Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Story So Far...

Well well, so here we are my official last post of 2010, and what a year, well it's definitely been some kind of year and its also been just over a year since my first blog something like 54 weeks ago. Mostly it has been a year of not getting everything done that I wanted to, but that may have been due to unrealistic expectations on my part. Who can say? This year on the main has been fun, with a whole host of new faces sprinkled over it for good measure.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support and believe it or not (and I was pleasantly surprised) this blog is being read in 15 countries including the UK. I would list them all but who wants to read a list of countries? You know who and where you are and I'm very happy you keep coming back. I'm hoping to continue blogging a little more regularly in 2011 and (fingers crossed) with your help to increase my readership.

Recently I have adjusted the settings on this blog to make it easier to view on your smartphone. Also, you can now follow me on Twitter (if you fancy it a little tweet-wise) @auburnville - it should make it easier to get feedback and/or throw abuse at each other (insert smiley here).

My bookshop job has been fun - I'm hoping my services will still be required after the Christmas rush but at the time of writing it is still unknown. I have been in a constant state of amused exasperation for the past few weeks as the customers come out with some absolutely genius remarks (and when I say genius I really mean bat-shit crazy).
         A man/woman walks into a book shop and says to the mild mannered assistant,
         'Excuse me, I'm looking for a book.'
         'Oookay,' said the assistant ('have you the faintest clue which book?' he thinks),
         'The trouble is...' continues the customer. 'I don't know the name or the author.'
         'Really? Is it this one?' The assistant picks a book at random from the shelves and shows it to the customer.
         'Well obviously its not!' The customer fixes the assistant with a stare that screams 'You bloody idiot.'
         'How do you know,' asks the assistant. 'You said you didn't know the book's title or author, and this is a fine read... Honest.'
         'But it's not about the sex lives of eunuchs.'
         'Oh I see... sorry we're out of stock.'

          ...and so it goes on. And this sort of thing didn't happen once; the amount of customers that expected you to be telepathic and have an encyclopedic memory of the amazon website was/is fantastic. My favourite moment was a customer who was after a recent Mann Booker prize winner: he was convinced it was this year or the last... three of us had our collective heads together we even googled it but we failed. Later when I had some time to undertake some further research (as this question had left me quite vexed) I discovered that the book in question just happened to be the Life of Pi, Mann Booker winner 2002 I believe. Oh well. The other breed of customer that gets very annoying are the 'we heard/read/watched an interview with an author of a book and I want it now... What do you mean it still isn't published yet, but why would it be advertised and not released?' I don't know ask the publishers.

Anyhow, enough of my grumbles for now. I would like to wish you all the best that 2011 has to offer, I hope you are all safe and warm, and surrounded by family and/or loved ones... and most of all happy. Try not to spend the money you don't have on the things you don't really need, and try to be a little more understanding of other people's points of view. To be honest most of the last few lines are more for my benefit although I've never been one for new year's resolutions, but I may as well add - be more active and try to eat healthier.

Happy 2011 all!

Until next year...

Monday, 20 December 2010

Careers Advice (Microfiction)

This year I think it's safe to say the quantity of my writing has been quite unpredictable. I hope in general it's improving and that you're still enjoying it. The fiction I'm now posting is getting at least as many views as my opinions on life. Which I have to say I'm quite pleased about as I don't always want to be slagging someone off to find an audience (don't worry there is more of that to follow). So what have I written for you? Well on this occasion it's another dialogue-led piece, and if you have bothered to read this far then dear reader you shall be rewarded - because this is a slightly tweaked segment from my first novel. Yes I'm aware it's taking awhile but it will get there.       

            ‘Well sir, I thought I’d like to be a teacher.’
            ‘Would you indeed, and you're not put off by what you see everyday about the school?’
            ‘No sir.’
            ‘I must admit Toby that teaching at first glance does look like a glamorous and noble profession but it’s not all hot and cold running sixth form girls and all the free refectory food you can eat you know… There’re long hours, endless marking, and the inevitable addictions: nicotine and caffeine mainly. Most teachers find the only way they can get through the day is by lacing their coffee with gin or rum - personally I favour whisky. No it’s not very glamorous at all… I don’t think I could recommend it.’
            ‘Oh… I had kind of set my heart on teaching sir, I hadn’t given much thought to anything else.’
            ‘Well I suggest you do, unless you fancy a life so soul-destroying your wife decides to have an affair with Jones from her accounts office, and finally runs off with Jones from the I.T. department. You return home of an evening to an empty house with nothing more to look forward to than a microwave meal and a pile of marking, then spending the weekend trying to top yourself, off your face on a heady cocktail of Prozac and the supermarket’s own-brand whisky – vile stuff by the way – and if you're feeling flush getting a ten pound blow job from some leathery-faced old prossie who if you’re lucky has remembered to take her teeth out… No Toby, teachings not for you unless you would like to end up divorced, depressed, alcoholic, and sobbing yourself to sleep every night.’ He paused and removed his glasses. ‘Would you like my advice?’
            ‘Very much, sir.’
            ‘Now I’m not advocating prostitution but a good looking young man like yourself should find it possible to earn a good living.’
            ‘A rent boy sir… but sir! I don’t… I mean, I wouldn’t sir…’
            ‘… Now, now, you miss understand me I’m not suggesting for one second that you should start hanging about the local park’s toilets, like some sort of grimy truck driver or down on his luck pop star… I was only going to suggest, escort services, you know providing a service to lonely widows.’
            ‘Widows, sir?’
            ‘Yes, divorcees and business women… that sort of thing.’
            ‘Urm, maybe I should think about University first sir, concentrate on my studies for a few years.’
            ‘Of course Toby, I wasn’t suggesting you should dash out and join an agency today, oh my no.’
Mr Peters replaced his glasses, stood up and with a broad warm smile said,
‘Well I’m glad we’ve had this time to talk Toby, thank you very much for coming in… and remember my door is always open…’
‘Thank you very much sir.’
‘Oh one last thing, would you be so kind as to close the door on your way out. Good lad...’

(c) Lee Auburn 2010

Monday, 13 December 2010

Yuki-Shi no Yume (Microfiction)

I had written this story for halloween, but decided not to post it straight away. With all the snow we've had recently I've decided that this is as good a time as any. The title is Japanese and if I've managed to get the title correct its literal translation is - Dreams of Death and Blood. I hope you enjoy it.

The wind tousles her snow white hair, obscuring the girl’s terrible beauty. Kneeling naked beside him; stroking his face. She has nothing but love for this man. Lying in the snow he doesn’t understand why she wants him to die. He tries to tell her but he doesn’t speak Japanese. Blood in the moonlight looks black and now his hands are slick with it. The snow is falling on his blood spattered face, the flakes remind him of… cherry blossom. 


There are no real Geisha anymore, only whores from what was the old USSR with faces made of sharp angles and their all-too-blonde hair. At least I’ve had a good skin-full of bad Sake. As I stagger back to my apartment across the bridge, Kyoto at night in the snow looks like a postcard and I love her. A little old man stops me, he’s smiling, all bad teeth and bowed legs, he speaks, but…
‘I’m sorry my Japanese is very bad.’ I say by way of an apology. He laughs and tells me that my friend said it would be. I laughed at this – but what I found amusing, I didn’t know.
‘Which friend?’ I asked, thinking he might know my girlfriend.
‘The one you think about whenever you cross a bridge.’
‘…He died, yes… but he still worries about you.’
I thought of him then, all wrapped and tangled in weeds, struggling - then still - carried off down stream before he was found at last, weeks later.
‘What’re you?’ I sneer. ‘Some sort of mystic?’
‘No’ he said, his bad teeth forming another smile, ‘more of a colleague you could say.’
‘What’s he worried about then?’
‘Your Kitsune’
‘What… you mean Kitty?’
‘Is that what she calls herself? She is Kitsune!’
‘Kitsune… I don’t understand?’
‘She hunts in the snow, her coat’s almost white and she will kill you!’
‘What the fuck! Are you seriously trying to tell me you’ve spoken to my dead friend, and he’s told you that my Japanese girlfriend, who I met Salsa dancing, is some sort of serial killer…’
            ‘…I’m not telling you anything about salsa-dancing serial killers, I’m not even here… but, in your dreams when you’re looking up and the snow is falling on your face, when you see your end, ask yourself who kisses you goodbye.’ He’s interrupted by the buzz of my cell.
‘It’s her’ he whispers.
My thumb hovers; do I choose red or green? I look back at him for courage or guidance but I’m alone on the bridge, and the snow starts to fall again, big flakes that remind me of cherry blossom.


The fox sniffs at the man lying in the snow, and gives out a little cry - if he heard it, it would have sounded almost childlike - and then tastes him. With the coming dawn the fox makes her way silently through the mist, moving deeper into the temple’s ancient gardens.

(c) Lee Auburn 2010

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Story So Far...

I'm not sure whats gone wrong with my time table at the moment: I know a large chunk of my time has been eaten up with my new job but really, it's not even properly full-time. I've clearly became a sad old man with the stamina of a 90-year-old. I now work in a large book shop for my sins [which must have been many in this and past lives] and I must admit I enjoy it - it's not quite as much fun as my days in the comic shop mocking teenage X-Men fans and generally fucking about but it's still work, which is nice!
     This blog was actually mapped out over a coffee before my shift started [with pen and paper in long hand]. The universe has managed to set the world to rights again it would seem. I slated the evils of Katie Price and TweedyCole and then last week [ish] I was given the task of stacking their new books [biographies both] - hundreds of the bloody things. If this wasn't bad enough I have to smile and make small talk with the fuckwits who buy this shit...
     What's that dear reader, why don't I leap across the counter and bite their noses off, spitting the grisly bits back into the blood covered faces crying something beautiful... Like a Morrisey lyric or something else that might come to mind, liberally dowsed with profanity and righteous fury? Because as I've already pointed out, I'm a corporate whore who needs the cash. Not to mention I get some sort of perverted pleasure from giving excellent customer service. At least for a while both biographies were being outsold by the spoof Meercat Bio -The Simple Life!
      All in all I seem to be less annoyed by things at the moment... I still dislike all things X-Factor [hate is too strong a word] - I now think I feel more pity towards the poor simple minded viewers [yes mother I include you] of this corporate money making machine... [stat attack alert]  Between ITV1 & 2 there has been over 5.5 hrs of weekly airtime given over to the show over Saturday and Sunday nights, not counting the weekly repeats. Episode 1 alone drew an audience of 13.5 Million, which on the night in question was a little over 50% of the TV viewing population of Great Britain. It still pulls somewhere in the region of 10 million viewers. Now get your voting fingers ready... because at 25p a text.... well you do the maths: how many times have you voted for one of these desperate-for-their-15-minutes-of-fame wannabes [all washed up and forgotten by New year 2011, fingers crossed]?
      It would seem that even in a recession business is good. I wonder what we could achieve as a nation if we diverted all this wasted time, money and energy into something useful. For instance, we could build a new henge for the 21st century,  not out of stone obviously as that weighs a fair bit and is slightly on the heavy side. Just think about what you could have done with all that time that you'll never get back. If I could be arsed I would research how many weeks this show has been running and then do some quick calculations to work out how many millions of hours have been spent in front of the TV, how many life times would it represent...
     ...I'm not sure I would want to know, would you?
I have only existed on this planet for approximately 360,000 hours and I would hope my life for what it's worth was not more than half way over. What will we do with the rest?

Until next time...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Story So Far...

Hello all, I hope this finds you well.
I can't believe it's already Mid-October, I go off to sleep one evening and lose the best part of four weeks.

It's X-Factor season again, [Rant-Mode-Enabled] and do you know what... I couldn't give a flying fuck - its safe to say that I wouldn't piss on Jedwood if it was on fire! Please please if there is a big guy in the sky let the TweedyCole get bitten by something bigger next time like a fucking Tiger [the last great act of a dieing species]. Also a little known fact - well, little known to me - Simon Cowell is worth in excess of 350 million quid! Try to remember that as you franticly text vote for Sad-fuck-for-the-win - yes Mother that includes you, put the phone down.

[if you enjoy X-Fuctor I can recommend the blog of the "Un-working Girl" she loves it - one day I'm sure we will meet to exchange notes... It could happen!]

If someone is going to start some Facebook campaign for a Christmas Number One can we have something a little more traditional this year, don't get me wrong I very much enjoyed last years 'Killin in the Name of' but it was difficult to sing the kids to sleep with. Maybe, 'Down with the Sickness' - the Richard Cheese version? Or for something a little more traditional - Nat King Cole maybe?

Turkey was fantastic by the way, I recommend it wholeheartedly. There were of course a few things that perhaps could have been better but since most of these were other British tourists there was no point complaining to the resort management. How I giggled when I heard the fantastic comment,
"What! There's foreigners here?"
Yes you bloody idiot I believe it's you!
Lady Auburnville and myself looked at each other stunned when another Sterling Brit abroad complained the pool bar wasn't open yet, and then the whole group of them went out into the world to find a supermarket that would sell them beer. Why were we stunned at this obvious use of their initiative? Because it was 8.30am, and the pool bar opened at 10am. You couple this with the family that couldn't find anything to eat at the breakfast buffet apart from eggs - the kids all had boiled and the parents scrambled - when the buffet was a full continental breakfast: a mass of wonderful meats, cheeses and fresh fruit. There were also large bowls of cereals [the lack of cardboard boxes must have confused them] fresh bread, large bowls of preserves and honey, and every other day there were pancakes or eggy bread. It was almost enough to go berserk over.

There were complaints that there wasn't enough English food...

Why? I don't want bloody Mac D's [somehow McD has become a British staple] or fish and chips, you hideous waste of human life, I don't go abroad expecting a version of Britain where they've managed to find a virgin to sacrifice to the mighty Sun God. Speaking of which it was almost 40oC most days, in Britain if we have temperatures at that level we would probably expect to be witnessing the end of the world. But still there were bright pink Brits the same colour as their bikinis... and couple this with the strange activity of Brits sun bathing topless by the pool only to cover up to go for a swim... Oh and one last thing that amused me as a parent: if your child, when asked to do something like - 'Get out of the sun you're going to die!' says 'No!' and you threaten to discipline them, then please do. I know we don't all want to be thrashing our pride and joys to within an inch of their snotty wingeing high pitched screaming little lives... But you do have to follow through with the discipline otherwise you'll end up blaming the schools when they've turned into horrible little shitbags.

[Rant-Mode-Disabled] And breathe...

In the words of Baz Luhrman 'Remember the sunscreen'

Until next time...

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Story So Far...

Hello and welcome to you all, I'm in a very good mood as I'm about to go on holiday - more about that later.

I'm sorry it's been a couple of weeks since my last post but I've been up to no good, well that's not really true but I have been writing a fair bit of short flash fiction (less than 1000 words). Now that they've been submitted to various magazines/ezines for possible publication norrmal service can resume (well... as soon as I'm back from my trip... Did I mention I'm going away?)

Other news... and I say news, but it's more of an update. I've started my novel again (it's a steep learning curve, what can I say). It started life as a 1st person non-fiction travelogue: it gained an additional back story, then further evolved into a black comedy, after an excessive rework became a 3rd person fictional black comedy with all new characters (but it sucked). Now I think I have it... no really! So watch out my beta-readers as all new chapters will be landing in your inbox soon (a big smoochy kiss of thanks to you all for your time and patience).

Did I mention that I won't be posting anything for a couple of weeks as I'm off on holiday - Yes I know I only had one last year, that's not the point. This year I'm Turkey bound, somewhere near Marmaris. So I'm packing lots of books to read while I'm drinking cocktails by the pool. It's not as glam as it sounds as it was a last minute deal - it may have been cheap but I'm just really glad to be getting away for awhile.
 As I'm going for two weeks I've assembled a collection of books to keep me busy and as usual I'm taking more than I need, but you never know what mood you might be in and I hate running out of reading material while I'm away as it's always a hassle trying to find a good book when you're abroad (using up all that perfectly good Sun and cocktail time).

If you're interested, this is the reading list I've assembled - it's not in any discernible order.

Kevan Manwaring - The Long Woman
     Published by the Small Press, Awen, this is the prequel to the 'Windsmith' series.

Neil Gaiman - Fragile Things
     This is the only one of Gaiman's novels I have still to read and is another collection of his short stories. It's safe to say that I love the Gaiman.   

Stephen Fry - The Liar
     His debut novel and since I haven't read any of his written work, I thought it would be a good place to start.

Hugh Laurie - The Gun Seller
     Well it's rude to have a little Fry without Laurie, this his first and as far as I'm aware only novel.

Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
     Once again I've never read any or Bill Bryson's work, so decided to start with this one (it was a birthday gift).

Haruki Marakami - Norwegian Wood
    I received this book for Christmas and other books just seem to keep beating it to the top of my reading pile.

Stieg Larsson - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
    It's sold millions, and the author died mysteriously in 2004 just before the trilogy was published... Spooky!

John Irving - The World According To Garp
    Another pressie, first published in 1978 it may be an oldie but its a goody.

I will no doubt review a bunch of these books on my return, and if nothing else it will keep me off the streets of Marmaris.

In the words of Ron Burgundy "Stay classy!"

Until next time...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Story So Far...

Okay then I have a few questions for you, and when I say 'questions' it's probably a little more accurate to call them ponderings.

Firstly - I would like to thank everyone who has been following the blog recently, the stats are great. It's frankly not a shock that the post that mentioned Katie Price got the most attention, although that being said it's still vexing  that a frivolous bit of celebrity-bashing that took almost no time to write received more views than the pieces I'd worked on for several hours. But thank you anyway, no doubt I shall have another rant about another hapless celeb in the future I just can't help myself (not to mention its good for the readership figures).

Secondly - how much is too much?
With regards to this blog, how many posts can you stand - 2 or 3 a week? More maybe? I only ask as I'm planning something for the new year and I don't want to annoy you all by spamming your pants off! Even if they're nice pants, or bright orange speedos.

Puss from Shrek
Which brings me to another point... and as I type this I'm getting down on my knees and looking up at you fluttering my eyelashes with my sweetest 'please, please, please' look on my face (yes! Just for you dear reader). I know how many of you are checking my sexy little blog out, and yes it's pert and firm to the touch, but could you please sign up to follow it... It makes me look good and if I'm ever going to get published I need to look good! Whats that you say... I need to finish my book and possibly learn how to write! Well thats not very nice, true maybe, but not very nice. On a related topic, a sort of 2.1 or 2a maybe, Facebook has decided in their wisdom to block my 'Explore' FB account from inviting people to join my friends list, so now I'm relying on you dear reader to find me more readers... if you like the blog tell your friends (tell 'em anyway even if you don't).

Thricely - Comments!
It's fair to say that my fragile male ego probably won't handle a good slating but I would still like a little feedback, (occasional) criticism if constructive is helpful and will in the long term help me to develop as a writer. Better still if you enjoyed it please feel free to shamelessly massage my aforementioned fragile male ego... I do so enjoy a nice massage!

Before I leave you I have a little bit of news for the local book readers of Plymouth.

St Luke's Hospice have just opened (I say 'just' but it's been open about five weeks already) The Reading Room - a used book shop on Hyde Park Road in Peverell. With books from 50p why not give an old book a new home and help a good cause at the same time. I will also be volunteering there a couple of days a week, so pop along and say hello!

Until next time...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Explore Books - The Conqueror Series

Conn Iggulden's 'Conqueror Series' is a wonderfully epic tale about the life and times of Genghis Khan. Following his rise to power from his youth (before he was called Genghis) to adulthood as he forged one of the largest empires of the ancient world.
This is a very well written series; the story is fast paced, action packed and gripping. I didn't so much devour these books as inhale them (almost literally) and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone who fancied a good yarn.

Part four of the series - Empire Of Silver - is due for release in hardback September 2010 and can be pre-ordered now from your favourite retailer...

The Following link will take you to a video of Conn Iggulden explaining all about his latest book (it's almost a bloopers reel), enjoy. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Of Dwarves And Fighting Men - Pt 1 ( Short Story 1500 words )

A few months ago (on facebook) I asked what people would like me to write about, well the feed back was interesting and ranged from Dwarf porn, well to Dwarf porn and included alcohol, boozy nights, sex and violence. This is the first part of my humble offering (and yes I Know I've taken my sweet time about it - I've been busy). Oh and in case your interested it's a spin off story from the prequel to my novel... Enjoy!

The Elle wasn't the pub’s real name but as long as anybody could remember that’s what it had been called. Located at the centre of town, the Elle was more like a village pub - if the village in question happened to be populated by Bikers, Goths, Metal-heads, Students and misfits. Tuesday nights were possibly the slowest night of the week in the Elle, sandwiched between Monday’s quizzes and Wednesday’s live music. It may have been a slow night but you could guarantee the usual selection of interesting locals would be in for a jar or two.

In fact Tuesday nights were so slow that the staff would draw straws to see who would work it, and tonight it was Harry's turn. He was new, well new-ish, Harry didn't know about the straws and so far found himself lumbered with every single, painfully slow Tuesday night shift. Tonight his co-star - recipient of the short straw - was Tori, the pub's assistant manager. She had been working here for a little over two years, originally from New Zealand she had set off to see the world, with her girlfriend Esther. Unfortunately she found out after they arrived in England that Esther was a “greedy-little- backstabbing-bisexual-bitch” who had decided to continue on her world tour with a Danish backpacker called Tomas. Leaving Tori heart-broken, penniless and in need of a job and somehow she had been here ever since. Compared to that Harry had very little to offer in life experience, at twenty three he had only just moved out of his parents home.

‘Anyway… this Dwarf walks into a bar - stop me if you've heard this one.’

‘Like this one you mean,’ she said.

‘What you’ve heard it?’

‘No… Harry you have a customer.’ Tori nodded her head in the customers’ direction. Blushing, he realises the customer struggling to climb onto the tall bar stool is in fact a dwarf.

‘Evening all!’ He says to all in ear shot.

The occupants of the bar all respond in kind.

‘Evening Arffur!’

‘Hi Arff!’

‘How you doing mate?’

‘Pint of Bishops’ please mate… Hi Tori how’re you tonight?’

‘I'm well thanks, what brings you out on a drizzly Tuesday night?’

‘I’ve had some relatives over and they've done my head in, so I slipped out for a quiet one.’

‘Here's your pint… Arthur is it? Nice to meet you, that'll be £1.80 please mate.’ Harry said cheerfully.

‘Cheers, and the name’s Mike by the way… don’t listen to these buggers, especially not that ugly sod sat next to me.’ indicating a large biker propping up the bar. ‘Raines here likes to have a little fun at my expense.’

‘Don't be like that Arffur, you know we love you!’

‘Yeah in a pub mascot sort of way… Ahh! But come the revolution my friend, just you wait and see.’

I feel my hand tighten around my glass, then it’s smashing Raines in the face, I give the glass a little twist to help it bite deep, planting a circular gash from the bridge of his nose to his chin. The glass shatters and blood spurts over my hand, Raines is screaming and falls from his stool onto the floor boards, pleading with me not to hurt him again, I wonder if he realises that he looks like one of the ‘Village People’. I slowly slide from my high chair – well I wouldn’t want to slip on all this blood now would I. The straight razor appears in my hand from out-of-nowhere, I open it, and catch my reflection on the steel. Looking down at Raines I smile, so much blood, where should I start I wonder…

‘What’s that? Sorry…’ Mike’s said distracted.

‘Why do they call you Arthur then…? I mean if it’s not to personal a question’ Harry spotting what he thought was a flash of anger in Mike’s eyes and started to regret asking the question.

‘No it’s not too personal; I’ve been in movies’.

‘What like the “Time Bandits”?’

‘Do I look fucking old enough to be a Time Bandit?’

‘Well…’ Harry was starting to wonder how he was going to dig his way out of this one.

‘You’re as bad as these pricks; it was made in nineteen-eighty-fucking-one for fucks sake’.

‘I didn’t mean… I wasn’t… Well no you don’t look that old,’ even as he said it Harry realised he had just made things worse.

The little prick doesn’t know what’s hit him; I leap from the bar top, slamming him into the ground. I sit on his chest and bash his head against the floor over and over ‘til something gives. His mouth is moving like he’s trying to speak, what’s that you say… you’re sorry, well that’s okay then. I make like I’m going to help him up and then I push his head into the slops bucket and hold it there, mmm blood and beer my favourite smells…

Tori also read the anger in Mike’s eyes, deciding to come to Harry’s aid asks him if he would go to the cellar and change a barrel. When Harry returned Mike had calmed down and was laughing with Tori.

‘Hey, new-guy sorry about that, I get a little wound up by these piss taking bastards… Bad day, you know how it is… What did you say your name was Henry was it?’

‘Harry’ replied Harry and Tori at the same time; she gave Harry a sly wink.

‘I saw that you little minx, not planning a crafty team change’, Mike laughed ‘Cause if you were I may have a little something for you.’

‘Mike you’re a bad boy… If you keep it up I’m going to have to bar you.’ Tori knew he was harmless but the odd threat would keep him in check.

‘Can’t a guy have his dreams,’ Mike got down off his stall and Harry seemed surprised that only the top of his scruffy black hair was visible at the bar ‘Right I’m off for a piss.’

‘Charming! You men… honestly.’

‘Don’t fall in!’ smirked Raines,

‘… and don’t let this prick spike my pint.’

‘Would I?’ Raines watched him leave, running his hand over his handle-bar moustache. The door from the bar to the toilets had barely creaked closed.

‘So…’ said Harry ‘Is someone going to tell me how Mike got the nickname Arthur?’

‘It’s not Arthur shit-for-brains… clean your lug ‘oles out… It’s R4’and with that gem of knowledge divulged Raines started to neck what was left of his pint.

‘Ahh for?’ Harry looked puzzled, ‘what like “Ah so”?’
Tori laughed, Raines spayed his lager like a fountain onto the bar.

‘You twat! I almost choked’ Raines said while shaking the excess lager off his hand, ‘sorry Tori, here pass me a towel love… where did you get this guy from?’

‘Oh Harry not “ahh for” it’s R 4’ Tori drew the letter and number in the air with a wave of her ringed fingers. She then went on to explain how it was a bit of a mean nick-name for Mike, as he had gone for the part of the lead Robot in the intergalactic blockbuster a couple of years earlier but was beaten to the role by his arch acting nemesis.

‘Oh what was his name Raines?’ Tori tapped herself on the head a few times, ‘was it Windsor Davis?’

‘What…’ Harry said ‘the one from “It Ain't Half Hot Mum” but he’s a big fella.’

‘Nah wasn’t him, but was definitely a “Windsor” somebody.’ Raines added.

‘So anyway’, Tori continued ‘to cut a long story short, if you pardon the pun, Mike’s Robot blew a fuse in one of the first scenes and Windsor’s “R4” went on to star in all the sequels and is now set for life… and these mean buggers, his so called friends, remind him of it every single time he comes in for a pint.’

‘A bit harsh maybe?’ said Harry.

‘But so very fair’, smiled Raines with an evil little glint in his eye.

When Mike returned to the bar he could tell at once they had been talking about him, he could see it written all over the new-guy’s face. Mike found urinating very relaxing; it was like his stresses just flowed away with all the steaming yellow piss. It had given him time to think and plot and plan, and now all he needed to do was get Raines and the new-guy back to his place and into his cellar, if he was especially lucky maybe Tori would come to. Mike struggled back onto his stool, flashed everyone a smile, and brought the three of them a drink.

‘I was thinking’, Mike started ‘If you fancy it how about coming back to mine after… I’ve got some home-made vodka, I made a Kiwi fruit one… we could crack that in your honour Tori!’

They all agreed it had been a good night - for a Tuesday, so why not continue, Mike smiled, that was easy he thought…

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Story So Far...

I've had an interesting (and when I say interesting I mean of course oddly disappointing) couple of weeks; it's contained family drama of almost epic soap-opera proportions - the details of which I'm not going to share with you (this isn't after all Jerry Springer’s infamous show or Jeremy Kyle’s for that matter). It doesn't look like I've been successful in securing that bookshop job or any of the others that I’ve applied for recently. To top this all off our local bookshop chain have just hosted a signing by Katie Price AKA Jordan. This left me feeling both disappointed at the poor taste and general lack of class shown by the hoi polloi of Plymouth, and disappointed in myself - the reasons for the latter I will examine in a moment but first a small rant.

Fucking Jordan!
What the Fuck!
I wouldn’t, not even with yours… The talent-less plastic faced harpy!
Five fucking books (and yes I know they’re ghostwritten)!
What’s that you say? I’m only jealous… Well who wouldn’t be; she’s worth approximately forty fucking million. Not bad at all, and all she’s had to do is drag her miserable shabby (not-at-all-bling) sordid family/personal/tragic little life through the tabloids and/or any other media platform her very clever publicity machine can conjure up.

…and breathe!

Only a few months ago, Ms Price’s latest book (Paradise, Part three of the Angel saga) was reduced to bargain bin prices at launch by many of the major retailers (fearing the worst, I guessed) and now it’s a Sunday Times best seller. Rebecca Farnworth (the ghostwriter) unlike Ms Price is (and I only have her website '' to help build this flimsy opinion) a beautiful intelligent woman. She must be very happy to have penned such a best seller. No doubt she hopes her own novels will have sales equal to ‘Paradise’. My guess is she won’t have those sales because her own books will be bought by people who can actually read (and maybe just maybe will have hit puberty) and not by the mindless masses.

This poses another question: is it better to have a worthwhile intelligent readership, or just hundreds of thousands of mindless sheep willing to pay you money. I know that right now I’m still unpublished, not to mention skint, so I would love the chance to ghostwrite for a Z-list celebrity straight out of the Big Brother house while I struggle on with my own work. Why? For one simple reason, it would allow me to get paid for something I love to do – write.

Does all this make me a hypocrite for slating celebrity ghostwritten best sellers in one breath and then saying I would do the work – you bet your sweet ass it does.

But the sad truth is, I’m most likely not talented enough or capable enough to get the gig. Well not yet, I still have much to learn and more to write… Unless you happen to be a Z-list celebrity and fancy giving the Aubster (me) a break, I’m cheap – well ish…

Until next time…

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Explore Books - Fathers & Sons

So here we are then, my first book review, when I say my first I don't mean ever. Although it's been so long since my last one - which was probably at school - that it may as well be.
All the books I intend to review will be based on my level of enjoyment and in all honesty I don't think I can be bothered to waste my time writing up a review on a dull book, life's too short.

My first of today's two offerings is by the great Cormac McCarthy -

The Road – is the haunting tale of a father and son's struggle to survive in a stark and ruined future America. Where ash falls like snow and when it snows, the snow is grey as ash, they are cold, wet, and hungry, scavenging for food and shelter. Their only defence a small pistol with two bullets. Living with the constant threat of marauding gangs with cannibalistic intentions, they cling to their humanity and each other, they’re the good guys “they carry the fire!”

This book while being bleak and harrowing is at the same time both tender and intimate. You become lost in the father and son's struggle for survival as they cling to the hope that they can escape their living nightmare together, as the days pass, weeks, maybe months… this chapter-less story unfolds and although the ending may have been a little predictable, was no less powerful for it.

My next choice is linked to the last by a tenuous link of movie trivia…

The soundtrack for the motion picture – The Road - was worked on by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave.

…and Nick Cave is the author of

The Death of Bunny Munro – This is a wonderfully black comedy that follows our antihero Bunny and his son Bunny Jnr as they hit the road after the death of his wife (Jnr’s mother). Bunny is a salesman, and a soon to be dead man, he’s losing his grip on reality, his father (Bunny Snr) is dying of cancer, and his son talks to his dead mother. Bunny is a poor father, is/was a terrible husband, he’s a smoker, a drinker and an unremitting fornicator and if that’s not bad enough he drives a yellow Fiat Punto and on occasion beats one off into a sock that’s kept under his drivers seat.

It’s a credit to Nick Cave’s talent that Bunny is so damn likable. (Although I’m sure there will be a few ladies out there who will think he's a shit-bag). This book made me laugh and cry, it was so much more than I expected – apart from the ending of course (the clue is in the title).

I hope you have found todays reviews useful/informative/well... at least not as dull-as-dish-water.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Story So Far...

I've recently applied for a part-time job in a book shop - I'm not going to say which one in case I don't get it. Whether I do or not I've decided to make at least one post a month (starting in August) with a round up and review of the books I've recently enjoyed reading.
Is it just me or does anyone else like the smell of new books/bookshops? I find it very... Calming, or am I just a pervert?

This time last year I was in Japan and was about to climb Mt Fuji, the climb that (as Cartman would say) 'Warped my tiny little mind.'
Anyhow, it was just after returning from Japan that I wrote 'Fuji-San' my first written work since leaving school, it may not be the best written work in the history of man but its honest and, I've been told has a very human quality. If you haven't read it yet... Why not?

Last week I attended my son's first Sports Day and I allowed myself to be talked into the Dad's race. My chances - I figured - must be pretty good, after all I'm not a complete couch potato, I jog, and I'm quite active. I lined up, shoulder to shoulder with the forty-a-day men and the couple-of-jars after work or the footy men...
We started...
My legs pumped and my heart raced - this is where I would make my mark and twenty five years of shame would be erased...
100m stood between me and glory, and then it was over. I looked round eager to catch a glimpse of my son, to see his smile, the joy and the wonder in his eyes. There he was blowing a raspberry at me, thumbs down,
'Boo... You're rubbish Dad!' he cried.
It was true twenty five years have passed and I still came in last place. At school I was never one for sport, always in the last three to be picked for the team (ahead of the one that always smelt of wee and the asthmatic). I never excelled, and it would seem still don't.

But the difference between now and then... Now it doesn't matter, I don't think it even mattered back then, and the strange thing is the other dads who I used to struggle to get a conversation going with, now won't shut up!

So what has this taught me, well apart from don't run silly bloody sprints as your legs are going to ache for days and you're going to hobble up and down the stairs like your step-dad (and he's had both his hips replaced). Well I'm not sure its taught me anything, but I hope it's taught my son something about losing well, not throwing your dummy out the pram because you can't get your own way, yes I was pissed off but outside I was smiling because I know one thing.
Next year I can start training in April!

Until next time...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Inertia And The Art Of Nature Photography (MicroFiction)

Chris could see the curtain of rain advancing across the lake towards him.
“Bloody stupid!” he berated himself. He quickly packed up his camera kit, snatched up his bicycle and set off. Pedalling franticly; he’d stayed too long, and was going to get soaked. His train of thought was abruptly broken.

A movement off to the right caught his eye: not far away - the width of the road maybe? Time slowed as Chris’s mind raced to process what he was seeing: small, about half a metre high, a light brown colour and hairy, running on all fours, a dog? No, not a dog; the face was all wrong… the face?

“Fucking monkey!” he shrieked, struggling to avoid it. Time suddenly came crashing back to normality as panic and adrenalin conspired to kick him in the ass. The monkey raced across the road and made a bolt for the tree line. Chris swerved squeezed the brake hard, realising just too late it was the wrong one - the front wheel stopped abruptly, with inevitable results.

Quickly pulling himself off the road, Chris sub-consciously knew he could still be in danger, but the macaque was sitting a few metres away eating a piece of fruit. This was his first encounter with a wild monkey and it had scared him half to death. Shaken, he tried to sound friendly, as he eased his camera from its bag.
“Just stay there you little bugger!”

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Story So Far...

Here we are almost at the end of February and I can honestly say it’s been a real busy month. Unfortunately not in terms of words written or money made, but then there is always March…

Back in December after a discussion with my old School friend Kevan Manwaring, I decided to stop writing my novel in the first person, and to re-write it in the third person… Oh I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. In all honesty, at times I wish I’d thrown it in the bin and started on a new one. But as they say – and I would love to know who ‘they’ are – it’s better to be consistent and persistent. So I will keep going, although going ‘where’ may be the big question.

My friends are all keeping themselves busy, Kevan Manwaring has a new book out, for those of you with a poetic heart why not check out:

Or keep up to date with him on his Facebook or his blog:
Bard on a Bike

Now I met a man along time ago playing an online game called City of Heroes, we got on well and even though he lives almost the other end of the country to me, we managed to meet up. Imagine my surprise when this little car pulled up and this huge man monster squeezed out of the driving seat. I’m 5’ 8” in my Cuban heals, Dave must be about 6’ 4” and what was more shocking than that? We look almost identical, we’re almost the same age, and we can easily waste two hours on the phone to each other putting the world to rights. Now it turns out he is also an aspiring writer, he has written many interesting articles about Writing and Chess – of all things - you can find him on:

But remember the first rule of Chess club is, don’t talk about Chess club!

Another old school friend of mine, Garrie Fletcher is a published poet and is also writing a novel. He’s well worth a read. Join his Facebook at:!/garrie.fletcher

Garrie has far more discipline than me and I have no doubt that his novel will be first draft complete long before mine. I’m tempted to lay down a wager, or challenge him to a duel maybe… Garrie choose your weapon!

Last of all, I would like to ‘BIG UP’ - I believe the term is – my good friend Toby Edmonds. We travelled to Japan together twice, and he happily edits my writing on a regular basis. Which is good as sometimes it’s really, really bad, and just when I perhaps should stop my gushing for fear that people might rumble our bromance, he has only gone and got me a ticket to see Kodo in March… What a star!
Why not check out his blog:
It always makes me laugh…

What do you mean you haven’t heard of Kodo? Ok check this out:

So to sum up… February was busy, March is promising to be better, and I must work harder, play hard and remember to put nutmeg on my porridge.

Until next time…

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Torment of Mr Elms ( Short Story 2000 Words )

The small church had stood on the site for the best part of a thousand years, high on the cliff overlooking the bay. Tonight the man had been standing in front of its arched double doors for what felt like an age but had been only minutes - time seemed to have slowed. He feels uneasy, nervously looking behind him; his horn-rimmed spectacles reflect the light of the full moon. A strong wind from the sea buffets him. The aging trees around the overgrown graveyard lean and creak menacingly. Something is wrong, he knows it with every fibre of his being, but cannot explain why or what. The moon is too large and feels out of place, he has never seen this church before but somehow he knows he has visited it often. Checking his pocket watch, it’s two in the morning - it’s always two in the morning - he nervously reaches for the iron ring on the door; turning it, the latch clicks open. As he steps across the threshold into the church, the candles on the altar flicker into life, illuminating the whole interior which now appears so much larger to him – more like a cathedral in size - vast and imposing.

His sense of foreboding was growing, twisting in his gut. The altar seemed to call to him and he felt inexplicably drawn toward it. The symmetry of the vertical columns and the horizontal pews reminded him of something, or somewhere. His vision started to shift, everything felt blurred – no, not blurred, but reflected somehow. As if watching the world reflected in a lake, with its moving surface distorting the images within. The columns were now larger and more impressive, with carved bull’s, or horse’s heads at their apex, stone carvings of lions but with the faces of men - bearded men - some of the beasts had wings carved into their flanks. They all faced the aisle, replacing the pews, like a mirage in a desert. He now realised it was not the candles but the moon that illuminated this desert scene. He had reached the altar and as he stood before it the moon seemed even larger as it hung there low in the sky, seemingly close enough to touch.
“Good morning Kay!” a voice said. Kay tore his eyes from the moon, and looked in the direction of the voice. As he did so the church closed back in around him; he was standing in front of the altar, with the light of the candles flickering on his face.
“Archie! How the devil…?” Kay exclaimed with genuine surprise, Archie was sitting in a brightly striped deck chair and was dressed in his favourite Morris dancer’s outfit; his white shirt and britches were decorated with red, yellow and blue ribbons. On his head, a Bowler hat similarly decorated but with a large black feather tucked through the ribbons.
“Not too bad,” Archie interrupted, “given the circumstances” Kay walked over to the left aisle; Archie was casually sitting there by a side door and looked to Kay as relaxed as anyone might be sitting watching the sea.
“You’re looking great Archie, how long has it been: fifteen, sixteen years?”
“Nearer eighteen ol’ boy!” Archie replied with a cold smile, his public school education not quite masking his regional accent.
“So what are you doing here?” Kay asked, and somehow knew he didn’t really want him to answer.
“Well its funny you asked that, I, or should I say ‘we’ have a duty to keep singing the songs, and performing the dance, oh and to observe of course”.
“Observe what” Kay by now was slightly confused.
“Well right now… that”, Archie gave a slight nod in the direction of the ante-chamber. The door to the room was wide open - Kay realised he hadn’t noticed before, which he thought was strange given he’d been standing right next to it. Inside a thick fog or smoke obscured his vision; something was moving inside but he couldn’t tell what.
“What is it? I can’t see a thing”, Kay shot a glance at Archie and then returned his full attention to the movement.
“May I make a suggestion?” Archie continued without waiting for a reply,
“If you remove your glasses, you will be able to see ‘it’ far easier”.
“But… I don’t wear glasses” Kay snapped, putting his hand to his face, his fingers finding to their disbelief the pair of horn-rimmed spectacles.
“But, but this makes no sense, I don’t need glasses, why am I wearing glasses… See ‘what’ easier?” Kay’s eyes looked from the spectacles he was holding back into the room. The smoke-or fog-like substance inside the room started to move and swirl and appeared to roll and tumble towards the door. Kay was fixated and before his eyes the substance became less like moving clouds and more similar to dirt or sand. Picking up speed as it whirled and tumbled Kay felt the first specks of grit stinging his skin, the wind grew stronger as if pushed before the growing curtain of dust. Now the storm of sand and filth was all that Kay could see - it was still some distance away but it was massive, vast and all consuming, and then he spotted ‘it’ moving within the huge sand storm. All at once Kay realised it was too late; as he started backing away from the door ‘it’ was accelerating toward him. Archie continued to sit and watch silently, unmoved by Kay’s obvious plight. As the wave of sand broke over Kay, engulfing him, smothering him and shredding his clothes, sand filled his mouth, his nostrils, his ears and throat, he was blinded, his eyes burned. His skin was agonisingly torn from him in tatters, he tried to scream but there was nothing. Then in the darkness through burning eyes he saw ‘its’ face, it was beautiful and he knew its name...

Charles cursed his bad luck as he shoved his feet into his slippers; snatching up his oil lamp from the dresser, lighting it and then setting off down the corridor. Accompanied by the weasel-faced man from room six he quickly climbed the stairs towards the source of the screaming. Most of the guest-rooms’ doors were open, their occupants staring concerned or curious up the stairs towards room eleven. As Charles passed each of the doorways he made platitudes and politely asked the guests to go back inside, it was too cold a night to be standing about in their night-clothes. Whether concerned, confused or just plain angry the guests of the hotel slowly went back to their beds. Room eleven; he knew it would be trouble.
“Should have known better… blasted Americans!” he mumbled to himself, cursing the day he’d rented the room to Mr Elms. The screaming was so loud now, so chilling, the weasel-faced man scurried away to his room. Charles was suddenly concerned, his annoyance at being woken to deal with a troublesome guest replaced with fear. This was not going to be one of the usual instances of a spat between lovers or an abused prostitute; these shrieks of terror were otherworldly. Outside the door of room eleven, Charles paused; his hand hovered, about to bang on the door. Paralysed with fear - what would he encounter? He slowly closed his hand into a fist, and as he did so a small amount of his courage returned.

Then it stopped.

Outside room eleven Charles stood silently, confused, alone on the landing; the sound of his heart pounding in his ears. The only thing he could hear was the gentle hiss from his lamp, a clock ticked away on one of the lower landings. He knocked.
“Mr Elms… Mr Elms are you ok Sir?” Silence answered him. He tried the door; it was unlocked, which was a relief as in all the excitement he’d forgotten to bring the master room key.
“Hello Mr Elms… It’s the manager Sir; we have had some complaints about the noise! Is everything ok?” Charles hated this part of his job; entering a guest’s room uninvited, not knowing what he would find inside. His eyes scanned the room.

Willem K. Elms served as an officer in the Canadian Corps during the Great War. He had witnessed all the horrors of the Western front, advancing with his men through ‘no mans land’, through the barbed wire and the withering machine gun fire. He had survived bayonet charges, artillery barrages and gas attacks. Broken and bloody, so many of his friends and comrades had been left on the fields of Flanders; their blood mixed with the mud and residue of the mustard gas attacks. The weapons-fire drowning out their screams of pain, their prayers, and those pitifully calling for their mothers, he had known their names and mourned their passing. He knew he would always be haunted by what he had witnessed and by the terrible acts he had encouraged in his men. They had fought harder than he could have asked them and he had taken pride in their achievements. Willem had suffered flashbacks and nightmares for years after the war had ended; but nothing for over six years now, until two or three months ago. Then he started dreaming of the church on the hill, as time passed the dream turned to nightmare, and then tonight… night-terror.
“What’s your name?” Willem whispered,
“Cha... Charles” he replied nervously standing at the far end of Willem’s bed,
“I’m very sorry; will you tell them… will you tell them all?”
“Of course, Sir, Are you sure you’re… Ok, you look…” Charles trailed off he didn’t know how to tell his guest that he looked awful, disturbed, terrified. Willem’s wide eyes were looking straight through him, to a far off place.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Sir… Do you know what the nightmare was about?” Charles thought for a moment “Did you serve Sir, was it about the war?”
“I did, but it wasn’t about the war… it’s been getting worse” Willem wiped the cold sweat from his brow.
“Can I get you a drink Sir? Scotch maybe?” Charles was looking for an excuse to leave the room, he had forgotten about his bed, he was feeling deeply uncomfortable as Willem’s haunting eyes pierced him. He made to leave. Willem gave him the slightest of nods, saying nothing as he finally averted his gaze to look nervously about the room, paying close attention to what might be concealed within the shadows.

With dawn’s light Willem finally found within himself enough courage to leave his bed and seek out the toilet. For over three hours he had sat motionless and in silence, terrified of every sound, and at last, with his bladder screaming at him, he was forced creeping from his room to the communal toilets. The floorboards creaked with almost every step and each time he froze, expecting to have alerted some unseen horror to his presence. It had taken him almost thirty agonising minutes to make it to the toilets, and afterward he raced back to his room locking the door behind him. A short while later, Willem decided that he would have to go and find the church from his dream. Archie was trying to tell him something, he was sure, and was now convinced that his sanity depended on it.

As he packed his bag he paused, remembering the artillery blast that had thrown his friend through the air leaving him broken, against the debris of a cart. Willem had stopped, briefly looking down at the shell of the body that used to be Archie, tears had welled in his eyes. Wiping away an unexpected tear Willem leaned forward, picked up his bag and walked out into the crisp Winter’s morning. He had apologised again as he checked out of the hotel. Charles wished him well, but wasn’t at all sorry to see him go.

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Story So Far…

I finally managed to get to the cinema, to watch Avatar 3D last night – don’t panic! This isn’t going to be yet another review. But it got me thinking about life the universe and everything, not least why it has taken so long for me to see this film. Avatar a film that I had been eager to see since the trailers months before, I just haven’t had the time.

Admittedly I could have gone on my own a couple of times, but I promised to go with my ‘better half’. When did life get so weird that you have to make appointments to have a date with the person you live with? I have recently started my own business, this is very absorbing lots of meetings, seminars and coaching sessions – such is the life of a consultant. My partner also has a demanding job in the commercial sector of the construction industry.

On top of this I am writing, not as much as I would like, but on odd days – today is one of those days – I have almost the whole day to myself and plan to spend it slaving over my keyboard.

It may be a little late for a New Years Resolution, but here is mine – I’m going to make 2010 MY YEAR!

I’m going to work harder, write more. I will finish my novel and start another. I will do all this because; there is no-one who will do it for me. If I wait for the dream job, I may as well wait for the lottery to pay out - and I don’t play the lottery.

I’m sorry if this has turned in to some sort of mission statement. Normal service will resume shortly.

Until next time…

Saturday, 16 January 2010

It Was Only A Dream ( Simple Script Sample )

‘Do you want another pint?’

‘Nah! You’re Ok… I gotta’ get going soon’.

‘Cool, where you off to, to see Liz?’

‘Yeah… We’ve been talking about moving in together’.

‘Really, that’s cool man, she’s a nice girl’.

‘Yeah she is…’

‘Me and Lou were talking ‘bout her couple of nights ago, we both said we thought she was the right one for you’.

‘Really, that’s nice, cheers man. How is Lou? Haven’t seen her for ages.’

‘She’s good, gotta’ lot on at the mo’ though, what with work and studying for exams and shit!’

‘Really? Cause a little bird told me you’re in the dog house mate!’

‘Who did you hear that off then…? I bet it was Kev?’

‘Hah! How did you guess? He told me that Helen had told him, that you’d upset Lou when you were pissed the other night!’

‘I don’t know what all the fuss was about; I just said that I’d had a dream ‘bout her and Liz getting it on, while… I… Watched…!’

‘What, my fucking Liz?’

‘Mate, it was a dream’.

‘Carl, you had some wet fucking dream about my fucking girlfriend!’

‘C’mon mate wasn’t ‘just’ your Girlfriend; Lou was in it too…’

‘Oh well that’s ok then… So what was going on in this little wet dream of yours?’

‘Well that’s the cool bit, there they were…’

‘I’m gonna’ fucking twat you if you carry on like that!’

‘Sorry, sorry really… Ok? Look Paul, I don’t know what all the fuss was about, nothing really happened… Honest.’

‘Go on then.’

‘Well… It was like I was the director of a movie. I was sitting there in a chair, across from them… They started kissing, you know ‘full on’ really going for it.’


‘Yeah, and then I told them to start un-buttoning each others blouses. Lou was kissing down Liz’s neck - she was digging it man! Liz had her head back, and was groaning. Then they started touching each other, caressing… you know?’



‘And then what?’

‘Well then I woke up, I told you nothing really fucking happened’.

‘Sounded good though?’

‘Yeah it was’.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Fuji-san ( Short Story 3000 words )

My number had been called and I politely collected the two bowls of Pork and Noodles and two equally hot cups of coffee, pausing only to balance the tray on the counter’s edge long enough to grab chop sticks, sugar and more than my fair share of the tiny milk portions that were available. Surveying the first storey cafe for a good table I decided on the one in the corner, by the window. I could have chosen anywhere really, as apart from me the only other person in the room was an elderly lady who busied herself sweeping the floor and wiping down the tables. Outside, hundreds of visitors bustled in and around the large gift shops or, like us, visited the shrine to make an offering and take some photos. We had selected the café nearest the start of the trail, and apart from being conspicuously empty at lunch time, the café was wholly unremarkable. In fact I could have been anywhere in the world, but I was here, in Japan.

At the top of the stairs leading back down to the gift shop, I paused; one last thing was still required. When I was sure we were not being watched I kicked off my boots, dropped my shorts, and pulled on my thermal layer, tugging my shorts back on as quickly as I could. I then repeated the process, pulling off my shirt. Thankfully as far as I am aware my pale, hairy, chubby little torso did not cause undue distress to any of the fair natives in the vicinity. Toby had changed while in the toilets and stood there during the entire operation, as my clothes were thrown at him, like some sort of dutiful husband in the middle of a 70% off closing down sale. We now felt ready to begin our adventure and started our ascent along a narrow tarmac-covered road.

The path continued its slow climb through the trees and we greeted more and more people coming in the other direction with a friendly “Konnichi wa” or something in English when we spotted a Westerner. It was one of these young Europeans who wished us “good luck” without a smile, tight lipped and exhausted, that made us look at each other and wonder what was really ahead of us.

Five years ago, my good friend Toby and I visited Japan: we had a great time, visited many sites of interest, snapped away on our little cameras, and after a fantastic fourteen days returned to the UK vowing to return again as soon as possible. We both hoped this would be in the next year, maybe two, but life doesn’t always go to plan and sometime in the past five years one of us, and I forget who, uttered the words,
“I know: if we don’t get to do it before, why don’t we climb Fuji for your/my 40th birthday”. Until a week before the flight I was still more apprehensive than excited about this trip. In truth I was not the man I had been five years ago. That version of Lee was married and owned his own company. He was also a dedicated Martial Artist and the trip had been a ‘boys own adventure’ to a country he had been fascinated with since he was a teenager. Now divorced, bankrupt and disenchanted with the Arts, having not trained for two years I was overweight and unfit. Maybe it’s a cliché, but I was missing Lee. In this state of mind and body I had consented to climb Fuji, but I had absolutely no idea that the hardest trial of my life lay ahead of me.

It had been a much harder climb since leaving the sixth station - until then it had been a gentle uphill ramble through the trees. We were keeping a good pace, laughing and joking with each other as we walked on. Even before reaching the sixth station we could hear its tannoy system broadcasting a looped safety message for the climbers. After passing the station the trail soon emerged from the tree cover, onto a barren landscape of volcanic sand and rock. The route started to zigzag up the mountain.

As we climbed into the clouds we donned our cold weather gear. I could tell you that walking amongst the clouds was a tranquil, beautiful experience but in reality it was a bit like fog: visibility was poor and the temperature dropped. By now the effects of the altitude on my body were really starting to make the climb unpleasant. Until you experience it for yourself I don't think you can really appreciate the dizziness and shortness of breath, your heart seemingly pumping twice as fast as normal with a slightly sickening feeling as it flops around in your chest like a fish out of water. I remember listening to radio coverage of a bunch of celebrities who were trooping up Kilimanjaro for charity going on and on about the altitude sickness, and not having any sympathy for them at all. Ignorance is truly bliss. My inability to draw a decent breath had now put an end to my singing, which I’m sure Toby was very grateful for. We found ourselves further hampered when we had to clamber up some very large and uneven volcanic rocks. This section turned out to be the first of many and if it hadn’t been for the altitude would have been as easy as clambering about the rocks on a beach, if not easier, due to the absence of seaweed at 3000 metres above sea level. The lack of oxygen was now causing us both to move very slowly as we attempted to force our limbs into some action. Frequent breaks were required to get our breath back.

Two hundred metres away, the seventh station appeared as a large but ramshackle single storey hut hugging the steep slope above us. It didn’t seem that far away but with the daylight fading the orange glow of its lights made us both realise that night was drawing in. Through the gaps in the clouds below the lights of Kawaguchiko started to twinkle in the distance. I stood head down, hands on my knees, gasping for breath. As I looked up I caught Toby's eye and wasn’t sorry to see that he was apparently in much the same state as I was. He may have been faking it to make me feel better, but if he was it did the job. We had just witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets that I had ever seen. The previous choice for number one spot in my sunset chart had been while line fishing on a small boat anchored off an island in the Southern atoll of the Maldives. As we lazily bobbed about, almost ignoring our lines, the sun had been growing steadily more orange and beautiful as it lowered in the sky; the sea reflected the sunlight, almost blinding, as the water glinted with thousands of tiny sparks. Five minutes later the sun was gone and it was night, but here on Fuji the night was thankfully a long time coming: the sunset stretched across the horizon between the clouds below us and the high level cloud that still shrouded the peak. The lower clouds looked like another mountain range in the distance against the sunset with their peaks ablaze. It was breathtaking.

As we ascended the last set of steep and uneven steps to the seventh station I was struck by the quantity of people settling in for the night, most looked exhausted but happy as they sat around chatting, smoking or forcing down the evening meal of curry and rice. We pushed on as it was almost dark and we still had to reach the eighth station where Toby had booked our bed for the night. Three hundred metres in the twilight was all that was left until we could eat a meal and get some well earned sleep. It sounded easy when I thought about it like that, until Toby pointed out it would probably take a further hour’s climb to get to our beds. At this point I was just starting to have my doubts that I could keep moving for another hour: I’m sure I could, couldn’t I?

The climb away from the seventh station was immediately steeper, the sharp and jagged volcanic rocks required considerably more care to grip or move over. After about thirty or forty metres the path resumed its steep series of hair-pins. We now had to stop for a rest every other corner, the pace had slowed and every step was a major effort, just to move your legs one in front of the other. Our conversation had mostly dried up. Now only the absolute basics as to how each other were holding up, or when we should next rest were attempted by either of us.

I could see the lights from the eighth station but as much as we walked or climbed they just didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I was on autopilot - a machine of meat just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over. We just kept climbing towards the lights. Toby was saying something to me. At first it was like waking from a dream, I couldn’t focus my mind. He was asking about taking a break. So soon? Looking about me to get some sort of bearing I realised I was close at last, it was impossible to tell how close but I was sure it was less than fifty metres. I needed to pause to take on some water. I had never felt anything like this: I was exhausted. We pushed on.
At the next rest spot I just mumbled something to Toby and continued to climb. I couldn’t stop. I knew that I’d passed my limit; my body had stopped complaining, the pain was gone, my body was numb. I had been a student of the martial arts for almost twenty years and I remember my Sensei telling me – on many occasions - about the importance of the spirit, not in a divine way but just as a human being’s force of will. I had taken gradings which attempted to break me down over many hours, so at last all I had left is technique and the will to use it. Now here on Fuji, in the dark with Toby walking a little behind me, I was alone; no-one was going to carry me to the eighth station, no-one could stop my heart exploding; it was beating so fast in my chest. What if it gave up? It may all sound a little melodramatic but I was determined to get to the eighth station or die trying, and as I staggered on I realised I had passed one of those points in my life; a defining point, a marker that I would always look back on and know that all the excuses that I had made up to this moment were just that, excuses. They all paled next to what I was putting myself through now and as I finally clambered up the steps to the eighth station and found a bench to sit on I realised I had made it.

Sitting there we exchanged a tight lipped smile. I had started to shake with exhaustion and quite possibly with relief. Toby entered the hut to sort out our booking and as I sat there staring out into the night I removed my gloves and then leant forward to untie my boots. Toby had reappeared and as he crouched next to me, he uttered what I hoped would be the cruellest joke I'd ever hear. He went on to explain we were at the new eighth station and our booking had been for the old eighth station, another fifty metres above our position. I could have cried. I didn’t think I was going to get this far; I looked up again trying to will the hut closer to us.
“Could we not stop here” I said,
“Already asked” said Toby,
“But…” I started,
“Fully booked” he said,
“Fuck it then, let’s go”,
With gritted teeth I re-tied my boots.

We had arrived, registered and after our brief tour of the ‘facilities’ we returned to the main room; our evening meal had been prepared, complete with a small bottle of water. I was by now so exhausted that even the smell of the food was making me nauseous - it was all I could do to get a couple of spoons of rice and one of the curry before I had to stop: the last thing I wanted to do was to vomit all over the hut. I drank some fluids, passed my meal to Toby, and took myself off to bed. At this point I would like to say that I was unconscious as soon as my head hit the pillow but that wasn't to be the case. One reason might have been that I had made my pillow out of my badly folded coat, or maybe it was the cold. Whatever the reason, sleep eluded me for almost an hour and when I did drop off I was disturbed twice by other people coming to bed.

Two thirty in the morning: it was cold and dark in the hut. All I could hear was the odd clink and clang of pots and pans from the kitchen and the low murmur of voices from the next room. The Japanese man at the end of my sleeping bag had woken me with a gentle pull on my toe and very politely in slightly broken English informed me of the time and reminded me that we had asked for the alarm call. Thanking him, I tried to calculate how long I had slept - not long I knew that much.

Standing there in our thermals, like a pair of modern day hillbillies, we dressed quickly to avoid the cold. Breakfast consisted of a couple of energy bars and water, and then we joined the slow procession of people making their way to the summit. We had about two hours to climb the last three hundred metres or so if we wanted to conquer Fuji in time for the sunrise. The sleep had done me the world of good and although it was still an amazing effort to keep going, the track we were following on the last stage of the climb was very narrow and the slow procession of the hundreds of climbers in single file made the pace a comparatively easy one. While I waited for my turn over one of the more difficult sections I could see just how many people were ahead of me. The snake of head torches wound its way through the dark to an unseen destination. Looking behind me, down towards the eighth station, the tail of the snake continued down past it and beyond. There must have been a thousand people winding their way up to see what we hoped would be a fantastic sunrise.

If getting to the eighth station had been a supreme test of will power, then the last stage was a test of patience. The slow pace was enormously frustrating but, as the sky started to lighten I could see people milling about around a few huts about a short distance above me. We had made it. The end was in sight. We clapped each other on the back and with renewed vigour made full advantage of the widening path. In comparison with most of the other climbers this was a sprint finish.

At the top of Fuji 3770m above sea level we had wandered past a selection of huts, most of which were much like the various stations we had passed on the way up, with nearly all the staff busy cooking food or selling tea to the exhausted masses. There were also monks selling incense and other tokens to use at the small shrine, and in typical Japanese fashion there were also vending machines selling a selection of beverages; including cans of hot coffee, so we bought two cans from the nearest machine, found a good place to sit looking out at the dawn sky, and waited for the sunrise.

I cannot speak for Toby but I was elated: this climb had almost broken me physically, and mentally this was the hardest thing I had ever endured. Far harder than losing my long battle to save my business. The grief of my separation from my wife was falling away; the ghost of that woman finally exorcised, replaced with happiness of knowing I was truly alive. In my pocket a photo of my Son who would soon be five. He would know how much I had missed him and how much he meant to me at that very moment. I would tell him about my adventures. I vowed to resume martial arts and put the politics that had poisoned my enjoyment of them far behind me. I would get back in shape physically. Somehow I understood that this journey had changed me, at this point I could only guess as to how much.

On July 23rd two men sat at the top of Mount Fuji amongst a crowd of almost a thousand people, they drank their coffee, and, as they finished one can and decided on a second, the sky opened and a sudden heavy downpour of rain sent most people running for shelter. Some had brought umbrellas, others pressed themselves against the huts for protection. Toby had returned to the vending machine for more coffee and I continued sitting there in the rain. Feeling alone on the mountain I was glad of the rain, silently I wished myself a Happy Birthday as the tears rolled down my face…