Friday, 20 April 2012

Martin #7

Martin woke up at two fifteen this afternoon with what he reckoned to be the worst hangover he’s experienced this year. He described it  as having a head like the Falklands and a mouth like Ghandi’s flip flop. The first word to pass his lips was the weakly posed question,
 I didn’t reply. At this stage me replying would only prompt him to start begging for a cup of tea. Half an hour later he stumbled miserably across to the bathroom using the wall to guide him. As he emptied his bladder of the previous evenings consumptions he strung together his first sentence of the day,
          ‘Strewth, it smells like an Aborigines armpit.’
He’d been favouring this particular phrase recently. I’m not sure where he got it from but anything from trainers to tequila has been described in this way over the past few weeks. Understanding that he’d now regained the power of speech I asked if he wanted anything from the shop. He immediately rejected the offer but knowing he wasn’t quite of sound mind I reminded him that there wasn’t any food in the house.
           ‘Not to worry mate, I’ve still got some kebab left up here, I’ll just have that.’
 I did suggest that he probably shouldn’t eat a tepid leftover kebab but he reassured me that he’d eaten worse things in the past. He was telling the truth. Last night he ate three teabags just so I’d lend him a cigarette. Why can’t he just ask for a cigarette? He’ll only ever borrow one or steal one. If questioned on this there’s only three possible outcomes, he’ll either promise its return, assure me that he’s never going to give it back or just tell me to shut up and give me a fag you massive ponce. He’ll finish the latter on a different derogatory term each time.

When I returned from the shop I found Martin sat in his favourite armchair in a somewhat melted fashion. He was wearing nothing but a pair of black moccasin slippers, a kilt and a large grey woollen poncho; this was his usual round the house attire. His favourite armchair is only his favourite because he broke one of the arms off a year ago trying to build a fort to watch “Saving Private Ryan” in. He still insists that he did it on purpose to allow for easy access, ‘It’s important to acquire easy access where ever possible’ is another of his more favoured phrases.
          ‘It’s rent day tomorrow, I’m going to the bank at twelve.’ I said with little confidence, hoping for a positive response. He sat up straight with determination in his eye’s. this wasn’t a good sign,
          ‘I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that old mate,’
I had a feeling this was coming,
          ‘Now I don’t want you to panic. It’s on it’s way but it’s probably not going to be here by tomorrow; I’d say forty eight hours, seventy two tops.’ Now I’ve never been the best at putting my foot down, but there comes a time when putting your foot down falls into the margin of necessity.
          ‘The rent is due tomorrow Martin,’ I said with conviction, ‘I can’t afford to cover you this time, even for twenty four hours, so you’ll have to pay in full. I’m going out I’ll be back in an hour, in that time sort your life out, or at the very least the rent.’ He fell silent with thought. I dumped the shopping in the kitchen and headed for the front door, just as I turned the handle Martin called out,
          ‘I can definitely do forty eight hours.’ I snapped back,
          ‘The rent is tomorrow at twelve, sort it out!’ I slammed the door behind me.
           As I stepped into the brisk November breeze for the second time today two things went through my mind. The first was empathy, I hate being hard on him I know he tries and he means well; he just can’t seem to survive in modern day society. He has his plus points, he gets free cinema tickets from his part time job serving popcorn; it’s just a shame he doesn’t get paid enough to cover the rent (He has his plus point). The other thing that struck my mind was, where am I going? This wasn’t the plan for my afternoon at all. I was hoping to watch “The Good The Bad and The Ugly”. I’ve just bought the uncut collectors edition, it’s three hours and ten minutes long and would have easily taken up the vast majority of my afternoon. There’s really only one place I could go, the pub.
            Our local pub, The Crispin, has an endearing, sometimes difficult to find charm to it. It’s small with dangerously low ceilings and would be described by most alcoholics as a good old English pub. It’s full of the older generation, “veterans of the ale” as Martin calls them, in fact Martin and I are by far the youngest people to frequent this dying establishment. Why we don’t go to somewhere more suited to our age group remains a mystery but it probably explains why we’re both in our mid-twenties and still single. I haven’t seen a woman walk into the Crispin for quite some time. The last women that did walk through the decrepit beige door of the Crispin were only looking for directions and made a very sharp exit once they’d got them. I blame the smoking ban, not because those women were smokers, but since the overwhelming scent of cigars and pipe tobacco has gone there is a different scent in the air. Its replacement is the stench of stale beer, sweaty old people and dust. There is a lot dust in this place. Shelves of worthless antiquity and books that haven’t been read since the dawn of televised sport are all caked in dust. ‘But the bar is clean.’ Martin always firmly states in its defence. The bar is pretty clean, it’s the only place that Tracy (the landlady) can be bothered to reach. The regulars often comment on the cleanliness of the bar as well, I think Martin sees them as some kind of role model.

           As I squeezed through the tiny decrepit door I saw Rory propping up the bar. Rory always puts a smile on my face, he’s eighty four, which everyone who comes into contact with him knows as he starts nearly every conversation with ‘Now I’m eighty four and when…’ He’s usually completely pissed at any given time of day but he has some incredible stories to tell. They’re mostly of when he was fighting in Rhodesia and he delights in telling anyone who has the time to listen, you can take it from me, they are well worth listening to but you do need a lot of time; Rory is difficult to understand at the best of times and due to his perpetual drunken state he repeats himself a lot. It’s precisely this reason why the sight of Rory put a smile on my face. Today time is something I have a lot of. I strolled up to the bar with a spring in my step, a gleam in my eye and a big grin smeared across my face; minding carefully not to decapitate myself on the inconveniently low ceiling. As I drew closer Rory -alerted to my presence- turned and smiled back at me with his glazed inebriated eye’s and barely any teeth,
          ‘Hello young man.’ He slurred in a welcoming manner.
          ‘Alright Rory,’ I cheerfully replied and no sooner had I pulled up a stool next to my spirituous, geriatric friend a shadow crept over me and enquired in the most unenthusiastic tone imaginable,
          ‘What’s your poison?’ I’d know that drab monotone voice anywhere but still I thought I’d attempt to add something to her otherwise dreary existence and act a little surprised,
          ‘Hello Trace, fancy seeing you here.’ Her face didn’t move, not even the faintest hint of emotion.
           ‘I’m always here. What are you drinking?’ she replied blankly. Tracy was always very direct with her conversation.
          ‘Just the usual please Trace,’ I answered with added familiarity.
          ‘Which is?’ She persisted, thwarting my personable efforts. I decided to stop this profitless exchange of pleasantries,
          ‘Just the strongest cheapest pint you’ve got please.’
          ‘I’ve got some Smoked Porter, it’s five and a half  percent but it’s the end of the barrel so it’ll   probably give you the squits.’
          ‘Perfect.’ I answered with a degree less enthusiasm and still searching her face for the slightest glimmer of emotion.
          ‘That’ll be three pounds forty five.’
          ‘Just put it on my tab Trace.’
          ‘You haven’t got a tab.’ I begrudgingly handed her the money then turned to Rory to hear this afternoon’s tale of adventure and other mumbling nonsense that will inevitably be thrown in for good measure.
          ‘So Rory, the last time I saw you, you were having trouble with your heating, have you got that sorted yet? It’s getting colder you know.’ He raised his eyebrows in a vain attempt to open his drunken eyes a bit further.
          ‘Now you listen here. I’m eighty four and when I was your age we didn’t have any of this so called “central” heating…’ A warm nostalgic feeling washed over me. I took a long sip of my slightly off pint and nestled into my stool.

            Today’s delightful tale was all about the time he acquired a pet chameleon named George and how on more than one occasion George had saved his life. Apparently one night back in Rhodesia, Rory was on night watch sitting lonely and petrified; as anyone on night watch would. As he put it,
           ’It’s night watch, you sit there wetting yourself, that’s all you do all night, you just sit there and you wet yourself.’
           As he was sat there wetting himself on this particular occasion a chameleon climbed onto the barrel of his rifle. Having never seen a chameleon before he didn’t know what to do, but staying true to his training he just stayed still. The chameleon proceeded to climb along his rifle, up his arm and perched itself on top of his helmet. Eventually he deemed the creature to be relatively harmless and decided to keep it; he named it George after King George VI because the friendly reptile had sat on his crown. Back at camp George became something of a mascot. Rory’s superior officers saw what the little thing was doing for the troops morale and as it was named after the king, decided it could only be a good thing and let them keep it.

               There was one village near their camp and fortunately, this village contained a small bar. The troops seized every opportunity they possibly could to frequent this primitive bar. Unfortunately -being at war- they were never really welcome in it. Often -through no fault of their own- fights broke out between the local men and the English soldiers; which unsurprisingly did nothing to warm the locals hospitality. George changed all of this. Rory began to keep George in an old shoe box and took him nearly every where he went. On one fateful evening Rory took his little friend to the village bar with him. He and his comrades sat at the bar amid the usual hostile murmurings but as soon as they opened the box to let little George out everyone in the whole place ran out in terror, even the owner ducked behind the bar in a flash and he wouldn’t come out until George was back in his box. Rory was understandably perplexed by this drastic reaction. He asked the barman what had brought it on. It turned out that chameleons are very bad luck and the Rhodesian people are a suspicious bunch. They were told the fable of the chameleon as children and these little reptiles are such bad luck that people are petrified of them. Still trying to understand the severity of the locals reaction to George, Rory asked to be told this strange fable.

At the very beginning of time everyone’s skin was coloured and all people looked the same. So God created a fountain to turn their skin white. God then sent an animal to every nation to show them the way to the fountain. The people of Rhodesia were given the chameleon. Unfortunately because the chameleon is so slow and hesitates on every step by the time the Rhodesians reached the fountain it had all but dried up. This is why the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet are white but the rest of their body is still coloured.

It’s safe to say that this fable didn’t explain anything to Rory. If anything it just confused him more. Even so, from that day onwards, every time the troops visited the village bar Rory marched at the front of the company with George perched in his favourite spot, right on top of his head.

               It took about three hours and four pints for our inebriated veteran to tell this tale. It was exactly what I needed, he’s like the bald ugly granddad I never wanted but loved all the same. I thanked him for his story and thanked Tracy for her pleasant company then headed back home to see if Martin had made any progress on the rent.
               Upon returning to our humble home I found him dressed head to toe in black and stuffing a length of rope into a rucksack,
          ‘Martin, what are you up to?’
           ‘ I’m going to rob the cat sanctuary.’ He replied as if his intentions couldn’t have been more obvious. I studied his face for a moment or two waiting for the punch line or even for him just to reveal his true intentions. He just carried on.
          ‘You can’t seriously rob the cat sanctuary.’
          ‘Of course I can, think about it, there’s loads of money and the only security is a bunch of spoilt cats. It’s brilliant! Besides I’m not going to completely rob the place, just enough to cover the rent; it’s purr-fect.’ he said with a smirk.
          ‘You’re insane.’
          ‘I’m not insane, I’m a genius, I’m a cat burglar.’ he zipped up his rucksack and slung it over his shoulder with a worrying amount of determination.
          ‘Martin you can’t rob the cat sanctuary, it’s just mental.’ I tried to reason with him, ‘there are other ways of getting money rather than just robbing the innocent, if you get caught they’ll lock you up.’
          ‘ And then I won’t have to pay any rent at all.’ he pronounced with an annoying amount of smugness. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I still felt bad for snapping at him, maybe it was my own stupidity, perhaps it was the stories of bravery I heard earlier, most likely it was the four pints of slightly off ale I’d quaffed previously. Whatever it was, within half an hour I was walking nervously down the street with what, in all honesty, looked like a Tesco value gorilla impersonator. No fur, no frills, no mask, no thought, no effort, Tesco. I made countless attempts to convince him this was a monumental mistake, but he wouldn’t listen and before I knew it the cat sanctuary was just up ahead; quietly standing opposite the Molly Millers. The Molly Millers is the kind of pub Martin and I should be going to. It has three pool tables, a dance floor, a jukebox and not forgetting regular visits by those of the opposite sex. The best the Crispin has to offer is man boobs and a semi-pornographic quiz machine. The Crispin does have a sense of security about it though and by the time we reached our destination a fight had already broken out between two wannabe rappers outside the Molly Millers front door. No action was being taken to stop it, the bar staff of the Molly Millers only intervene when the fight is inside the premises, anything outside is usually considered to be fair game. Martin patted my shoulder,
          ‘Have fun watching the fight mate, I’ll be back in five.’ Before I could stop him he’d dived over the side gate of the sanctuary and my attempts to change his mind were reduced to a pathetic whisper of, ‘Martin’. I turned to watch the idiots fighting. In an odd way I do enjoy a good pub fight. We’ve stopped to watch quite a lot of fights outside of the Molly’s; more often than not we’d have a pint riding on the victor. This form of gambling is -in my opinion- by far the hardest to predict as no one knows how much the two fighters have had to drink. There is every chance that eventually they’ll just sit on the curb crying and confessing their undying love for each other. For this fight my money would be on the little one on the left. The man on the right is much bigger and older but it would appear from their shouting that the big man on the right slept with the little ones girlfriend. Strength and stamina goes a long way but when you’re paralytic motivation counts for everything; plus the little guy is wearing an excessive amount of rings on his fingers. We’ll never know the outcome of this scuffle as after just a few seconds the loud unmistakable scream of a police siren tore down the road to break it up. After my initial feeling of disappointment a sudden look of fear took over my face, ‘Martin!’. Before I could think my fear turned into terror as the scream of the sirens was drowned out by the much closer scream of the cat shelter alarm system. I froze. Then I did something worse, I ran. With my heart pumping adrenaline through my veins at an incredible rate, I ran faster than I can remember and I didn’t look back until I’d reached home. As I reached the garden gate My heart sank . I looked back down the street, partly to check that the police weren’t behind me but mostly in the hope that Martin was following me. The street was empty. A foolishly optimistic part of me deduced that he was obviously inside waiting for me. He wasn’t, which left nothing for me to do but sit and wallow in my own self pity.

               For the first hour I convinced myself that I had run so fast it would take him a while to catch up. That was a futile and self-indulgent notion. I went through the events in my mind over a over again, every time I did I just felt worse. I never even called out to tell him to run. There isn’t a more depriving emotion than that which is born of deserting those you care about when they need it most; nothing makes a man feel so worthless. Evidently I’ve learnt nothing of bravery from Rory’s stories. I waited up all night trying to cheer myself by watching predictable game shows hosted by stand-up comedians who seem to have stopped doing any actual stand-up. At some point I fell asleep slumped in Martins one armed chair. When I awoke I felt no better. I spent the whole day pacing up and down swearing at myself. I called his mobile at strict fifteen minute intervals but it was always switched off. I even considered contacting the local police station to see if he’d been picked up. That was a stupid idea, if he hadn’t been I’d just be landing us both in trouble. The minutes passed like hours, eventually the day grew dark and my own personal darkness refused to fade. It wasn’t until eight o’clock that I heard what might as well have been an angel singing down our street,
          ‘I’m Henry the eighth I am, Henry the eighth I am, I am. I got married to the widow next door, she’s been married seven times before and every one was an Henry. She wouldn’t take a Willy nor a Sam. I’m her eighth old man named Henry, Henry the eighth I am.’
          Straight away I knew it was him. Martin sang that Herman’s Hermits classic everyday at exactly eight o’clock; he has an alarm set on his phone specifically for this purpose. The great elation of his return though was swiftly followed by my own disgrace. How could I face him after deserting him in his hour of need. My heart filled with dread as he fumbled for his keys and opened the front door. I stood to meet him but before I had a chance to grovel shamelessly he burst out with,
          ‘Oh thank funkadelic for that! Mate, I thought you’d been nicked.’ Still a mix of relief and self-loathing I was now a bit in shock,
          ‘No, you were nicked. Where have you been? I’ve been up all night pooing my pants thinking you’d been picked up by the rozzers’
          ‘Not at all mate, I set the sanctuary alarm off as soon as I set foot in the back garden then the pigs rolled up so I just legged it. I figured I couldn’t come straight back here, I might lead the fuzz back here so I went round Jaffa Cake James’s house. We ended up having a bit of a Grand Theft Auto marathon and I slept on his sofa.’

Jaffa Cake James is so called because he has a large round face with bright ginger hair and a bright ginger beard that only seems to grow around the circumference of his face. It has often been noted that if James was of a black origin, he would look just like a Jaffa Cake.

For a fleeting moment I thought I should be angry at Martin. I couldn’t be, we were both as bad as each other. I still snapped a little bit at him though,
          ‘So you’ve been sat around Jaffa Cake’s house playing games whilst I’ve been stewing here worried sick!’ An enormous smile stretched across Martin’s face,
          ‘Sorry Mum. Good news as well mate, Jaffa Cake’s lent me the rent so we’re all square again, Good times!’
          I didn’t know what to think. Should I be angry at him or just relieved that the whole ordeal was over. Before I could decide he butted in again,
          ‘So what time are we heading down the Crispin then?’
          ‘We’re not going down the Crispin. Are we?’
Martin looked back at me with a confused look on his face,
          ‘We’ve got to go down the Crispin. It’s the biggest event of the year.’ I looked back at him with a confused look on my face. Noticing the searching look in my eyes Martin jogged my memory,
          ‘It’s Rory’s birthday! I spent three days making a piñata filled with Sambuca miniature’s; it was supposed to be a llama but if I’m completely honest, it looks more like a demented badger.’
          ‘Ball bags! I completely forgot, what am I going to give him?’
          ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll just tell him we both made the badger and you can pay me back by getting the drinks in.’
          ‘Deal, thanks Mart’.’
          ‘No worries, lets get a wriggle on though, I don’t want to miss the cake, I am proper Hank Marvin.’ With that He disappeared into his room. Seconds later he reappeared holding an odd shaped mess of coloured paper with “Rory” scribbled half heartedly across it in black marker. I haven’t seen many piñata’s in my time but this was definitely the worst example I’ve ever seen. Having said that I was quite proud of his efforts. I grabbed my coat, gave Martin a high five and we headed for the Crispin.
          ‘You didn’t happen to see who won the fight outside the Molly’s did you? My money was on the little one with the rings.’ Martin enquired,
          ‘I’d call it a draw, it was pretty even until the cops showed up.’
          ‘Shame.’ He looked genuinely disappointed with that outcome.

As we entered the pub there was a cheeriness in the air which was unusual for this particular establishment but very much noticeable as I ducked through the tiny old beige door. The party was well underway, or at least as much as it could be for a dusty old pub full of geriatric drunken men. As it was my round I headed straight for the bar. Martin burst through the door behind me cradling his pitiful paper badger and shouting at the top of his voice,
           ‘Happy birthday Rory you old Slag!’ It set the whole pub off in a raucous cheer followed by a few chuckling murmurings of ‘you slag.’
           ‘Evening Trace, might I say you are looking ravishing this evening.’ She said nothing ‘I’ll have my usual please Tracy and times it by two.’
          ‘What’s that then?’ She solemnly replied. Even on this happiest of occasions she expertly concealed any sense of feeling or emotion, it really is quite a remarkable gift. I decided to let Martin choose.
          ‘Martin! What’s your poison?’ He was busy showing off his badger to the regulars who were huddled around it, inspecting its every detail. Without looking up he shouted back,
          ‘Strongest cheapest pint they’ve got.’
          ‘Two of those please Trace and just stick it on my tab.’
          ‘You haven’t got a tab.’ I handed over a ten pound note and as soon as the glasses were filled I joined the festivities.
          ‘So what is it then?’ Rory asked quizzically poking at Martins gimcrack, anomalous badger.
          ‘It’s a piñata, you hit it with a stick until it breaks and treats fall out.’ Martin tried to explain.
          ‘What kind of treats? Rory was still looking bemused.
          ‘Well it’s supposed to be a surprise but as it’s you Rory, I filled this one up with Sambuca miniatures.’
          ‘Why can’t I just unwrap it like usual?’
          ‘Well,’ Martin was getting tired of explaining, ‘It’s just more fun if you beat it with a stick Rory.’
          ‘Listen, I’m eighty five and I’ve never heard of beating your own presents up with a stick, but that’s not to say that I’m not up for trying new things,’ Rory smiled and scanned his sozzled eyes around the room,     
          ‘Where’s the stick?’

The End

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Time is

When you think about it, it is all that is. Without time nothing is possible, if you have time everything is possible. Despite its evident need, why isn’t time a friend? Time is only ever an enemy, which probably explains why so many people find killing time such a worthy pastime.
                 “Thou shalt not kill.”
Said one man whose teachings span the religious beliefs of so many. Although Moses did make it quite clear that they weren’t his words. I wonder if Moses though that God had included time in this most valuable commandment.
                  Time, the necessity of everything, the enemy of everyone. Why is it the enemy? If you cut short your own lifetime in order to extend another’s, is that a waste of time? The majority of your daily actions will either shorten or extend your lifetime. If a child is born and dies within the same hour, would you consider that a life? If so when something is guaranteed to last a lifetime, what exactly is that worth?
                   Is asking or trying to answer any of these questions a waste of time? When all is said and done what would (if anything) be considered a valuable use of time?

To trouble yourself with such unanswerable ponders will never put a smile on your face. As far as I’m concerned, a smile on your face is the most valuable possession there could possibly be. To smile wildly on your dying day is a gift many have died for. Millions have been spent on it. To reach the end and be completely satisfied with all you have accomplished is at the very best a rarity. This brings me back to the child who lives and dies in a fraction of a day. Is that child satisfied with their accomplishments? Is just a glimpse of a day enough to say that you have lived? Is it enough time for them to realise that they have lived at all? When reaching the end few can say that they have truly lived and died in such a short space of time that is after all, just a day.            

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Karma Chameleon

Since the death of her husband James, Judith’s life revolves around routine. Each morning starts with breakfast followed by a cup of tea. After this Judith starts every day with a ‘sherry shandy’; it’s approximately fifty millilitres of sherry in a pint glass topped with lemonade. A day hasn’t truly begun until Judith’s had her sherry shandy.
                        Today is Sunday so the routine is simple; Saturday was spent cleaning the carpets and appliances that adorn her small bungalow, Sunday is spent cleaning and polishing shelf upon shelf of trinkets and souvenirs gathered by her and her late husband from around the world. At twelve o’clock there will be a break for Sunday lunch; consisting of one chicken breast, a medium sized potato quartered and roasted, one carrot, a small leek, a portion of broccoli and a frozen Yorkshire pudding; all of which will be covered in instant gravy. After lunch it will be back to dusting and polishing the various ornaments until six o’clock when there will be a short break for a cup of tea and some cheese on toast before settling down to listen to her favourite radio programme. This may not sound like the best way to spend one’s Sunday but for Judith it is a time of reflection and a chance to revel in her memories. Each ornament has its own memory of how her and her husband lived and the adventures they had together. There’s windmills from Holland, porcelain cottages from Devon even wicker donkeys from Spain. Each one is special in its own way.
                    Before the death of her husband Judith lived, though content with her life now, she isn’t really living she merely exists. She busies herself with daily chores and routines because she doesn’t want to think of tomorrow, she no longer dreams of the future. Judith keeps her head in the past because that’s where her life is, or at least it was. The Sunday night radio show is her favourite because it is where people in a similar situation phone in and dedicate a song to their lost loved ones. Judith has never actually called in herself due to nerves but tonight as Thursday would have been James’s birthday she felt compelled to request his favourite song. For this Judith would have to pluck up some courage so after her supper she decided another sherry shandy was in order; a little stronger this time and then she picked up the phone.
‘Hello David Allen show’ said a kind voice at the other end.
This startled Judith, she wasn’t expecting them to answer so quickly and she wasn’t expecting a woman’s voice either.
‘Hello I’m Judith’ she said nervously ’and’
‘Hi Judith ‘ the woman butted in
‘I was wondering if you could play a song for my late husband James, whose birthday it would have been on Thursday?’ Judith asked in a nervous but slightly rehearsed manner.
The woman kindly accepted Judith[‘s request and thanked her for listening. About an hour later Judith’s ears pricked up as she heard her name called from the speaker. For the next three minutes she sat with a smile on her face as the rest of Sussex listened to James’s favourite song ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Boy George.

Andrew Templeton

Andrew Templeton is forty seven years of age, although looking at him you would be forgiven for thinking he was older, His hair is tired, grey and wiry and despite being ritually combed it sticks out at all angles. His skin is weathered and thin; his eyes are a dull blue and have a kind expression to them. Carefully groomed nails extend from his gaunt, delicate hands. You can see every bone and artery under his skin. Mr. Templeton dresses as well as he can even though his clothes are very old, well-worn and patched or darned accordingly. He wears a navy blue Duffel coat fastened with odd bits of string or rope and random toggles. His trousers are of tan brown corduroy with patches on both knees. His boots are scuffed and the laces don’t match.
                Andrew Templeton is of no fixed address. This isn’t to say that he’s between homes and currently staying with friends; it is to say that he is homeless and has been for the last three years. As a consequence of this Andrew has very few if any friends, or at least he doesn’t have any friends as someone of a more fortunate disposition might describe them. There are some people at the local outreach centre who are friendly to Mr. Templeton and give him a cup of hot soup whenever he asks.  Mr. Templeton is well aware that these small gifts have kept him from death’s door on more than one occasion. This fact does little to lift his spirits. If there’s one thing that Mr. Templeton detests most its being in a position where he has to depend on others. Andrew is not your average run of the mill tramp; he never begs or even busks despite having been quite an accomplished musician in the past. Andrew tries to be as self-sufficient as possible; he refuses to burden himself upon others. To this extent he has become quite efficient. He has found himself a place to stay of sorts. On the edge of a hill about three miles out of town is the ruins of an old tin mine. He has now made this cave like dwelling his home. In fact over the years Mr. Templeton has made this dank dwelling into something remotely cosy. There’s an old piece of plywood used as a door, inside on the right hand side there’s a desk with one drawer; on top of the desk is a plastic cup filled with candles. This is his only source of light after dark. In the centre of the desktop is a large bowl with a smaller bowl stacked inside it; inside the smaller bowl is a fork and a spoon. The larger bowl is used for washing and general cleaning whereas the smaller bowl is used for eating. Andrew carries a three inch penknife which he uses for almost everything from D.I.Y to cooking food. At the back of his cave-like room is a single mattress covered with a bright pink Barbie sleeping bag which Mr. Templeton lovingly refers to as ‘The Mrs.’ including the clothes he wears this is the extent of all Andrew Templeton’s  possessions.

A Weekend with James

James woke up in a cold sweat screaming the words,
‘Chicken salad,’ at 10:37 on this dismally grey Saturday morning. Realising he was screaming, he immediately forgot what he was dreaming about and so had no idea why he was screaming these two choice words. Eight minutes later a loud impatient knocking was drummed into his front door. Still half asleep and pondering the content of his dream James opened it. A stout little man stood before him holding a black plastic parcel,
‘Alright there,’ said the little man in a brash west-country accent, ‘got a package for fifty nine, they’re not in. you couldn’t pop it round later could you?’
‘Yeah’ James replied croakily, still thinking about the salad.
‘I’ll need a name if that’s alright,’ said the little man pulling an electric device from his side like a quick draw cowboy.
‘Uh, Hudson,’ said James still looking notably confused.
‘Just sign there please,’ instructed the man passing over his device and a small plastic pointer. James attempted to sign the device but only a dot and a line seemed to appear on the screen. The courier seemed happy enough with it, handed him the parcel with a thank you and walked off. James decided that coffee was in order. He dumped the parcel on the kitchen table, put the kettle on and tried to find a mug in the mountain of washing up that had collected in his sink. Rummaging through the cold murky water he managed to clasp the handle of a mug, pulling it from the depths he also managed to slice the bottom of his thumb on a concealed kitchen knife.
‘Bollocks!’ he shouted between his teeth, he then wrapped a tea towel round his hand mumbling various expletives as he did so.
               James spent the next two hours sipping an oversized mug of coffee whilst holding his wounded hand above his head in an attempt to stop the bleeding. This was done watching various antiques based television programmes. During this time James had an epiphany. Why was there so much washing up? His dining table could only seat four people so why did he own eleven plates? He came to the conclusion that a more militant approach should be taken to the washing up. He set about selecting and putting aside four of each type of crockery. Each piece was chosen for being the strongest and therefore most likely to survive the longest, and also looking vaguely similar to each other so he could, upon occasion, pretend they were part of a set. The remaining lesser pieces were to be destroyed. Fourteen minutes later in James’s small concrete back garden was held, what can only be described as an over ceremonial, cutlery fuelled firing squad; followed by an energetic stomping session that ensured the remnants were easy to sweep up. The whole event took just over an hour. The only thing left in the garden was the treasonous kitchen knife whose punishment, was to be left to rust for all eternity.
               After this drastic display of militant minimalism James ate a £1.49 deep pan, meat feast pizza. He then decided to celebrate his victory over clutter and the deceitful kitchen knife, with a glass of wine. Inevitably, when one has little to do on a Saturday, one glass led to another and then another. Soon James was dancing around the kitchen with an old squash racket listening to The Who and wondering why the bottle was empty. By now it was 9:23pm. Still relatively early James could see no harm in opening another bottle. One hour, half a bottle and two Jimi Hendrix albums later James decided some food was in order. He began to cook himself a £1.79 bake your own fish and chips dinner. Unfortunately he hadn’t planned on the fifty minute cooking time of this supposedly convenient easy meal, and by the time James sat down to eat it he was really quite drunk. Consequently James fell asleep at the kitchen table and accidently spilt ketchup down his leg.

James woke up at 7:58 this morning slumped over a half eaten bake your own fish and chips dinner with a bottle of ketchup dripping down his inner thigh. A sorry state for anyone to wake up in, but James has achieved worse in his time. After discovering the ketchup down his leg he picked up his previously blood stained tea towel, cleaned himself up and crawled to his bed. Exactly 39 minutes later he was awoken by a loathsome sound. It was his neighbour revving up his new leaf blower. James couldn’t believe it. Only a month ago he was having an in-depth conversation with his neighbour on the very subject of leaf blowers. James made his views quite clear; he rates them in the top five worst inventions of all time. As he see’s it the only thing you can do with a leaf blower is blow the leaf problem onto someone else,
‘They are socially unacceptable and quite insulting,’ was his exact words, ‘they should have invented leaf vacuum cleaners instead.’
Evidently, rather than enlightening his neighbour on the subject, all he had really done was inspire him to go out and buy one. James wondered if he and his neighbour were really ever friends or if his neighbour was just being polite whilst secretly just trying to ruin his life. Either way, James decided that number 59 wouldn’t be getting they’re parcel today after all.
               Understanding that the next few hours would be filled with the roar of his motorised nemesis, James decided to visit a café that had recently opened in his local park. After attempting to shake off his hangover with a slightly colder than usual shower, James headed out into what was turning out to be a beautiful sunny Sunday morning.
              Upon arrival the first thing James noticed about this café was that it was run rather oddly. It was open air and you had to order at the counter then wait for your number to be called from a loud speaker before you could go and collect your order from a different counter. James ordered a sundried tomato, mozzarella and black olive Panini. It was the sandwich of the day and came with a free latte. James was allowed to take his latte straight away but was given a ticket and told to wait for his Panini. Despite its friendly appearance this particular latte was the bitterest beverage James had ever tasted; it reflected the customer service skills of the woman who gave it him perfectly. James found himself a table in the sunshine and waited for his number to be called. Three minutes later,
‘Fifty three,’ was muffled over the loud speaker. James looked at his ticket, it read fifty two. This confused James, surely fifty two would be ready before fifty three and even if fifty three was called before fifty two, surely that would mean that fifty two must already be ready. James decided to investigate. As James inquired as to the whereabouts of his Panini he was confronted by a very large, very sweaty angry looking man. The sweaty man stared menacingly into his eyes, pointed at the toasted chicken sandwich on the counter and stated firmly, without breaking eye contact,
 ‘Fifty three, ’
 James said nothing and returned to his table. Just as James pulled out his chair,
‘Fifty two,’ was muffled from the loud speaker. James collected his plate glaring suspiciously at the sweaty man behind the counter.
               Thankfully the bright sun and beauty of the park surrounding him distracted James from the pitiful state of his pathetic looking Panini; it even momentarily distracted him from the fact that he’d almost completely taken the skin from the roof of his mouth biting down on the phenomenally hot mozzarella inside his Panini. Despite these discrepancies and his persistent hangover, James’s mood today was remaining chipper.
               On his way home, James picked up a free-ad paper with the intention of looking for a new job. Whilst perusing through the pages one advertisement stood out more than others. It simply read Man with Van. This excited James for two reasons, Firstly the only qualification you would need for this job is merely the ownership of a van, secondly to gain a promotion in this profession all you would need to do is buy a bigger van. Motivated by the prospect of achieving a new self-employed status James spent the majority of the day hatching a multitude of intricate schemes exploring various ways he could raise the money to buy himself a van and so embark on his new enterprise.
               At 8:04pm hunger put a stop to all this productivity and James burnt himself a vegetable pie and chips. James would have thrown this charred disappointment away, but this was all that was left in his freezer. Like it or not, burnt pie and chips was for dinner. Though James’s dinner was charred it did prevent him from channel hopping long enough to settle on a charming Errol Flynn film ‘The Sea Hawk’. He’d seen it before but couldn’t remember the exact plot and so deemed it a worth while watch. He’d also forgotten the unusually long running time of the film and despite his efforts James fell asleep not even half of the way through.  


Adam is running late for his date and he’s slightly on edge because he can’t remember the rubbish excuse he gave his girlfriend when he woke up late this morning. He’s wondering if she could tell he’d only just woken up or if his lively performance of shouting very loudly and running in and out of his front door had convinced her that he was at Clapham junction train station rather than running in and out of his rooftop flat in Brighton.

Now he’s thinking about sex. Adam hasn’t sex in ages and his constant masturbating was getting out of hand, he often wondered if too much masturbation would cause some serious long-term damage. He knew he’d over done it and being two hours late for his date had seriously dampened his chances of getting any action tonight.

Adams train has just broken down, his two hours late has just turned into four hours late but he doesn’t know it, he’s stuck on a platform listening to a fat Scottish sailors confession of how he’d walked off his boat early this morning because he’d been offered a better deal with another ship company. Apparently the Scotsman didn’t like the boat he was on due to the fact that it only ever sailed in rough seas and he was the only engineer on the entire ship, whereas his new ship was headed for the Caribbean and was big enough for five engineers as well as paying better money.

The Scotsman really wouldn’t stop talking once he’d started and Adam was now worried that they’d been talking too long and he may feel inclined to sit beside the Scotsman on the next train due to the fact that it was Adam who’d accidentally started the conversation in the first place and now it would just be rude not to see it through to the end. Adam couldn’t bare the thought of having to listen to this for another hour, he’d noticed the fat Scotsman had one dilated eye and twinned with his short crop mullet he was starting to bare an uncanny resemblance to a fat Scottish David Bowie upon realising this Adam laughed and the laugh made the fat Bowie stare almost menacingly.

At this moment Adam looked up and finally noticed that his being two hours late had turned into being four hours late. Almost immediately his girlfriend phoned, she was hysterically crying when she heard the news of his train breaking down, Adam tried to console her but it was too late his chances of having sex tonight were literally walking on a tight rope and the interference on the phone line meant he couldn’t quite hear what his girlfriend was saying to him. He told her that everything was O.K and that he would be there as soon as he can. She said
             “-----oo ----lly -----cked –t -----p ------oo -----ing ------ twat.”
Then she hung up. I believe it is safe to say that the tight rope walker has fallen off snapped his neck and seriously damaged a few major organs, it was going to take some incredibly drastic measures if there was any chance of Adam getting his end away tonight.

It crossed Adam’s mind that maybe there would be a chance to buy a reasonably large bunch of flowers on the way as he sat down on the three and a half hour train to Axminster, then he promptly realised that it was never going to happen and resolved himself to the fact that he would never have sex again and he might as well just stick to having sex with himself. Adam looked down at his Marks and Spencer’s profiterole dessert he’d been saving it all day and was now thinking that these little chocolate covered cream filled pastries might just save him from a lifetime of Kleenex, but it would never work she was too classy to be seduced by the false delights of a Marks and Spencer’s profiterole dessert, though they taste delicious they’re packed full of E-numbers and there’s no real cocoa in that chocolate sauce.

Finally after hours of worrying boredom the train pulled up into Axminster station and Adam quickly climbed into the nearest taxi. He asked the taxi driver if he knew of any florists that were open on the way. The driver said there wasn’t any but there are some lovely flowers growing up on the side of the motorway. Adam didn’t know reply, he couldn’t tell if the driver was serious joking or just taking the piss. Either way Adam wasn’t about to go picking flowers off of a dangerously busy motorway and didn’t really have the time even if he wanted to. Besides the last time he picked his girlfriend flowers she completely lost it and started ranting on at him about how it was people like him who were destroying the countryside and if everyone went around picking flowers there would be none left and florists would have to start selling bunches of grass and stinging nettles.

Adam sighed to himself at the realisation that the Marks and Spencer’s profiterole dessert was really all he had left. He looked in his bag to see if they were still looking good, by now they’d been travelling for almost five hours an really didn’t look half as good as they did when Adam first bought them. Slightly crushed and losing they’re cream centre fast. Adam sighed again this time a little harder he had more chance of getting it on with the odour ridden taxi driver at this rate and he’d probably take anything given his previously proven pulling skills. He’s probably never even had sex Adam thought lucky bastard doesn’t even know what he’s missing.

When Adam finally arrived to meet his girlfriend he gave the taxi driver twelve pounds and fifty pence, this included a two pounds and fifty pence tip. Adam had no idea why he gave the driver this abnormally large tip he usually tipped a pound tops and on this occasion was afraid that the drivers own personal body odour had been passed onto him combined with the fact that although Adam was sure the driver had taken all the right directions he had still left him in the middle of nowhere in the rain. This made Adam think that even ten pounds was a bit steep so why did he bother giving him an extra two pounds fifty. But by now the taxi had driven off and Adam was left lost in the middle of nowhere in the rain.

After a brief moment of fumbling around aimlessly and a slightly longer period of panic Adam caught site of his girlfriend sitting on a broken down park bench in the middle of no where in the rain if we re-cap we can roughly estimate that she has been sat there for around four and a half hours give or take about five to ten minutes. Adams very life is now hanging by a thread .not only was his relationship out of the window but his chances of survival are slim, even walking away from this with all his appendages in tacked would seem like a bonus.

As I see it Adam only has three chances. The first is that the wind and rain have battered his girlfriend into absolute submission and she just doesn’t have the energy to rip his legs off. The second is that she’s feeling unusually kind and generous and is just happy that Adam got there safe and sound and all in one piece especially after all the troubles he’s been through. Sadly being four and a half hours late makes this highly improbable considering the whole journey takes five hours and if she didn’t believe the rubbish excuse he gave her this morning this chance was pretty much nonexistent especially seeming as he can’t remember the stupid excuse anyway so trying to talk his way out of it was just not happening. Adams third chance of survival would have to include some kind of alien intervention, act of god or a devastatingly almost fatal natural disaster that would completely take the focus off Adam’s lateness
And they would both be happy with just being alive. This was an incredibly long shot that was obviously never going to happen but still Adam was keeping his fingers crossed on this one because how he saw it this had the best outcome of all three.

On a personal note I’d just like to say
“Good luck Adam.”
Even though I have the pen I really can’t see you getting out of this one.

Adam started running towards his girlfriend he thought that this frantic running would be a good symbol of his epic struggle to get there on time but when he got there he realised it didn’t really matter, she wasn’t watching anyway. It was at this point that Adam noticed his first chance had come into play; she was so battered by the elements of a rainy day in Dorset she only had the energy to just sit there and cry. Though relieved at the fact he would come out of this alive, Adam now felt worse than ever before and this feeling was only made worse as he learnt of his girlfriends ordeal, of how the lady who ran the bed and breakfast he had booked for them turned out to be such a complete nutter that she couldn’t stay there and had chosen to brave the wind and rain instead and how when the weather got unbearable she was forced to take shelter in a nearby cave. Adam swiftly realised that there was absolutely nothing he could say or do to make his girlfriend feel better. His brain froze with the sorrow he felt for her and he couldn’t think of anything remotely comforting to say. So after an hour of repeatedly saying sorry and come on it’s all right now she stopped crying and Adam stupidly suggested they went to the local pub. This started her crying again and it took another half an hour to stop this outburst. Luckily once she had stopped crying she thought the pub was a good idea as she was quite hungry and a pub lunch with a bottle of wine was looking evermore inviting, plus she really didn’t want to go back to the nutter who ran the bed and breakfast but had had quite enough of sitting in the rain for one day.

There was only one pub in this tiny seaside town and as I see it there are usually only two types of pub you find in these sleepy little country towns. One type is a pleasant little waterhole filled with retired alcoholics and rich middle class stable owners who’ve practically been retired since they were born, both of which are very welcoming and quite capable of polite non-threatening conversation. The other type is filled with hard working farmers and builders who struggle to keep they’re country homes and can’t really afford to be in the pub in the first place and therefore continuously complain about the price of beer and never give warm welcomes to newcomers despite the fact that it is usually these holiday making newcomers who keep the pub running in the first place.

Unfortunately for Adam and his girlfriend this pub was the latter but this didn’t deter Adam, compared with the rough pubs of Bracknell that he grew up with this dirty little hellhole seemed really quite pleasant. Adams girlfriend however was slightly put off by the menacing stares as she went to find them a nice table. Not that it matters but you may or may not find it interesting to know that Adam had steak and chips and his girlfriend had a smoked haddock fillet also served with chips and both were served with a small side salad garnish this was washed down with a bottle of merlot which Adam exclaimed he thought was rather woody with hints of raspberry and possibly plum and cherry, not that he knows anything about wine.

After the pub Adam’s girlfriend decided she wanted some stamps to send her friends some postcards as everyone does when visiting these tiny seaside towns and luckily for Adam the only shop in this town was still open and sold everything from beer to butchers equipment. It was here that Adam saw a chance to retrieve something from his otherwise disastrous date. Whilst his girlfriend was busy buying stamps he slyly bought another bottle of merlot and some plastic picnic wine glasses and before she noticed he quickly snuck them into his bag being careful not to crush the Marks and Spencer’s profiterole dessert anymore than necessary, this tiny dessert had already taken a huge beating but still bore a slight resemblance to something edible. Now for the first time all day Adam actually had a feasible working plan all be it a crap one.

As they exited the unusually well stocked shop Adam’s girlfriend broke the news to him that it was now time for him to meet the nutter who ran the bed and breakfast Adam wasn’t looking forward to this one bit. Meeting nutters on the street or in pubs is one thing but staying the night in a nutters house is a different kettle of fish altogether, still this is the one Adam booked, the nutters made his bed and now he’s going to have to sleep in it.

Upon arrival at the nutters house a loud shrill out of tune singing voice was emanating from inside, though I’m sure the nutter thought it was quaint and appealing in a homely welcoming sort of way. Adam found it to be very unnerving and his walking pace slowed down considerably as they got closer to the front door. His girlfriend having previously obtained the key opened the front door and immediately the shrill mistuned singing rose to excruciating levels and then suddenly changed to an incredibly loud screeching
“Hello is he here now?”
Then she appeared stating of how she knew of Adams trouble with the trains and then immediately asked what time he would like breakfast. Adam said around ten which she took an immediate dislike to and suggested eight thirty, Adam desperately wanting to get out of this conversation agreed politely knowing full well that he rarely got up before eleven and hadn’t eaten breakfast for about fourteen years. The nutter offered her locally famous full English breakfast which Adam said would be fine and made a move for the staircase explaining how his bag, though small was very heavy and would like to put it in his room. The screeching started again this time asking if Adam or his girlfriend would like a glass of water. Adam politely replied
 “Yes please.”
And the nutter told him she would bring some up to the room. Then the dreaded singing started again as she walked towards the kitchen. Adam darted up the stairs and put his bag in a strange perfectly square room where his girlfriend now was. But no sooner had he put his bag down when the singing started following up the stairs, and soon enough the nutter entered holding a very ornate tray carrying two straight glasses and a jug of water with a rather quaint lace doily covering the top. Adam took the tray from her hands nervously and went back into the room where his girlfriend had just left for the en suite. He took his chance and quickly poured two glasses of wine and gently placed the Marks and Spencer’s profiterole upon her pillow and lay next to it looking very casual indeed. Shortly after his girlfriend appeared from the en suite looking increasingly unimpressed with Adams efforts and proceeded to moan at him about how this really wasn’t going to make up for him being four and a half hours late and how could he think it would in the first place. Adam tried to explain that he wasn’t trying to make up for his lateness merely trying to make the best of a bad situation. It was helpless. Nothing seemed to take the scowl off of her face. Adam gave up arguing with and decided to use the en suit himself.

It was here in this small oddly shaped magnolia room that Adam finally gave up on ever partaking in sexual activity ever again. It was here that he also gave up on ever redeeming his relationship with his girlfriend and has he saw it having a happy weekend away in Dorset was also lost in a never ending pit of despair. It was also in this tiny magnolia room that Adam saw what was quite possibly the smallest sink basin in the world, which momentarily distracted him from his previous moment of utter depression. After noticing this fantastic candidate for the worlds smallest sink Adam took a deep breath and prepared to face the music. He unlocked the tiny bolt and opened the tiny door.

Only to find his girlfriend lying on the bed reading her newspaper and drinking her wine as she often did, but never in just her bra and knickers. He picked up his glass of wine, took a sip and sheepishly looked up at his girlfriend who was smiling at him (believe it or not) in a sort of coy way as though she was planning some ghastly vengeful deed. Then it hit Adam. Like a beam of light piercing through his otherwise dark, dismal life. He’d done it, he’d only gone and bloody done it, through some miracle of the modern world God had smiled down on him in one glorious moment of unbelievably quick forgiveness she wanted it. Against all odds and through the trials and tribulations of what had possibly been the hardest most challenging day of his drearily boring life Adam had pulled through it. With outstanding grace and poise he leaped onto the bed hardly able to control himself due to his excitement. Oh yes there was to be no Kleenex tonight, tonight it was the real thing. Actual sex Adam couldn’t believe it. Actual proper sex he thought, actual sex and quite frankly I can’t believe it either. I always thought he was a bit of a loser.