Tuesday, 26 June 2012

That'll do pig

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. God said, Let there be light; and there was light.

Meanwhile, in a dark and moody megalopolis - Bruce Wayne had it tough. He fell down a well and was terrified by bats. His parents took him to the opera and he watched them die in an alley during a mugging. He grew up angry, eager for vengeance. He pulled on a suit and mask and took to the streets to hit people.

God made life. From the elegant to the ugly, from the cuddly to the poisonous, he made it all. The tiny bacteria in our bowels, he made them. The nits in our hair, he lovingly crafted them. The worms that wriggle and tickle and tickle inside us, he made them. Salmonella, e-coli, Ebola, yeast infections, he made them all so thanks be to God for a paritcularly nasty and embarassing rash I had back in the 90's. He forged the fjords, sculpted the savannah, made mangoes, and stingrays and then, out of a clump of mud, he made man. Realising man was lonely he snapped out a rib and created Woman when possibly a wide screen television would have been enough.

Meanwhile on a Chinese mountain - the powers of the Sun and the Moon all worked upon a certain rock - old as Creation, And it magically became fertile. That first egg was named Thought, Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha, said, 'With our thoughts we make the world.' Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch, from it then came a stone Monkey. The nature of Monkey was irrepressible!

Woman. Evil nasty woman. Woman sashayed around in fig leaves and tempted man into eating an apple. This made God mad and basically ruined everything. Woman was punished with agonising childbirth, which means epidurals must be the devils work. Out of the garden man and woman were cast and from there it was downhill. God rested on his angry laurels for a while until he flooded the world, killing everyone aside from Noah and the animals.

Meanwhile in grainy footage - a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them - maybe you can hire…

It got worse. Mayhem and murder. A virgin on a donkey. Dogs and cats living together. A carpenter husband limping his virgin to a stable where the cows (busy lowing), the goats, the chickens, the lobsters and anchovies watched as the baby was born.

Meanwhile you really need to know - you're dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare, with a man who's the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who's been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke. In Vietnam his job was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill! – so Colonel Trautmen sums up John Rambo and so John Rambo goes, romping and maiming in the name of peace, for the love of a dead girl with a jade necklace.

The boy grew. He raised Lazarus and fed the hungry with loaves and fishes. He fed his BFF’s with his blood and flesh at the first goth banquet. After irking Rome with his crazy ways he was nailed to a cross beside Barabbas. Barabbas was freed after an X Factor style vote, and Jesus was left to die. He resurrected himself after his blood was caught in the Holy Grail (to give Indiana Jones something to find centuries later) as John Wayne stood at the base of the cross saying Awe, that truly was the son of God. He then rocketed into the sky in a flying Delorian while Centurion Tannen watched in confusion. Christmas followed, along with Coco Cola and a jolly fat man in a red suit with kids on his knee. Amen.

Hero back stories. Batman, Monkey, Rambo, The A Team and Jesus, which one seems the most ridiculous?.

If Jesus were written today he’d be a miniseries. There would be special effects and catchy theme music. There would be adverts for episodes you just can’t miss and twists you will not believe. The bad guy would smoulder and likely be played by Kiefer Sutherland. The show would also be derided as unbelievable but would be a guilty pleasure. Come Season 2 Jesus would be a lifeguard running on water in slow motion with chest hair matted in the shape of a cross. As stories go it has all the components, magic, sandals, brutality and a cosmic vibe.

Jesus the super hero, he’s no Spiderman but that thing with the water and the wine would be handy.

At the start of each episode he would speak in a gravelly voice - You forgave them lord for they knew not what they did…but you made them feel guilty about everything from then on. Every day dream, every moment of jealousy, every extra biscuit, every illicit thought about Lady Diana showing her knickers, every simple moment of basically being human, you gave them guilt. That’s my superpower. I am Guilt Man here to remind you you're not good enough. Don’t make me cross.

Fifi Macaffee told Max Rockatansky - People don't believe in heroes anymore. Well damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes!

I am doing my bit to create new heroes, while wearing far less leather than Fifi.

Last year my wife took the kids swimming. Bear dove in and started splashing around and Toes walked to the pool. My wife was slipping her shoes off and flicking back her hair as sunlight shimmered through the window and caressed her soft skin like oil, sparkling on beads of perspiration as silently she whispered her love for me. She was distracted by thoughts of my calf muscles as Toes jumped in the water and immediately sank, forgetting she didn’t have her floatie on. Bear saw her go under and swam to his 3 year old sister, lifting her above the water line and holding her there, shouting to his mum as he did so. He saved his sister and I love him for it.

Toes saw a new boy start at her pre school. He looked lost and uncertain so she took him a stuffed toy and played with him all day. She called him her Darlin' Andy and Andy loved her.

There’s nothing miraculous about my kids in the grand scheme of things. Their origin stories are not out of the ordinary. Their super powers are nothing greater than laughter, being damn cute and being able to do excellent impersonations of zombies. That doesn’t stop me being amazed by them.

Bear and Toes make the world a better place.

I believe in that and little else, but then that’ll do pig, that’ll do.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Cherry Blue

I was in Spain for work teaching accountancy graduates from across Europe for 3 days. It was my first trip overseas and I hadn’t wanted to go. Overseas was big and I get confused very easily. Not long after thie trip to Spain I would be close to being arrested in Malaysia for accidentally hiring a male prositute - there was always the potential for bad occurances.

The course was based in a hotel and in my room was a note from a Senior Partner thanking me for not fraternising with the graduate intake and behaving in a professional manner at all times. Exactly what fraternise meant I didn’t appreciate until a Russian graduate raised her hand during an exam on Day 1.

As they did the exam I was working on a flow chart that laid out the time travel of Marty McFly and proved categorically that Old Biff Tannen could not return to the 2015 that Marty was in once he had given the Sports Almanac to himself in 1955 and changed the future. I had a red circle around the point in 1955 and I was proudly admiring my work when the girl coughed.

I walked over and crouched beside her.

What’s up?

She leant in towards me and whispered.

What is your room number?


Pardon? What is Pardon?

Excuse me?

Excuse you? I asked room number? What is it?

I looked at the question on her screen which did not need my room number.

I need to pass test. What is your room number?

I was very confused. You won’t need tuition; we’ll cover everything over the next few days. I’m sure you’ll pass.

She frowned at me. I not ask for tuition. I ask for room number. I come to your room, then you make sure I pass test.

Fraternise. The Senior Partner was asking me not to bed the graduates.

I was astounded that to pass a test someone would …I imagined saxophone music, blue lighting, cherries, and the kind of underwear that exists in Charlie Sheen’s world. I’m English; my imagination was educated by Benny Hill and James Bond. To want a career with this company so badly you’d bodily bribe a Himmler lookalike struck me as insane. I couldn’t help picturing the Russian girl twenty years later, sitting in a board room telling the latest intake of grads “the best thing I did was nail my IT trainer during the induction so he’d make sure I passed the entrance exam. You want to be an accountant? Well right here’s where you start paying – in sweat.”

I defaulted to sensible and said that by paying attention I was sure she would pass. She looked furious as I went back to Back to the Future. Another girl made a similar suggestion that day, and 2 guys offered money for me to help them pass.

There have been things I really wanted. I wanted to bring my flying Delorian model from the UK but I didn’t figure that rubbing myself against the post office would make the shipping box any bigger. I wanted to win a novel writing contest a year back and perhaps if I had mailed the judging panel bed based prose assuring them of my prowess as a Nazi themed lover I would have placed higher than the top 5, but I doubt it.

I wanted Boobs McGee (my now wife) to live with me in the UK and made promises about moving to Australia, starting a new life in the sun with mangoes, macadamias and surf. It sounds easy, starting over in the sunshine when you were born in the fog, but it’s anything but. We lived in a roach nest; had no money, no flying Delorian, and I spent too long having my backside squeezed by a rotund woman as she signed my time sheets.

I still live with my wife. We eat mangoes and macadamias, and our kids are fantastic. At heart I know my wife likes being called Boobs McGee so I can happily say it can all work out. I understand wanting something, being willing to do anything for it, but a life with my wife seems appropriate thing to relentlessly pursue.

The Russian girl wanted a job in an accountancy firm, she wanted to be on the corporate ladder and meant to get there after being on the trainers bed while someone played the sax outside and the curtains billowed in the moonlight. Her priorities seem way out of whack to me.

So saying - what would she have consented to for something genuinely important?

Blue blue nights and cherries. She must be a Senior Partner by now.


The epilogue was home. After Spain I loved being home, everything was where I had left it and the walls and plumbing were delighted at my return. My flatmates were out and I sprawled on the sofa, television on, can of Stella in hand, cigarette pack beside me. London welcomed me back with a call from my girlfriend to tell me she was walking towards my place. She sounded breathless and tense.

There’s someone following me.


There’s someone behind me, he keeps shouting at me.

I ran out of the flat, hammered down the stairs and along the road, seeing her ahead. I saw the man behind her, leering, saying something and. I shouted as loudly as I could. He veered to the left and vanished down a side street. I hugged my girlfriend and she shook tearfully for a moment. Then she started laughing, and then she started laughing harder. She pointed at me and I looked down.

You don’t have any trousers on.

I had sprawled in front of the television in my boxers. I remembered now, chucking my trousers on the floor and breaking English wind in English comfort. I was stood in a work shirt, threadbare red boxer shorts and bare feet on Pentonville Road in London.

I don’t think I looked out of place.

(Like it, share it, buy me a flying Delorian)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Shit & Custard - 1983

It wasn’t always illegal to let your dog defecate anywhere and as such my childhood was smeared in brown. Every park was land-mined with mess. Pavements had all colours, yellowy lumpy liquid, brown meaty piles, white chalk fingers and worrying red sticky nuggets. If it was possible for it to pass from the behind of Alsatian, Jack Russel or Labrador then it was somewhere on our street.

During the summer of ‘83 we were hot and we were bored. My family had its holiday in September; the rest of the kids in my street went away in August so there was often a hole in my life where kids I played with were in Tenerife or Spain. Friendship, at this time, was based on availability, which meant I ended up playing with kids I’d normally avoid.

Kevin was the boy I would avoid. Kevin scored high on the Thug Spectrum. His favourite sport was ride by punching. He’d race past and land a fist in your back. He’d play football with us and punch during a tackle to make sure he won the ball. He’d kick, he’d throw stones, and he never lost at a game as he changed the rules to his advantage. He’d boot footballs into the middle distance come the end of the day, laughing about it as he went home and the owner went on the walk to fetch their ball.

With no one else around we fell into each others company. That summer we played war games, hiding cap-guns about our person and shooting each other in Nazi accents. We made explosions, lighting caps by ant nests with stolen matches. We used magnifying glasses to burn ants as they crossed the concrete, then to burn worms and watch as they split open. We did all the things boys did in England before the internet, video cassettes and video games were invented.

There are only so many ants you can immolate though and we soon ran out of things to do. We walked out of our street to the grass hill behind and saw the huge Alsatian that lived on the street behind ours starting to turn in circles as it sniffed the grass. This dog roamed around off the leash, chasing cyclists, stealing footballs, barking at kids and being the menace that childhood requires. It stopped circling and squatted for a long time. We stopped in admiration of the size of the stool it was producing.


Kevin said it first. It was on the list of words not to say. I said it, but at a lower register. Kevin had, in the past, threatened to tell my parents when I had sworn. We approached this mountain of manure where flies were already circling. It was roughly the size of a dinner plate, a rich ox tail colour with peaks and slopes. It appeared to be breathing.

Kevin looked over at me and then at the mess.

Bet I can get closer to it than you.

He dropped to his hands and knees and held his face about 20 centimetres above and inhaled. He rolled back clutching his throat gasping and the burst into laughter. Laughter is the only lubricant a kids needs to do something stupid so I crouched closer than Kevin and inhaled. I rolled away laughing. Kevin upped the stakes by getting closer, so I got closer still. Within half an hour we were both almost touching it, our noses a whisper from the wet mess. Kevin took his turn, flies landed on his cheek. The heat haze from it gathered round his head. His face was above it., nostrils widening when suddenly I remembered school dinners.

School dinners were a rank affair. Piled masses of loose meat and disappointed vegetables in a nondescript sauce. I had struggled through a main and was now faced with a desert of raisin and sponge pudding with custard. Sat beside me was Kevin who turned to me and shouted -

Watch this.

He reached for the salt and tipped it into my custard and shot his hand into the air. The deputy headmaster turned and stalked towards us.


Sir, he poured salt into his custard.

The deputy scowled at me and pursed nicotine stained lips.


Kevin repeated it as I tried to protest and found my voice had ducked out for a break.


Kevin beamed as the deputy pulled a chair up and sat beside me.


I tried to speak and was silenced with a bellow that caught the attention of every child in the dinner hall. I picked up my spoon and pushed salted custard and raisins into my mouth until the bowl was finished. By the time I had the last spoonful a crowd of kids were watching and laughing. Kevin laughed the hardest.

I remembered this and my mouth flooded with the taste of the custard. I reached out a hand, stared at the back of Kevin’s head, and with custard on my mind I pushed.

I have occasional misgiving about what it must have been like to have a nose mashed into that mess. I remember Kevin bolting upright wiping furiously at his face fingers coming away smeared. I remember him grabbing grass by the fistful and using it to clean himself. I remember the retching sounds he made. I remember one piece stuck to his lower lip, hanging there. Then I remember his eyes as he looked at me in fury. I remember, in the realisation of what I had done, thinking that this might be a good time to cry.

Instead, I ran and the rest of the day was Huckleberry Finn time. I hid in the blackberry bushes. I crouched behind walls. I kept on the move, ducking around corners and skulking in shadows. I came home via the back door. I wasn’t in trouble, there were no parents hammering at the door with their be-shitted offspring screaming.

Days later Kevin found me and I got bruises and scabs. He didn’t tell anyone why he was hitting me and I didn’t tell anyone what I had done. To have done so would have increased his fury through embarrassment.

Time passed and I guess the smell faded. He’d shove me at school. He’d punch me if I was in range of his bike. I know what salted custard tastes like; he knows what dog shit tastes like. Hopefully there aren’t many other people who know either flavour.

We didn’t play together the following summer, he sat on his side of the street and I sat on mine and we likely both crucified more ants.

(enjoy it? why not tell a friend, claim your complimentary hug any time you're in Sydney)