I made my speciality tonight:

“thing in a pan”

Its dead easy:

1. Throw some stuff in a pan

2. Open the wine

3. Get on the phone

4. When its cooked, the smoke alarm goes off

Hey presto!


After a mere, ooh, 8 years, I now have a bathroom door that closes, a
staircase to the attic that looks like a staircase and not a bonfire,
and a floor without holes in it.

Yay for my house.

Now I will have to sell it to pay for the work.

Maybe, in May


She stands at reception
“I have a meeting with..”
he is walking past
and interrupts, with


“Yes. how are you?”
he nods fine and smiles
she speaks,
accent rich

about the meeting

He is distracted, listens to
stay focussed, then

they talk in the company of
the others
for an hour, maybe more

Afterwards he sees her to the door
even in the good light
isn’t sure
if attraction in mutual
and whether or what to say

She leaves
departure to separate desks
for the moment
maybe longer


Up the stairs to the library, and look in. She’s not there. Not that I can see. I’m meant to be meeting her. Secret, like, no-one should know. None of her friends. Or her boyfriend. I don’t know why she asked me here. I have to pretend – what – I guess that we’re just off to lunch or something.

Carry on looking round. By the window, far left. Yes. She sees me, packs her books into her bag, grabs a bunch of pencils and her keys, and walks over.

“Hi Andy.” She stepped towards me. “Oh, have you met,” turning her head to the girl sat at the table. I shook my head. “Helen, this is, er, Andy. Andy, Helen.” I said hello. “Lets go.”

The department was equidistant from the main campus, my house, and her own. We headed away from hers, to the relative safety of where I lived, and the pub opposite. Less chance of seeing anyone she knew. Not that I’d be able to show any affection in public. That was strictly off charter, until she’s sorted out things at home. Always in hand.

Before I’d arrived at the city, I’d been told, the pub had been a place for bikers, and had a reputation as being unfriendly towards the tidal influx of new residents. Although it retained a general gloom, I found the cheap beer, pool table, and generally a few faces that I knew to be quite welcoming.

We hit the pool table.

I was never a great player, although I had occasional beer-induced boughts of inspiration. Nic was about the same. we had a couple of games, winning one each, and laughing all the way.

Having decided not to compete again, we sat ourselves next to the pool table, together on a bench seat that merged with the chocolate wood panelling. I put my arm around her.


“Sorry.” I removed my arm. Stared at the table.

“Someone might see us.”

“The pubs empty.” Looking up.

“And the door is just there. Someone might come in.”

Back to the table again.

“I’m sorry, I know its hard. But you’ve got to trust me. I’m going to sort things out between me and Mark. You’ve got to be patient. At the moment you can’t be seen with me. You know that.”

It didn’t help.

I drained my pint, and went to the bar for another. Sofia was there, a girl from my first year class who I had asked out, drunkenly as that was the only way I ever had the confidence, and who had at least now switched to laughing with me after the two years had past.

“Two pints of Magnet please.”

“You okay Andy?”

“Just great. Just got essays, you know what its like.”

“Sure. I’ve got a couple due in next week.”

“I might get started on them soon. Or it will be another all-nighter.”

I paid for the drinks with more of the graduate debt, and went back to the table.

“Happy Thursday.”

She takes her pint, thanks me.

“I know its difficult for you.”

“Do you want me to tell him?”


“I can do.”

“You just have to trust me on this. I’m going to sort it out. We just have to.. be patient”

“I am.”

She puts her hand on my leg, hidden by the table.

“You know I like being with you.”

I nod, but I don’t know. What I feel seems irrelevant. At the moment I don’t know whether she really does like me, or whether I’m once again a substitute whilst things are less than perfect.

The pool table nearly draws us back but, having finished the pints, she suggests we leave.

Back to mine.

Family Conversation

“I hate the way I visualise it, and imagine the sound, as it goes in and the pain starts to take over, but doesn’t, quite, and the need to recreate the image proper, and this constant battle not to do so.”

The feelings had been trapped inside for so long, and fell out in a rush.

“So what do you do?”

“Drink, normally, and stay out.”

“Does that help?”

“I don’t know. It’s a distraction. I can’t do anything when I’m out. The fight isn’t whether to.. you know.. but whether to go home. And it’s easy to do that bit. Stay out.”

“And how long has this been going on?”

“Since. I dunno. I suppose.. maybe.. since I was..”

A pause.

“Go on.”

“About 15.”

“Have you spoken to anyone about it before?”

“I tried. I was at school before. Went to the doctor. He wasn’t interested. Told me that everyone at school worried about their exams.”

“Were you worried about your exams?”

“Don’t take the piss.”

“What about anyone else?”

“What do you mean?”

“Does anyone else know?”

“Uh. Yes. One friend. But he’s at uni, I don’t see him much.”

“And what does he say about it?”

“I told you, he’s away at the moment.”

“But before he went away?”

“He told me not to. That there was no reason. He didn’t understand.”

“Because he told you not to?”

“Because he said there was no reason.”

“You think he was wrong?”

“Of course he was wrong.”

Another pause. They each tried to look the other in the eyes. Neither could manage.

“So what do you want from me?”

No reply.

“You came to me. What do you want?”



“I told you, I just want to get out. For the distraction.”

“Is that really the best..”

“Its the easiest.”

A ten pound note is passed across.


On Wales

We used to go to the phone kiosks on the way down to the chalet. The phone lines didn’t reach down there. They’d dial the number with the end of a biro, and pass the phone across. We’d get excited and tell all about what we had been doing.

As the blue Cortina approached the chalet, he’d get out from the car, and lift away a section of the fence to allow the car to pass. The chalet was a double. From inside, the patterned glass made it seem as though the washing line was rotating, even on the stillest of days.

Each night we would wind the cable around the base of the standard lamp.

The radio one road show would come to town, but it was years before the two of us would visit. Town was a car journey away; there was generally no need to go there unless we needed something not supplied by the camp’s shop.

Being by the seaside, we could play on the sand or in the sea. The tide would go far out from there; at least it seemed so then. There was a stream that fed into the sea, and we would play in it wearing our Wellington boots. One time I tried to hold my kite by burying the handle in the sand. It had to be rescued after it crashed into a neighbour’s house.

There was a walk through the woods, up by a stream and past a museum with old cars. It was lush green in those woods, and there was sometimes the chance of a treat from the museum shop.

Driving around the harbour on the way up to the new house was a luxury, as it took a circular diversion from the main road, when we were already excited about having seen the restaurant called the Angry Cheese. If we arrived when the tide was out then all of the boats would be stuck in the mud, and there would be gulls picking at scraps from the bed.

Just past the harbour proper, where fishermen used to haul in their catches the air smelt heavy of uncooked supper, there was a jetty, and then the long straight promenade with the fairground at either end. The one near the railway crossing was the best, it had an old galloping horse ride and a long plastic slide, bigger than a helter skelter, where twice I got friction burns when my hand slid down on the plastic.

You could walk the length of the beach from here, up to the steep steps that took you back to the new house, or just go part way and then back along the side of the railway track with the trains hooting and the passengers waving, and the watercress growing on the side, ready to be transplanted into the lunchtime salad.

We normally tried to get the end breaker, by the car park and with the view down the stretch of beach leading up to the steps by the railway. The space between the breakers was insulated from the wind, and the wooden structures, encrusted as they were with seaweed, barnacles and tar, gave a great frame for the foolhardy to play upon.

Along the promenade there were vans selling ice cream and steps over the concrete wall. Even – at one or two points – slip roads so that you could take a boat down to be launched. Or a 4×4, to get stuck in the sand.

The sand on this stretch wasn’t soft and golden, but a solid and always moist clump. Ideal for sand castles, whose moats could be filled from the sea before giving up their defences altogether to the impending tide.

Families would camp there for days, dissuaded only by the rain showers, when they were forced to relocate to the amusement arcades or the pub. The lights bathed the town with a neon glow, behind which, and back up into the hills, the more traditional Victorian stone buildings could be seen, weathered and pastel.

One time it had been raining. Was raining. Fairly hard, but it was Wales so it was what we expected. Each time we saw a storm cloud we blamed the cubs, or the scouts. They were bound to be camping, somewhere, and that was normally the problem.

We’d seen the scouts earlier in the day. They were looking miserable, in a field, for their field misery badge.

But this was our holiday. The red rover, when it worked, was big enough for us all to sit comfortably and have our packed lunch, all salad and sandwiches, probably some hard boiled eggs and roast beef, and maybe some marmite and jam.

We’d had that, on a road high in the hills, trapped between a million sets of gates that we were careful to open and close to stop the sheep or the farmers from escaping, which meant that one of us had to get out of the car act as gatekeeper. That day I had escaped, pretty much. We’d laughed as the car had gone over the cattle grids, and had ended up, in the early afternoon, by Harlich castle.

This was the nearest castle to where we were staying. Coincidentally, or maybe because of its location, it was also our favourite. We wanted to look round. The rain was coming down, but this didn’t seem to matter. So we parked, paid up, and tramped up the wooden stairs from the front, where once there had been a moat. If the weather continued much as it was, it would soon be full again.

It must have been the early 1980s. Folding macs, which could then be attached to a belt, were all the rage. At least in our house. Always be prepared. Never know when Arkala will try to drown you. We all had green and blue macs, but Dad’s was red, and bright red at that.

The castle was fairly quiet that day, because most people didn’t want to battle the rain. “Follow the little red man” called out the leader, and we followed him around the grounds as he repeated his cry, pied piper style but without the necessity to kill us all at the end of the story.

It was maybe the quickest that we had ever looked around the place, but we did it, and we were pleased.

Later, when we were home, we sat in the big lounge and watched TV before bed, and wondered whether the scout tents could float.

On Wildlife

I like it when the birds flock to the garden, and I can watch them from the window. Sometimes I try to tempt them by throwing designer shoes and handbags out onto the patio.

On the event of my death

I don’t need to tell you not to be sad. Most likely you will out celebrating. Try to raise a happy thought about times with me, as well.

I want to be burned. On no account in a wooden coffin. That’s a waste of a good tree. A recycled cardboard one would be okay, one from here. I could live with that.

Did you know that many coffins are made of chipboard overlaid in veneer. Chipboard decays slowly, releasing harmful gasses into the environment – quite aside from all of the things in its manufacture.

My coffin needn’t, necessarily, be a huge construction. To make my body size fit into the smallest space, I would like all usable organs to be removed. Sell them on eBay. Give them to your friends. Hide them in a colleague’s desk. Perhaps even let them go for transplant. Did you know that, if your organs aren’t used to save lives of others, they will be taken out as part of the embalming process. Presumably lost down the drains. Or used to stiffen milkshakes in (insert name that would get me sued here). So what’s the point in not being a donor. You won’t be buried intact. May as well save lives.

Its funny, though, calling it saving lives. Really its just postponing death. You can’t save life. It ends – its just a question of when. Remember, kids, childhood’s over the moment you know you’re going to die.

All this is assuming you don’t just get my body stuffed. I’m assuming you won’t, but if you do, I’d like my eyes to be replaced with big red lightbulbs that stick out – the sort that you see on fairground rides. Then I could be placed in a glass case and, whenever someone walks near, the eyebulbs would light up and my mouth wired to moved, and say, “Bugger off” or “lend us a tenner”, whilst my arms flail about. Perhaps I should make recordings, just in case.

Of course, you could seal my body inside a glass case, together with some sort of plant and some bacteria/ insect / pet cat, and see if it comes up with a whole new ecosystem.

Like I said, this seems unlikely. So, I’ll be burned, in my cardboard coffin (hell, use the box that the tv came in if you want, just smash up my legs with an axe so that they fit). Its a shame, if I was to be buried it would be to the song “there’s a world going on underground” underground by Tom Waits. Being cremated, I’ll have to make do with “I’m the Firestarter”.

And what to do with the ashes. Well, there’s no point in leaving me to fester in an urn for all eternity. You could sprinkle me onto a sand pit. Make me into an egg timer. Get me turned into a diamond. All would be good: I’d either serve a purpose, at last, or finally be beautiful. Maybe just tap spoonfuls of me into the air vents of random but beautiful cars, so I get to travel in the vehicles I never owned. Use your imagination. Don’t get too tied down to a place. You need imagination for remembrance, nothing more.

Have a party. A big party. Drink loads. Try to drink so much that you pass out, with one eye still open. Its both big and clever to do this.

With luck, there will be at least half a century to go before any of the above will apply.