Sunday, 1 June 2014

Story 29 - Bears

I’ve always been scared of bears. Ever since I was a kid. There was this TV programme for us younger viewers which had a sketch with a bear jumping around trying to catch a bunch of children who were running away smiling and screaming and it was all meant to be humorous I think. The bear was a guy in a costume. People, adults, would come out to hit the bear on the head with bats and he’d stumble around dizzily, crazily, and as I think back now I’m sure it was supposed to be wildly amusing. But to me it was terrifying.

My mum locked me out the house. In the back garden to think about what I’d done. She needed a break from my unruliness, my energy, whatever it was, and I was standing there by the kitchen door, standing on the patio alone. A bear was coming around the corner. It would be here any moment. I could hear it, feel its presence. Bear footsteps, growling, and I was banging on the door screaming for my mother to open up and save me.

There I am, shouting for help over and over again in a complete fit of panic until finally she unlocked the door and I was in her arms crying about the bear that was trying to eat me. And my mother was my mother again, telling me not to worry and that I was being silly, reassuring me that of course there was no bear; how could a bear be in our back garden?

But she let me in too. In no time at all I had her love back - I remember being given a yoghurt, or some such treat from the fridge and being allowed to stay in the kitchen, sat on a chair behind her while she finished off the dinner and washing up.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Story 28 - Waking Up in the Middle of the Night Story

It was a gradual feeling of realisation that I’d been moving around, changing positions for at least the past twenty, thirty minutes; though I couldn’t be sure. My damp half of the duvet was completely drenched in sweat; bladder aching with a dull and strangely comfortable pain; which funnily enough, I wasn’t so desperate to relieve at once.

Instead I lay there on the edge of cloud-cuckoo-land, trying to remember what the hell kind of world I’d only just been dreaming about a few moments before - swirling into and out of semi-consciousness, shapes and voices moved slowly away, barely out of grasp.

My girlfriend on the bed next to me was giving off heat like some kind of burning radiation device. My own personal living, breathing hot water bottle. The last thing I needed in the middle of summer in a place like this. And then, as the sweat continued to ooze from my pores I began to notice a familiar buzzing in the room. The high pitched wheezing noise of a mosquito we must have missed earlier on. Now there was no way of me getting back to sleep.

I picked up my Casio watch from the tiled floor beside me and pressed the light.


This meant… not counting her reading, me reading and our usual goodnight, I’d been asleep for hardly an hour.

I moved on to my back, then again to the front, flattening my face against the pillow. Then I was pushing the palm of my right hand against the smooth floor, hoping for some of the coolness to filter through my body, allowing my bare foot to do the same and it helped a little; but not enough. I needed a cigarette. A glass of milk. A piss. I needed to get up, out of this bed, this room.

Sliding silently out from under the duvet, I grabbed a t-shirt, glanced briefly at the lump in the bed to check my girlfriend was still asleep, carefully opened the bedroom door and before I knew it was standing in front of the fridge in the kitchen searching for milk, water, some juice, a beer, something to quench my sudden thirst. All I could find however were the remains of my girlfriend’s unfinished vodka and lemonade; the tumbler carefully covered with cling-film, preventing, I supposed, the last few remaining bubbles from escaping so easily.

I ripped the film from the glass and downed the contents, looking around afterwards for anything else to drink, rechecking the fridge before settling for a cigarette and mildly painful piss in the bathroom.

I ran the tap, opened the window, flicked ash into the sink and outside intermittently … considered risking a couple of gulps of tap water before deciding not to and taking a few deep breaths of outside air instead.

I dragged on the end of my cigarette, wondering what to do next. I didn’t feel like going back to bed. Maybe a bit of TV for a while would go down well. Though without anything to quench my thirst … possibly I was gonna have to think about hydrating myself as a priority.

I flicked through the TV channels anyway, being careful to hit hard on the decrease volume button as soon as the screen lit up. News, a cooking programme, shopping channel, some girls playing pool in bikinis, another girl telling me about her likes and dislikes whilst suggestively playing with her bra-strap, baseball, more baseball, wrestling, yesterday’s basketball game, news … back to the girl telling me about her interests who was now down to just a bra and panties. I gazed at the monitor knowing exactly what was gonna happen next but waited anyway. This girl liked long walks on the beach, eating sushi and going to the spa. She had a tattoo of a purple rose on her thigh, long fake eyelashes, deep blue eyes, short thick dyed yellow hair and red underwear. She had the thumb of her left hand hooked around the top of her panties while the other hand was waving around in rhythm to her giggles as she let me in to knowing all about her secret love of swimming naked.

And there it was, straight to adverts just as her hands were moving up to behind her bra: Adverts with lots of other girls waiting for my call or text. So I switched off the TV, knowing that yet another girl would only be appearing after the break, all ready to tease me into reaching for my credit card which I had no desire or need to be getting myself into.

I returned to the bathroom to grab my cigarettes, pulled a pair of jeans off the back of the sofa; checked the pockets for money, finding a couple of decent notes inside. I took another look in the bedroom to see if my girlfriend was still asleep; which I guessed from the look of the lump that she was; but I whispered, “Just popping down the 7-11, be back in a while,” anyway.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review - The Dead Beat by Cody James

Awesome book. Such a shame it's out of print. This is a real rock'n'roll novel that makes compulsive reading. Reminded me of Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman for its sense of atmosphere and beautiful, honest prose. I can't recommend it enough - but as I say, it's almost impossible to get hold of a copy these days. In 2011 it was up for the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize and due to the overwhelming amount of positive reviews from bloggers there was an inevitable backlash from the literary community. A few harsh words were written and Cody James pulled the book to its current out of print status. Totally undeserved. This book could've, should've become a cult classic.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Story 27 - Frisbee

Played Frisbee this afternoon. I’ve often see all these people playing it outside the library on Wednesdays. Never realised before today that it was an actual proper Frisbee club. They join up every Wednesday afternoon and throw the Frisbee at each other, then go for a drink afterwards at this pub in Falmer village. Sometimes they even go away for weekend trips too. Devon or somewhere like that where they camp and throw the Frisbee.

I’m taking the piss a little, but that’s not to say I don’t appreciate how friendly they all were when I wandered in amongst the group. All I needed to do was sort of mope around nearby when the Frisbee suddenly came flying towards me. I caught it and then it was simply a matter of throwing it to someone else to be included in the game. Didn’t think too much about who I was throwing it to. There were a couple of fit girls and I considered aiming it towards one of them more often than not but the whole concept seemed a little silly and Neanderthal so in the end I didn’t. Plus I generally felt a little shy too. Voiced a few, “Ah, missed it,” sounds but finally the only person I ended up talking to at all was the leader (who’s name was Nigel – all confident and sporty looking; a total Mr Popular amongst the Frisbee gang). He asked what year I was in, what I was studying and if I wanted to join them in going to the Lion Inn pub in Falmer; but I declined ’cause I’m up for a proper getting-wasted-and-going-to-the- union evening.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Story 26 - The Dream Machine and the End of the Human Race

It was a new application. Invented by a man in New Poland called Mac Schubert. Somehow it tapped into your brain and read your mind.

We remember everything you see, it’s all there. Our little conversations, the thoughts, the decisions, the scratchings of our heads… a lifetime of tiny incidents from deciding what we’re going to eat for breakfast to what shirt we’ll wear for work. A lifetime of memories.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could live your life again? “Live your life over,” was the line they used in the advertisements.

Schubert and co had the elderly in mind. Too old and infirm to do much apart from sit in a chair plugged in to their i-pads. It would bring happiness to victims of unfortunate accidents: the disabled, and could even aid depression, madness, drug addiction and the list went on.

Choose a date, a time, hit the button and you were away. What were you doing at four o’clock on the twenty-first of June nineteen-ninety-three? The dream machine would take you back to that moment and you were suddenly re-living a day forgotten by your conscious mind.

Remember that holiday in Madrid back when you were eighteen? Why not go again?

Apple secured the patenting. Millions were spent on advertising and billions were made as the world queued up to get their own personal app.

Almost immediately the effect of this new toy began to take its toll. (Have you guessed it yet?)

Put yourself in the situation of your average Joe Bloggs. You have a choice: Get up, start a whole new day that might turn out to be fairly non-eventful, even disastrous; or stay in bed, turn on your dream app and live through a day that’s guarunteed to bring you a perfectly satisfying, pleasurable time.

When one could repeatedly go back to their golden age of youth, was there really any alternative?

And then something new became available; an illegal download: Hackers tapped in to the dreams that people were experiencing and sold them on the black market.

Unsatisfied with your own life? How about trying something new? Ever seen the pyramids? Ever fought in a war? Ever had a threesome with two well-known porn stars? Ever been Tom Cruise?

An ageing Tom Cruise (you may have heard of him) was famously fighting a legal battle to win back the privacy of his own memories. Mostly he was unsuccessful because the hackers had got there before the laws were written; and the lawyers who gave a damn were few and far between anyway - too busy re-living their (or Tom Cruise’s) college days…

Addiction to the device proved devastating to commerce. People were showing less enthusiasm for their jobs, hardly willing to leave the house. Food was about the only thing anybody bought. Before they knew it they’d become cocooned inside their own minds. The body no longer had any use - people stopped taking care of their personal appearance and hygiene. They ate, they shat, they dreamed.

Apple may have secured the patenting but soon the thing had gone viral. It had spread across the world in a matter of months. Unemployment soared. People were stealing the essentials, feeding their habits by abusing the public electricity sources.

Of course there were some who opposed the devise. There were demonstrations, petitions; there were even plans to make it illegal by the end of it. But inevitably it was too late. Nobody was living. Almost no one was making any effort to start a family, to reproduce. The average age of the world population eventually exceeded sixty and after that there was no going back. The governments no longer cared and even the scientists were too busy being Steven Hawking to come up with any useful solution to the problem.

There are a few of us left now. But we can hardly call ourselves “the human race.” We’re barely animals. Nothing but tribes scattered around here and there. Surviving. Learning. Starting again. To conquer the planet again we’ve more than a long way to go.

All we can do is learn from our mistakes. But the device still exists. And even with education the danger will always be out there somewhere.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Review - Remember to Forget by Jonny Gibbings

From the writer of Malice in Blunderland comes this unexpectedly heart-warming novella about a husband and father winning back the love of his family. It’s very well written, well paced and just like his first novel could easily be turned into a film. However, while Malice in Blunderland would be an edgy satirical flick, Remember to Forget reminds me of one of those afternoon made for TV movies that pulls on the strings of your more sensitive emotions, of love and happiness and what the really important things in life are. A guilty pleasure, you’re unable to switch over and are welling up by the end of it. I thought this novel made a beautiful statement about the gifts that family and partnerships have to offer and Gibbings should be extremely proud of what he has achieved. But I also missed the hedonistic laugh out loud storylines from his first novel and the angry political righteousness of his blog. The versatility of Gibbing’s writing nevertheless suggests that there is plenty more to come, and that he is an author to watch out for.

For this blog's interview with Jonny Giggings click here.