Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lord of the Ring. The bungling smuggler with more luck than should be allowed in one day.

Lord of the Ring.
The bungling smuggler with more luck than should be allowed in one day.

Markus was an immensely likable guy. A cheeky chancer, with a glint in his eye, and a nose for mischief.  He’d been born in Australia, to Anglo-Aussie parents but had come back to the UK at the age of fifteen when his parents had separated.
I had met him some months earlier when he was working as a chef at my local gastro pub, and he could often be seen grabbing a swift pint in the bar on his breaks, resplendent is his chef’s whites, with the words Buddhist Punk spray painted on the back in flouresant pink.
It was coming up to the end of the century, when Markus had gone out for a beer with an old mate from down under. He had a proposition for him. How would he like a free trip to New Zealand for New Years Eve, to be one of the first people on earth to see in the new millennium? His mate explained that he was travelling back down under for a massive party, just outside Auckland, and he wanted Markus to come along. Of course, there was a small catch to this generous offer, but he reckoned Markus was up to the task. Markus had to assist him with ‘importing’ some very profitable merchandise.
On the day of the flight, Markus had rendezvoused with his friend at the airport. 22 hours in the air was not going to be comfortable; not with chronic constipation. However, his bowel discomfort was not due to anything he had eaten.  Upon meeting up, Markus noticed his travelling companion was wearing a new pair of Nike air-wear trainers. However, even from head height, something didn’t look quite right about them. ‘Don’t tell me, you’ve hidden your stash in those shoes?’ His friend assured him it was fine, and they would sail through immigration.
A day later, bleary eyed, they touched down in Auckland. It had been a somewhat uncomfortable journey, but Markus felt much better about his hiding place, than he did about his friends. As they headed for immigration, he decided it was best to hang back from his travelling companion, and not join the same queue.
30 minutes later, Markus was standing on the concourse, having sailed through customs and collected his case. His queue had moved quicker than that of his friend, so maybe he had just got stuck behind someone that customs had taken their time with. As 30 minutes became closer to an hour, Markus spotted an immigration officer exit an interview room, carrying a pair of brand new Nike air-wear trainers.
It was at this point that Markus suddenly had a realisation. He had no idea where they were going. His friend was the one who knew the exact location of the party, and where they we staying, but all Markus knew was that it was just outside the city.
Before he could shake the flight fatigue, and get his head together, customs officers appeared around him, and marched him off to detention.  It was obvious that, having been collared himself, his ‘friend’ had opted to cooperate, in the hope of lessening the impact of his own situation.
Over the next six hours, Markus played dumb. He refused everything but a search of his baggage, and stuck to the story that he knew nothing of his friend’s concealment. The cops had just smiled and said they would wait until he needed the toilet. At 10.30pm on millennium eve, banged up in a Kiwi immigration holding cell, an officer walked in and sat down across the table. He informed Markus that, due to it being millennium eve, and they were reduced to the minimum of a skeleton staff on this particular night, they had no option but to let him go.
Markus headed over the airport to the Holiday Inn, and booked himself a room. What the hell was he going to do? He was in New Zealand, with no contacts, no idea where they had been heading to, and a weight of pills groaning to be released. He decided to relieve himself of the discomfort, before anything else. However, once recovered; and due to the stress of the previous 36 hours, an indulgence felt like a necessity, rather than a reward.
At 5.30 am on the first day of the new century, Markus had formulated a plan in his grinning, spinning, head. He would head back to the terminal and get a flight to Melbourne, whereupon he would turn up at his father’s house, and make out he had flown 12000 miles to surprise him for the New Year. He would have a place to stay, he’d be a brilliant loving son; come all this way to see the ol’ man, and he could probably off load all the pills and turn a profit.
30 minutes later, he was standing at the Quantas desk of a deserted Auckland airport, and buying a ticket for the 9.10 am flight to Melbourne. The desk girl looked him up and down, before retaining his card, and asking him to wait a few minutes. The reality suddenly dawned. He must have been mad to think this was a good idea. Only 8 hours ago he had only just escaped being busted due to lack of staff, and now he had returned to the very same airport, pilled up, and still packing. Within a minute, two burley Quantas staff appeared by his shoulder and asked if he would accompany them to an office. Markus began to sober up very quickly, and rued the logic of making plans when you were buzzed off your face. What the hell had he been thinking? He resigned himself to his fate and wandered in to the office like a man condemned.
The smartly dressed guy from Quantas sat down on the other side of the desk and looked him dead in the eye. This was the end.
‘Sir, I would like to inform you that you are the first person to buy a ticket on Quantas in the new century, and as such, I am here by authorised, on behalf of the airline, to give you a cheque for $20’000, and your flight to Melbourne is courtesy of Quantas. Happy New year.’

Ian Hunter

Strangers In The Night

Strangers In The Night

I was on the dole and signed up for all the free courses I could get. A few weeks into an an A level English Lit course that I was about to give up for something else and I’m walking home from the evening class. It’s unseasonably cold and damp. The forecasted squally showers, whatever that means, grow into heavy rain. I still have a fair distance to walk and despite the weather and lack of employment I’m reasonably content if a little sodden.

Turning into a side street I come across an old bloke sat in an electric wheelchair – he‘s going nowhere fast.  He’s just sat there, miserable, wet and very stationary. ‘You ok?’ I offer. Of course he’s not ok you plank. No-one chooses to sit in the rain, in the dark, in the street, in a wheelchair.

‘One two’


‘One two, one two’, and he points to the underside of the clunky great device, ‘one two’.

A few more questions are greeted with this stock answer, ‘one two, one two’ and accompanying hand gestures. It’s like having a conversation with a roadie at a stadium gig. I glean, through this semi binary dialogue, thumbs up/down, nods and smiles, that the wheelchair battery is flat and he’s been sat in the pissing rain for twenty minutes for help to come along. And now here I am, the help, unsuitably dressed in a flimsy sweatshirt that was more drip drip than drip dry and trainers where flippers would have been more appropriate. The Tesco bag I’m clinging to offers little protection to a tatty copy of Macbeth, a few scribbled on A4s and a biro so are given a home in a nearby bin. Following a pointing finger I set about pushing him home.

I realise pretty quickly that the wheels are locked at an angle which means we have to travel in little three yard semi circles and then drag it round a bit to continue. This could take a while. He’s a big fella and the wheelchair’s not exactly featherlight. So we’re one twoing along, uphill with locked wheels, pissing rain lashing our faces -  him bored and frustrated, me shattered and sick of making all the conversation. Arriving eventually at his bungalow I start to reflect on this curious road trip. I’ve been a good Samaritan but it’s no more than any normal decent person would have done. Poor old bastard must have hated every minute of this – stuck in his little numerical world reliant on a stranger to get him home. Our little one way chats have soon ground to a halt much like his transport. Once or twice he nods off, not surprising really judging by the time. It’s taken us four hours to finally arrive at his bungalow and we enter it like battle weary soldiers returning home from the front. I haul him in and collapse on the sofa, soaked and sore. I regain some sort of normality to my bursting lungs and ask if he needs anything or could I ring anyone. He points to a drawer and there’s a tin in it which I hand to him. He opens it and it’s full of folded notes and he offers me a few. 'Don't be daft mate, I don't want your money' I say. He bursts into tears and 'one two, one two, one twos’' a bit. I say I'd better go and he offers his hand and then gives me a thumbs up. I leave him sniffling in his living room and jog home in 10 minutes despite the fatigue that engulfs me.

I mean to go back the next day to check on the bloke but never do, nor the next day or any day in fact. And I regret that.

I enrolled on a computer course soon after. It was only a few streets away from where I was living and it finished at one. Or two. One or two anyway.

Chris C


I’m not really a dress person

“I’m not really a dress person” She’d told them before being pushed into the rather too grand changing room before the pink silk curtains were closed around her and three of the dreaded things were put in with her.
The changing room had three large mirrors decorated in gold frames; one in fount of her, and two at the sides. On the gold bar stretching across one of the mirrors hung the dresses she was being forced into. A tight fitting navy blue one, a ghastly pink one with frills and bows and a simpler peach one. There was no way on God’s earth she was going to let them where the pink one so she picked the navy one off the gold bar and began undressing her grubby clothes onto the cream carpet.
Outside the changing room, the men were talking. They were dressed in dark suites, clearly the other end of the class system to the girl in the changing room and knew it. The first man looked bored and slightly doubtful as he picked up the end’s of random dresses that hung in the huge department store.
"Do you honestly believe you can do this?” This first man asked the second, his disbelieve and spite in his voice.
"The second man paused before answering,
“She’s not pretty. Her skin’s too tanned, her hair doesn't curl and she’s too thin. The girl constantly looks unimpressed, she swears too much and has an uncanny habit of speaking what’s on her mind. She can’t dance, ride, play an instrument, sing, paint or sew.” He smiled “She’s not a lady”
"You’re going to lose Briggs” the first man laughed, “ you admitted it, you can’t make a girl from the streets into a lady, the idea’s preposterous!”
“So the girls got a bit of spirit! I like a tough challenge, but don’t worry” He flashed his white prefect teeth “I’ll pull through.”
The first man shook his head and tipped his hat at the lady running the store before leaving, his black coat sweeping through after the bell that rang as he left. When he had gone the poor girl in the changing room stepped out slightly nervously from behind the engulfing heavy pink curtains.
The dress clung to her body in the right places and showed off her tall slender figure. Her flat white blonde hair hung at her grubby shoulders and she bit her caked with dirt fingernails as the rich man cocked his head to the side. He smiled suddenly.
“We’ll take this one” He told the woman. She nodded and went to help her out of it back into the changing room.  
“I’ll make a lady out of you yet sunshine” He muttered and smiled taking a seat next to the room.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Silicone Index

Parking's the worst part about this job. Manhattan's a total nightmare, tickets are just a fact of life, an additional expense to be factored into the price of any job. We're circling around in the mid seventies on Park Avenue in the vain hope that a spot becomes available soon. I could park on Lex but the meters are for an hour; by the time I've gotten to the job site given it the once over it's time to rush back and feed the friggin meter some more. All the parking garages have a sign 'No Trucks,' and it's a pain in the balls anyways; you always forget some tool or fitting and have to go back to the truck then you get hassle from the prick attendant who'd already parked two BMWs and a frigging Range Rover in front of you, even though you told him you'll be two hours tops.

Fuck it, I'll double park and leave the apprentice in the truck. What an apprentice, he could come to work in a Brooks Brother's suit, spends more time sat in the fuckin truck making sure I don't gt hit with a ticket than he does plumbing.  What can you do? I tell him to keep his friggin eyes open for the Brownies never mind the babes. Some hope eh? Park Ave in July, hot as hell all the trophy wives passing by. Jesus don't these guys know they're only in it for the money? They have to. Guy last week, wife's a straight 10, no question, he's a little fat fuck, baldie headed sweaty mess stuffed into some ill fitting Armani suit and Gucci loafers. Sad bastard would look over dressed in a pair of LLBean chinos. I seen her looking at me. You ain't telling me she don't fuck around?

So here we are, plastic surgeon's office, the John's backed up. It stinks like fuck, there's a turd the size of a friggin baseball bat curled up in there and half a fuckin roll of  Cottenelle (The Softest & Most Gentle Toilet Tissue For Extra Sensitive Skin) and they're surprised it won't go down! Funny thing is, the receptionist, the nurse, the doc, the babe who puts you under, they're all looking at me like I did it. I think it's the receptionist, she looks guilty but what you gonna do, there's money in shit.

I put on my rubber gloves, don't laugh, I wear a pair of yellow friggin Marigolds,  get the auger, drop the head in and begin to snake away. The shit mashes up with the toilet tissue in the bowl and the dirty brown water splashes up against the sides, the stench increases exponentially. I purposely leave the door open so the receptionist can catch a whiff of it too. There's nobody in the waiting room. I'd close the door if there were. I turn the handle and bear down with my weight. Turning, turning, the shit, the tissue, the water, it all goes around and around then burps up at me the sound I've been waiting for. We're 5 feet through the bend and whatever the blockage was is in the stack now. We're good. I retrieve the auger snake and drop it in a large PVC bag, snap off my gloves and write up the bill.

He's a dick this doc, a real wise arse. I hand him the bill.

'Whoa, $250s for five minutes work? I'm in the wrong game.'
'Things are not too hot in the plastic surgery field at the moment then doc?'
'Not too good? This economy sucks, I haven't done a boob job in 3 weeks.'


Monday, April 8, 2013


I'm sat here playing tunes by The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Dexys, The Clash, The Undertones, The Specials and a whole host of bands from my formative years. My kids are in the kitchen doing their homework while their mother makes tea. This isn't how I thought it would be.

I've been home from work an hour now, I received the news slightly over two hours ago. My gaffer's secretary called me, "Tom said to tell you someone called Thatcher died." I always imagined I'd drop whatever I was doing and head for the nearest bar. I envisioned doing irreparable damage to my liver and taking a few days off to drink, to celebrate, to have the last laugh. I saw myself dedicating pints and shots to the miners, the print workers, the hunger strikers, the 1 in 10, the unemployed, those dependent on the National Health Service, those killed on The Belgrano ( I won't berate her for the Falkland's War. If the people living there wished to be British they deserved the full protections of the British military in my opinion), those who had their full time jobs replaced by two part time jobs, anyone ever subjected to a YOP or YTS scheme, those priced out of further education and all those children who had their school milk taken away. I imagined it getting nasty. I saw myself getting silly and going and celebrating outside the British Consulate - 845 Third Ave NY NY.

 Instead I'm killing time until tea and then I'm heading out to night school. I'm not even happy she's dead, I've felt no satisfaction. That doesn't mean I'm not sad she was ever born. There is a difference. They say the best revenge is to live a good life, I think they're right. So I'll raise a glass of milk tonight to all those who suffered under her government and I'll be content with the knowledge that the bastard never managed to grind me down. You're dead; I have a good life.