeth and their thrice daily pampering whilst it endured another punishing day. In short, I drove it like I’d stolen it. Now, like a battered wife getting a second chance with the man of her dreams after years of stoically keeping up appearances, my body is eloping to a life of actual, regular foodstuffs and more importantly - no alcohol.

My drinking wasn’t necessarily ‘off the scale’; less Ollie Reed, more Queen Mum. The quantities themselves weren’t enormous but the daily regularity was absolute. Just as a matter of course, going about my daily business, I’d drink seven or eight pints. These would be drinks to accompany reading the paper, working from home, web browsing, listening to music, watching television. Any normal activity seemed suited to a drink. To be frank I’m not sure I was even enjoying it any longer, it was just habitual, tea and toast for breakfast, stella for elevenses and so on. I haven't ever really been one for convention and couldn't see why alcohol couldn’t be enjoyed just as much in the morning as at any other time of day. I’ve also been known to eat breakfast cereal in the evening.

I didn’t ever consider my drinking problematic and still don’t to be honest; I’m sure a doctor would say otherwise but the quantity didn’t trouble me just the routine. I detest routine and had allowed myself to fall into a routine albeit a somewhat unconventional one.

I should point out that twenty plus years of drinking hasn’t done me any harm, not lasting harm at least. I don’t want this to be perceived as some kind of evangelical anti-booze campaign; I personally decided to give my poor withered body a break, that’s all.

As mentioned earlier, I now seem to be awash with time, having a tea or coffee somewhere isn’t the drawn out experience that nursing a pint is and of course little time need be occupied considering which establishment to offer my patronage, one is very much like another. In fact tax avoidance and fair trade or not are the only considerations.

So now I find myself going about my daily business with a clear head. This isn’t quite the boon that you may think, a man with my cynical nature easily finds too many answerless questions. There are benefits of course, more money in my pocket, less likelihood of embarrassment and bowel movements you could only dream of. I’ll see how it goes...

Here's A Link To A Promo For Our Good Friend Russ Litten's New Book

25th May 2008

In the Blue Corner
Leeds United. The pride of Yorkshire. The Peacocks who had once strutted round the greatest stadiums in Europe. Their fans now inured to failure and spending their first ever year out of the first division as a result of the disingenuousness of their bombastic, megalomaniac chairman.

In the Red Corner
Doncaster Rovers. A grubby corner of Yorkshire which had stood still since the end of the miner's strike. A team that were on the verge of extinction four years ago. Their supporters, flat-hatted whippet lovers, more used spending their Sundays sitting in deckchairs watching the Black Dyke Mills band in a rain-sodden park.

Went to buy a souvenir scarf – inappropriate summer wear as by this time it was a sunny and warm day. However, these things have to be done.
Made principled but ultimately ill-advised decision not to put any more money into Football League’s coffers by declining to buy a ‘homecrafted pie’ at the bargain price of £6.
Chose instead to purchase a burger of uncertain ancestry from a stall on Wembley Way for £3.00. Spent most of Monday on the toilet as a direct result of this.

The first half was forgettable. They were all over is in the first twenty minutes. Only the heroics of the much-maligned Ankergren preventing a rout.
The goal seemed inevitable, but the manner unexpected. |Their 5ft 9 in centre forward rising above our two towering centre halves and heading home a corner.

We hardly strung one set of passes together.
It wasn't until the last five minutes that we looked like scoring.
Just on ninety minutes, a long throw was punched out by the portly Sullivan. Cleanly, but without a lot of power.
The ball cleared all the players in the penalty and bounced invitingly for a player positioned thirty yards from the goal for such an eventuality.

This could be our last chance. A perfect opportunity to level the game. I looked to my left and recognised the aquiline profile and slightly hunched gait of Jonathan Douglas.
My heart sank. The one player you didn't want to have possibly your last shot on goal. A man who couldn't hit a bull with a baking board.
To my pleasant surprise, he adjusted his speed, measuring his stride perfectly so that he could hit the ball on the volley. Maybe I'd misjudged him.

The whole of the Leeds end fell silent. The thud of his boot hitting the ball could be heard clearly. For a cruel fraction of a second, I thought the ball was going in. By the time it reached the penalty area, it was obvious that the laws of physics would have to be broken if it was to go anywhere near the goal.
The ball crossed the goal line at the edge of the penalty area, still rising, and landed roughly 5 yards behind the corner flag.

You could hear the sighs from the Leeds fans. You could hear the hoots of derision from the Donny fans. A minute later, the whistle went.

Post Match
Herded like cattle by unsmiling cockney coppers dreaming of their overtime bonuses onto overcrowded trains, seemingly outnumbered 2:1 by happy Donny fans. They were ok. I was sat opposite one. He talked to me like I was a little old lady whose dog had just been knocked down in the road in front of her. I didn't feel as good as that. The journey home was going to be a long one. As was the next season.