Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Sunday on Thursday

My breaking an entering career has entailed one abandoned church, my own car and a house in my hometown.

During the summer holidays when I was 6 and 7 I would be dropped off at a three-story house to stay with a lady who had 4 daughters. The second youngest kissed me and one of her teeth fell out on my bottom lip, the next eldest had Days of the Week under pants that she wore on the wrong days.  
The youngest ate butter covered in sugar for lunch and breakfast while the eldest would sit in her room playing albums while gazing out the window in dismay.

The mum liked cheap wine and watching her boyfriend work out obsessively in the lounge room. I only ever saw him in shorts and a singlet and for our amusement he would drink raw eggs.

When I was 8 they adopted 2 African boys called Randall and Rory. They were 11 and 8 respectively and the dynamic of the house changed with their arrival.

The Days of the Week were no longer available for my viewing and were shown exclusively to the 11 year old Randall and Wobbly-Toothed kisses were now the province of Rory. The butter eater still ate butter and the older sister still moped but also played bad guitar as she did so and shouted at Rory if he let himself into her room, which he often did.

The mum still drank cheap wine and the partner still pumped iron.

We made bombs from tin foil and the contents of the caps from our cap guns. Rory squeezed tomato sauce into the limbs of an Action Man doll and we sat him on a large foil bomb.
We put the heads of matches in his clothing as Randall poured lighter fluid over the doll. Then he lit a string of cotton we were using as a fuse. We watched the cotton burn towards the prone Action Man and sighed in disappointment as nothing happened before screaming as ketchup exploded and plastic limbs spun through the air. Flaming chunks of his clothing landed around the garden and wiped sauce from our faces.

We were immediately dismissed until lunchtime and the older boy went to check what day of the week it was in the nearby bushes leaving Rory and I to wander around.

“My Nan lives nearby” he said.

“I thought your Nan was in Africa”

“Nah, she came over. She lives nearby. Lets go say hello.”

We crisscrossed streets as he looked for his Nan’s house and finally settled on a quite looking place. He knocked at the door and when no one answered he slapped himself on the forehead.

“I forgot, she’s out today but she said she’s leave something for me. Come on.”

He led me round the back of the house where he jostled a kitchen window until it swung open.

“Nan leaves this open so I can get in.”

I believed him and boosted him up so he could climb in. He unlocked the back door and I stepped into his Nan’s house.

“What are we picking up?”

He smiled. “She said she’d leave me some money for sweets but she hides it. Tricky Nan.”

He stepped into the house and I followed. The kitchen table was yellowing Formica, the sink clean of dishes and the small fridge grumbling in the corner. The lounge had a stiff looking sofa and a dust free cabinet filled with small ornaments of cats and frogs. A television stood in a cabinet with thin wooden legs.
The hallway had pictures hanging and I realised none of them showed Rory or his brother.
Rory darted upstairs and I followed him. 

There were two bedrooms and a bathroom and Rory ducked into the bathroom to pee and didn't flush. I checked the first bedroom. I saw a single bed with the covers in a heap. Pink slippers on the floor and a cup on the bedside table.

I heard Rory cheer and turned to see him holding two five-pound notes with a big grin.

“Tricky Nan.”

I turned back to the bedroom and saw the covers shift slightly and realised there was someone sleeping under them. I could now hear thick wet breathing and the creak of the bedsprings.

“Is that your Nan?” I asked nodding into the room.

Rory froze and I realised what I guess I had been denying to myself.

He tugged my arm and I looked at the sleeping figure as it started to roll over. Rory was running and I followed him out the back door as behind us I heard a thin voice call “Hello”.

My lungs were soon burning and my legs screaming in protest but we ran for a long time. Rory finally stopped ahead and waited for me to catch up. When I did he handed me one of the notes and I shoved it back.

“Take it.”

I pushed him and he flinched.

“I’ll tell it was your idea,” he said and I panicked.

“I don’t want the money.”

Rory looked around and saw the mini market where we would buy matches and chewing gum. He marched in with the money and emerged with a large bag of sweets and crisps and several boxes of matches. We walked home and I succumbed to the idea of candy.

“Did you spend it all?” I asked and he shook his head.

“This for my brother” he said showing the other note. “But this for us” he shoved another toffee into his mouth and I took one. We hid the sweets in the bushes near to the house planning to come back for them the next day.

In the house Days of the Week was fuming in the corner of the kitchen and the 11 year old was banished to his and Rory’s room. Between sips of wine and the sound of eggs frying we understood that they had been caught doing something disgusting.

Wobbly-Teeth asked where we had been and Rory looked at me uncertainly.

“Walking” I said.

“Yeah, just walking,” he agreed.

The next day the lollies were gone but Rory still had the matches. He suggested we try and find a cat but I convinced him snails would be a better choice.

Wobbly-Teeth and Days of the Week came with us. As Rory and Wobbly-Teeth jammed matches under the shell of a snail and down the entrance to an ants nest I turned and discovered a day I knew to be Thursday declaring itself to be Sunday.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Monkey Business

The campfire flickered as the night grew colder. Wood cracked and hissed and the wine swirled warm in my glass.

“Yeah, basically that’s why I became an atheist.”

My wife gaped at me. “You have to write that down.”

“Shit no, it’s way too embarrassing.” 

She shook her head. “It’s great, just write it. Stop worrying about being embarrassed.” I shook my head.

“Its ridiculously personal, no one would want the mental images.”

“Rubbish” she said, still laughing.

“It’s too much”

“Write it down and let other people decide. Let your spirit soar and your writing flow. Write and be damned. Kill your idols. Embrace your talent. Let words tumble and fall where they may.” She frowned. “Why have you made me into your internal monologue? I don’t speak like this. Are you even listening to me? You seem to be staring at my boobs.”

Boobs, I thought. I like boobs.


As a child I had an audience at all times and they were all dead.

My spirit guides were always watching me, advising me, assessing me. My grandfather had identified them to me. I had a Navaho Indian (as everyone on Earth did as they were so spiritually advanced), a Down Syndrome man (a sign of my emotional maturity as according to him Down Syndrome people know only love), a blue vibrating blob from another world (as heaven was home to all life forces) and I also had my grandmother and occasionally a doctor (only when the need arose as I guess health care in heaven was also underfunded.)

“These are your guides,” I’d been told. “They take the form of your instincts. If your instincts feel stronger it is your guides pushing you in a direction.”

I knew they were there. I was a child, I’d been told it, and so I accepted it. I prayed every night to God asking for my loved ones to be protected and for help if I was behind in school work or worried about something, and then I prayed to my guides, mostly my grandmother, running through my world and my life and my aspirations. Then I’d doze off a happy guilt free spiritualist soldier with my guide army watching over me from the heavenly wings.

Then something happened.

Cybil Sheppard changed on Moonlighting. She stopped being just a woman and suddenly became BOOBS. It was impossible to watch the show without focussing on only her chest. Wild thoughts ran through my head about spilt correction fluid on her purple blouse or rain, lots and lots of rain, falling indoors everywhere she went. My imaginings were confused but I was greatly enjoying them.

I realised it wasn’t only Cybil who had boobs. At least half the population had them. The girls at school were growing them by some obscure magic. Teachers had them. Shop assistants, lollypop ladies, librarians, they were everywhere.

Along with this realisation came a developmental spurt. The same one every teenage boy has. But with this sudden newfound hobby came the crushing realisation that my spirit guides were watching me. Even as I was hiding in the bathroom concentrating on blouse buttons and the music from Moonlighting my spirit posse were watching, making spirit notes, frowning. They were watching as I glanced up at the magazines on the top shelf of the news agents, they were watching my discomfort when my English teacher leant forward too much, they were even watching when saw the girl from up the street getting felt up in the alley behind my house. No matter what I did, they were watching.
This made it impossible to pursue my hobby. You couldn’t hide from them, they were omnipresent. A Navaho, a down syndrome guy, a vibrating blue blob (who I now imagined as a vibrating blue boob) and worst of all, my grandmother. I was two happy developmental growth spurts down and had become – for want of another term - cock blocked by the dead.

For a week I wrestled with this issue while noticing around me the other boys in school had developed a languorous walk, a swagger that implied the stress I was feeling was not a stress they were concerned about. They spilt themselves into chairs while I snapped my rigid limbs into a seated position. They laughed in the showers after Games lessons while I scowled. None of them were spiritualists, none of them knew about their ever present panel and I realised what pleasure ignorance must be. What utter pure passionate pleasure it must be. What freedom. They only had to worry about their mothers finding out whereas I knew for a fact that every fumble and fiddle was being noted and observed.
For another week I tried to work out how I could hide. Under a blanket was no good as “they can always see you” my grandfather had said. A TV show had a guy with tin foil on his head trying to block alien signals. Could foil deflect spirit guides? So I fashioned a foil headpiece (yes, I did) and realised it looked like a boob. There was no shadow dark enough to retreat into, no corner I could hide in, no matter where I went there they were.

Then came the long dark night of the soul. I prayed, as ever I did, and I spoke with my dead grandmother. I relayed all my problems except the fact that Cybil Sheppard wanted to race at hurdles. “Are you really there?” I wondered.

I felt alone, ironically enough given i just wanted to feel alone. There was no one watching, there was no heaven above. “If your instincts feel stronger it is your guides pushing you in a direction.” My instincts felt pretty strong but was it guides or hormones?

The following night I didn’t pray, I didn’t list my relatives who needed protection and immediately felt I was goading God into punishing them. I also didn’t speak to my nan, and I felt as though I had forgotten to say thank you for something vital. I lay awake for a long time expecting a crack in the world or the soft sob of my guides. There was nothing.


The following day Moonlighting was on.

I didn’t pray. The habit was already fading. Cybil and I ran slow motion hurdles and her shorts fell off (Carry On films were a big influence on my adolescence.)

I didn’t pray the next night, but the presenter of a certain kids show stopped making a lunar landscape out of egg boxes and tin foil and instead complained about the heat and unbuttoned her top.

The further from God I drifted the happier I became until eventually I realised it had been months since I had prayed. I expected to feel guilt or anxiety but realised I no longer believed at all.

There wasn’t a panel of dead folk watching me with a blue vibrating boob taking minutes. There was just me, a freak collision of coincidence at the right moment that bought me into being.

I was born one day and I’d die one day and, all being well, in between I’d see lots of boobs.

I felt relieved at the simplicity of life and noticed Kim Cattral sidle into my room in her Police Academy uniform. She dangled handcuffs and her buttons popped off.

I fought the law and the law won.

Then five minutes later I fought the law again and the law won.


“You became an atheist because of masturbation?”

The campfire flickered as the night grew colder. The wood cracked and hissed and the wine swirled warm in my glass.

“Yeah, basically that’s why I became an atheist.”

My wife gaped at me. “You have to write that down.”

“Shit no, it’s way too embarrassing.” 

She smiled and topped up my wine. “If you write it down I’ll show you my boobs.”


In the beginning the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the cosmos was hovering over the waters.

A hairy palmed monkey swinging from a tree contorted his mouth and ululated, “Let there be boobs."

And there were boobs.

And oh they've been good.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Can I Get a Hallelujah?

I am a faith healer. I never used to be but I cracked it at the weekend.

I’d been told I would be one day by my grandfather. He was a faith healer with a crucifix on his palm and many successful healings of scattered folk with moderate to mild illnesses. When I was a teenager I had my spirit liver removed and bathed in blue liquid by my grandfathers’ spirit guide and I had had my kneecap rinsed in the same blue liquid. I can’t speak for my liver but my knee issues never went away.

I did wonder why, if this blue liquid of the Gods was so good, we weren’t all bathed every night by our spirit friends? Given heaven is infinite surely this blue balm wasn’t in short supply?

My grandfather told me that once I learnt to love unconditionally I would be a great healer, greater even then him. At the time I was a teen so preferred the idea of loving Linda Hamilton from The Terminator and loving her quite specifically rather than unconditionally.
Unconditionally suggested doing laundry or gardening or putting up with her playing Bon Jovi albums.

It did occur to me that healing powers would be akin to super powers. I could help the flat chested, the bad haired, the non Nine Inch Nails fans, basically the females.

But that unconditional love thing…it was just too much commitment so I forgot all about it beyond the occasional drunk pub boasts “one of these days mate, I’ll be Captain Healer and you’ll still be ugly.”


Later in life when my daughter had her accident the idea bubbled up at 2am. Ideas that come at that time are always ridiculous. It absolutely is a burglar you can hear, that is a lump you can feel and you are financially fucked. So at 2am when it struck me that maybe there was something to this healing power I wandered through to my daughters cot and held her bandaged hand through the bars and thought “I do love her unconditionally.”

I pictured a waterfall in Cambodia I had fond memories of, pictured the blue waters running over her burnt skin and the damage falling away. I held her hand for a while and hoped, loved and wished.

Nothing changed, we still have 2 years of treatments and pain and the nurses, doctors and my wifes’ tenacity did her way more good than my holding her hand at 2am.

Can’t say I didn’t try.


Then this last weekend I had my road to Damascus moment.

My epiphany.

My awakening.

My powers came to life and I healed.

Can I get a Hallelujah?


We were at a party. A huge bacchanalian celebration of celebration. Friends who’d been together for 20 years and 3 children had finally decided to marry and they’d erected 3 marquees, gathered countless musicians, spit roasted pork, pumped barrels of local brewed beer and laid out local wines. We drank, the kids ricocheted around a bouncy castle and the various bands strummed Lou Reed, Pulp, The White Stripes and The Rolling Stones.

Around half eight my daughter wanted to go to bed. My wife was in a swirl of cigarette smoke and red wine so I took my six year old back to the house and lay with her as she fell asleep. When she was down I wandered back, found my son still bouncing inside the castle and my wife smiling. We danced some more and my son appeared grinning and asking for juice. I carried him over my shoulder and we wrestled over orange juice and made animal sounds, him drunk on sugar and me on my ninth beer and fourteenth wine.

At around midnight he came back, finally tired and asked for bed. I walked him back and lay with him as I had done with his sister. He was hiccoughing and each time he tried to doze off he would shudder and snap awake. This started to distress him given he was hugely over tired.

“Unconditional love” boomed the voice of my grandfather (played tonight by James Earl Jones).

“Dad I can’t sleep” my son hiccoughed.

“Don’t worry mate, we’re going to get rid of those hiccoughs.”

“How?” he asked and hiccoughed again and James Earl Jones boomed again.

“With unconditional love.”

My son couldn’t hear him and I didn’t think he’d appreciate Darth Vader offering him love so I pulled him to me.

I was supremely confident that this would work, and I was drunk. So I guess in truth I was drunk therefore I was confident that I could do anything.

“I’m going to put my hand on your tummy mate and you’re going to stop hiccoughing and fall asleep.”

He hiccoughed again and became agitated. I shushed him and held my hand there and thought quite simply “I love you unconditionally” and my hand grew warm and his hiccoughing stopped.

He instantly fell asleep, I hiccoughed once and thought “Well fuck, that was unexpected.”


I went back to the party pretty chuffed. I’d woken some dormant X Man power. 

I found my wife and told her about it. She gently indicated that I was a little drunk and perhaps we 
should go and get a little drunker together and maybe have one or two more cigarettes and pretend we were in our twenties.

Later, dancing to a punk version of Common People, it struck me that the ability to faith heal hiccoughs was useless. It was the dumbest power I could possibly have, akin to being able to always make bread land butter side up when dropped or know how many times the guy next to me at work will go to the bathroom each day. It was pointless.

I remembered the time I had had an out of body experience. I’d looked down on myself sleeping and then drifted up to the ceiling where I had had a really good look at the light fixture and the cobwebs and then just hung there. I got bored. I was just floating on the ceiling. So I drifted back to my body and thought “well that was pointless.”

So if you have a child hiccoughing and I am drunk I’ll try and help, or if you want your ceiling assessed, again I’ll try and help. I have to say though for hiccoughs counting bald people in your head (honestly it works) or sipping water from the other side of the cup may work better. And when it comes to ceilings maybe trust a building inspector ahead of sleeping me.

In fact skip the faith healing, just go to the doctors or rub some natural goats yogurt on it and hope it doesn't ooze.

I do love my kids unconditionally, so for that at least can I get a hallelujah?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Indiana Jones and The Intelligent Design.

Science cannot stop trying to prove the How of things, and that blinds these scientists to the awesome intelligence that lies behind the design

A room full of slightly intoxicated men, high on having witnessed Nazi immolation, gasped and started to grumble.

After all, Intelligent Design should not come up at a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.


When I was seven a friend of my fathers had a pirate copy of a movie we had never heard of. He clunked it into the top loader VCR and smiled at us. It’s a bit scary but you’ll be ok right?

Pirate videos were cool, they had playground kudos. The cassette was black and unmarked. Anything could be on there. The VCR whirred and the screen flickered and we watched Indiana Jones stride into South America and redefine excitement.

A few weeks later Raiders came out at the cinema and I saw it again and it was just as thrilling, if not more so. I’ve watched Raiders at least once a year since, on VHS, on DVD, on Blu Ray, sober, alone, with a room full of blokes all quoting lines, and finally at a special screening with one of the cast in attendance.

In the years since the pirate vhs I had kids. My son (Bear) came first and I resolved to show him various films – Ghostbusters, Raiders, The Good The Bad & The Ugly and Jaws. I guess there’s misogyny in this, but I grew up a boy so when I had a boy I knew what he would want to see. To balance things out the other night my wife showed our daughter (Toes) Anne of Green Gables and I was very confused.

Bear saw Raiders when he was 5, I told him it was scary and that he wouldn’t be allowed to see the end. He pulled up his blanket and we watched spiders, traps and Indy swinging towards a seaplane.

And then God came into it.

The Ten Commandments - Yes, the actual Ten Commandments. The original stone tablets that Moses brought down out of Mount Horeb and smashed.

Bear was confused so I sketched the commandments (delighted that he had no idea what they were). I explained at the time the movie was set everyone believed in God, and when the movie came out most people believed. God was in schools, movies and books so when I first saw Raiders I had no doubt God existed,

Towards the end of the film I flicked it off, assuring Bear that Indy won but that what happened next was too scary for him. This made him obsessed and he asked for the movie all the time. One day I inevitably forgot to flick it off before the face melting and Bear ran through to us delighted he had seen the ending. His sister, then 4, had seen it as well and found it hysterically funny.

Raiders was still great, the God aspect was manageable and life was red wine and cheap cheese.

Then the special screening.

John Rhys Davis (Indy’s sidekick Sallah) was attending for a Q&A after the movie and it was lovely to see him walk on stage, older, fuller, but unmistakably Sallah. He settled down and stated talking -  I last saw the three Indiana Jones movies on the big screen years ago with an audience in Thailand, it was a wonderful night watching the three...... wait, there is a fourth film now isn’t there? But I don’t ever want to see that film again.

The audience cheered and I wondered if I am the only person who likes the 4th movie. He took questions and had us hooked. Then he was asked where the acting ability comes from and things went awry –

Trying to distill such a thing….well it reminds me of the problem with Science. The problem being the one question Science cannot ever answer, but claims every day that it could, is - why does life exist?

The audience (geeks) flinched as the bubble we’d been in popped. It was like to the moment in a nightclub where the lights are raised, the music switched off and you realise everyone looks sweaty.  

Science simply cannot show why life exists. He continued, clutching the microphone. Science strives to show what there was at the moment of this Big Bang but not the time before. And we must look before it. We must consider what there was. If we do we see a wonderful theology, a beauty of metaphysics, of mystery. Science cannot stop trying to prove the How of things, and that blinds these scientists to the awesome intelligence that lies behind the design

Seats shifted, people coughed and mumbled. I swigged the last of my wine, chewed the last of my biltong and stood up to leave. Sallah smiled at us from the stage and continued down the Intelligent Design rabbit hole.

I can do the side stepping around God when watching the movies with my kids. It’s no different to explaining the presence of dragons in How to Train Your Dragonit’s just a story, in this one dragon’s exist.

It’s just a story; in this one you can catch ghosts with vacuum cleaners on your back,

It’s just a story; in this one a man wearing human skin mask hacks up hippies.

It’s just a story; in this one people believe God exists.

But Intelligent Design?

Listening to a conversation on Intelligent Design is like being told to wear jam instead of deodorant. Or suggesting we should replace thumbs with inflatable sheep. It just makes no sense.

So we left John to his intelligent design and stumbled down the steps of the cinema. Beautiful women ran over to each disgruntled geek and slipped their arms through ours. Mine was called Tiffany.

Tiffany:            Hey, what happened? You don't look very happy.
Me:                  Fool. Religious fool!
Tiffany:            What'd he say?
Me:                  An audience of geeks, he had no idea what he had in there.
Tiffany:            Well, I know what I've got out here. Come on. I'll buy you a drink.

We walked into the night, arm in arm, leaving Intelligent Design chattering away to a dwindling cinema audience of science fans.

Me:                  Hey Tiff
Tiffany:            Yes?
Me:                  I think we’re alone now
Tiffany:            True, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around



So the upshot was that I needed to know more about the history of the universe.

So I read Big Bang – The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh and am now well versed in red shift galaxies, CMB radiation, pulsars and the Steady State / Expanding Universe debate.

Thanks to the book I also discovered this - A Ukrainian born scientist, George Gamow, one of the pioneers of the Big Bang hypothesis, was renowned for his occasionally off beat physics. He once argued that God lived 9.5 light years from Earth. This was based on the outbreak of the Russo Japanese war in 1904 causing churches across Russia to offer prayers for the destruction of Japan. 19 years later the Kanto Earthquake struck Japan, causing the prayed for devastation.

Gamow suggested God’s wrath was impacted by the speed of light and that the delay between prayer and the earthquake could be used to determine the distance to God’s home – 9.5 light years away.

The last time I prayed I was 12 years old so my last prayer should have landed with God when I was 21 with my return due when I was roughly 32.

My final prayer, which I do remember quite well, was for Patsy Kensit to move in next door and need me to hold a ladder while she changed light globes.

Thus far, she’s a no show but just in case I have a ladder and some light globes and if she turns up I shall smile, doff my hat and say “Let there be light.”