Thursday, 13 November 2014

You'd think he's have known better, being a Grandfather

It's been a long time since we've had a story about my Dad isn't it?

And thinking about it, the last one wasn't hugely cheery was it? Popular, helpful to some, but not cheery by any means.

But these are better, these two are funnier - Well, I think they are anyway, but you might want to keep in mind that the people involved were 'of a different time' where political correctness was just a glimmer in some well-meaning politician's eye - They're not meant to offend, and if they do, I'm sorry.  He wouldn't be sorry, he'd tell you to 'Stop being so bloody sensitive!' and look at you funny - But like I said, different time.

They happened a number of years ago in Germany, where my Dad did his National Service, as described in more detail HERE (Warning, contains mild bloodshed, bodily injury and shenanigens)

He travelled to Germany at least once a year, with a bunch of reprobates who had served with the RAF both during and after WWII in the same area for both RAF Transport and Bomber Commands - Actually, that's a lie, most of them were ex-RAF, but at least one was ex-Luftwaffe - It's a long story.  But in general, if you imagine the patrons of the Cantina at Mos Eisley from Star Wars, but give them all whispy grey hair, you won't go far wrong.


The first, and possibly most offensive story concerns an outing, either on a cable car, or a funicular railway (The exact details of his stories often wavered with each telling).

There were thirteen people on this particular excusion, and they were busily queueing for their turn on the conveyance in question, when one of my Dad's colleagues turned to him and asked,

'Freddo, how long before our go, do you think?'
'No idea,' Dad looked at the length of the queue and saw that it wasn't moving very fast, 'fifteen or twenty minutes at least.'
'My feet hurt.'
'We've only just got here!'
'I know, but even so.' There was a silence that lasted as long as it took for the queue to shuffle forward a few feet. 'Do you know how much it is?'
'No, not exactly, I think it's five euros.'
'That seems expensive, Can you remember when it was marks, before the euro? I preferred that.  At least we still use pounds.'
'Yeah, pounds, lovely.' He tried to sound just disinterested enough to stop the old fellah talking, it didn't work.
'Is this five euros?' He shoved out a wrinkled hand that was full of change, 'It's all I've got.'
My Dad counted it and confirmed that there was more than enough, but said, 'Look, why don't you just go to the front and check the prices?'

Which is exactly what the old chap did.  He wandered with his walking stick to the front of the queue, making it plain that he wasn't intending to push in, studied the board and can back with a grin on his face.

'It's six euros.'
'Oh, right, you've still got enough though.'
'That's seventy-eight euros for all of us.'
'But there's an offer on that will only cost us thirty-six euros!'
'Really?' (Now my Dad liked a bargain, so this interested him greatly)
'Yes, it says twelve plus one. thirty-six euros.  You can speak German, what does "behinderte" mean?'
His heart sank, 'It means disabled. That's the price for disabled people.'
'Well, can't we pretend?'
'To be disabled? Don't you think that's a bit dishonest?'
'But we're in Germany.' when my Dad looked at him blankly, he carried on, 'They're the bad guys.'
'Were! They were the bad guys, a long time ago. They've been nothing but kind to us since we've been here.'
'But, it saves us forty-two euros?' 

Which in fairness was all the convincing that was required, and why five minutes later my Dad was posing as the carer (Because he could speak German) of a group of people who displayed the entire panoply of disabilities that they could muster.  There were at least three completely fictional false legs, a couple of blind chaps who were suspiciously looking at people when they talked, and one chap who took his performance so seriously that he wet himself.  Although that might have been purely co-incidental.

There was a bit of too-ing and fro-ing with the girl in the booth who didn't speak any English, but finally they were let through at the reduced price - And almost all of them made it into the carriage before they started whooping and waving their walking sticks in the air shouting 'In your face Fritz!' and suchlike.


The second and last story (for today) will have more of an impact if you're a trekker.  It involves some knowledge of the episode 'The Trouble with Tribbles.' You should go and watch it now and see which bit you think I'm going to reference.  It also goes to show that old people can also be complete arses, just like everybody else.



This bit is set in Cologne, a German city that suffered heavy bombing by the RAF in 1942-1943, to the point where it's still a sore subject/item of embarrasment with combatants and their descendents from both sides.

It was during another visit (or possibly the same visit, I'm not hugely sure) that the group were sat in a small bar after an excursion.  the ladies had retired for the evening and the chaps were enjoying multiple steins of German beer (or foreign muck, as most of them termed it, not that this effected the amount they were drinking.) They were in what you might politely call 'High Spirits', when a middle-aged local man left his group of friends, wandered over and started a conversation.

(I won't do the comedy German Allo-Allo type accent - I'm walking a fine enogh line as it is

'Hallo! I couldn't help overhear that you're English!'
There was a generally positive murmur.
'I hope you are all enjoying yourselves?' (Now I figure that this guy knew exactly what was coming, so I have no sympathy for him)
'It's very nice, the people have been very friendly.' replied one of the group, my Dad was busily trying to fit his entire face into his beer, as he also knew what was coming.
'Nice? Yes, what do you think about our beautiful architecture?'
(Here it comes, be ready)
One of the assembled group was from No. 5 Bomber Group, who had taken part in the '1,000-bomber attack' on Cologne itself.  He replied, 'Well, it looks a damn sight better from 20,000 feet through a bombsite.'

As I understand it, this was when the first table got flipped over. and the 'ruckus' ensued.  So if you can recall the bar-fight scene from 'The Trouble with Tribbles', you should replace the Klingons with Octogenarian combat-trained, but very rusty, ex-RAF bruisers and the crew of the Enterprise with Middle-aged German types whose parents had probably lived through the bombing. (I was going to compare the Germans to the Klingons, but... When you think about it, they were really the injured party)

If you've not seen it, it's here:

The fight didn't last very long, but it did involve a number of cuts and bruises on both sides.  In fact, the only reason I found out about it at all was because my dear old Dad, who was still just about in his 70's at the time, had a huge black-eye when he came back to the UK.

I listened to his story and asked 'Well, who won?'
He looked at me as if to say 'I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer.' and then smiled one of the biggest smiles that I'd ever seen and said 'Fancy a pint?'

Monday, 10 November 2014

All together now

It's amazing isn't it, this blogging thing?  You can type what you like and within minutes, it's available to be viewed by people all over the free world.

Which is pretty scary when you think about it.  I mean, I can type, oh, I don't know... This:

The boy stood on the burning deck,
He didn't miss a trick.
The Captain of the ship appeared,
and kicked him in the... shin.

And within seconds, people in France, Poland, China and Cyprus are reading it.

(Ah, crap! Yeah - And in the Ukraine too, did I mention I'm very big in the Ukraine?)

Now, at best, that's meaningless - At worst it's the ugliest borderline doggerel since that piano fell on Lord Byron halfway through the last canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, causing him to write:

"And thou, dread Statue, yet existent in... Oh! you bleedin' clot, get this piano off my foot!"

(You can actually read this line in the original manuscript, it's just between the splat of a fried egg and a suspicious stain that looks a lot like Vimto.)

Anywho, where was I?  Oh, yes.

Blogs, and bloggers.  There are an unusal amount of people out there who think that their opinions and experiences will be of interest to the hoi-polloy.  I'm one of them, obviously I've had an unusual old life really, when you think about it... I mean there's the whole 'Getting Shot' thing and the 'Being invited to suckle from that chap's wife' episode amongst others.  But you know, a lot of them are about people with 'Normalish' lives, doing 'Normalish' things and in fairness, they tend to be really boring 'Shout into the void' affairs, detailing what people have done that day, or what flavour of crisps they like.  They're nice to read whilst you're drinking your coffee so that you can feel a bit superior or maybe compare your life favourably to someone else.

But some stand out as different - There's my good friend Tattooed Mummy's one for instance, which I've pointed you at before.  She's into the whole 'Mums' type of thing, and if you're one of those, you should probably head over and take a look.  She does product reviews and all sorts of things (Also she just won an iPad from The 99p Store for, like, doing a clever tweet or something, which I'm not bitter about at all)

And there's my mate Emma, who runs her own Blog - it concentrates mostly on writing, and she's managed to grab herself an Editor for her next book and everything.  She's full of good advice - Go take a look.

But the one I actually want to talk about now is one by a nice lady that I don't really know in the slightest.  Don't get me wrong, she sends me emails quite regularly and uses my first name and everything - But she does this to a lot of people, because she's nice, and polite. And despite the fact that we've never interacted personally, I feel something of a kindred spirit.  See if you can figure out why as we go along.

This is her:

Lotte Lane, with a train
(which I didn't realise rhymed until I wrote it)

Her name's Lotte Lane and she lives in Bristol
(My name's NOT Lotte Lane, but I did once live in Bristol - I had a great little flat on the Floating Harbour.)

She writes a blog about things that happen to her and how it's likely to change her life
(My Blog is mostly about stuff that has already happened to me and how it shaped my life.)

She's an 'Awesomiser' who can make anything you want to do 'More awesome' in some way
(I'm a can-doist, I've got a plaque and everything. See below>)

LEGO work courtesty of the Micro-Dandy

She's pretty.
(I'm ruggedly handsome)

She's a Mother.
(I'm a Father - Of different children before you start thinking that that was the big reveal)

She's suffered from depression
(I've suffered from depression)

She's got a shiny, new website
(Cock! this one was a mistake, I got nothin' here)

She knows how to do coding and mailshots so everything looks professional
(Again? Dammit all to heck - I just mash the keyboard with my pudgy fists and you guys get what you're given)

She's had the cojones to give up her job and go it alone to do the stuff she loves doing and follow her dream.
(I have freakishly small virtual genitalia in comparison)

She's written a book
(I've written three books! Hahahahaha! I win! I win! In your face Lotte Lane!)

Sorry about that... It was a temporary aberration... I have a hold of myself now (No, not like that, you maggots).

I know that I've been pimping books a lot recently, but this is something different.  Neither myself, nor James Josiah (whose brilliant new book I pimped mercilessly last week) Will die of hunger if you don't buy our books - Well, maybe JJ will, I thought ahead and laid down a thick layer of blubber before the winter, He's like a racing snake, you wouldn't even cannibalise him in a plane crash.

But Lotte might - This is a real revenue stream for her - I'm a big believer in helping out where I can.

You can read about the book (and buy it, obvs) from Lotte's new website HERE and it's available as one of these 'Pay what you want' style deals.  And as I know you guys, I know you'll dig deep because you want to help people who follow their dreams don't you?

Don't you?

Yes... Of course you do.

Oh yeah, join her mailing list too, she'll send an email to you quite regularly with your name on it... You can use it to convince people you have another friend.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I was a teenage Cable Monkey

Over the years, I've done lots of jobs. I've been a barman, a delivery driver, a doorman and a bailiff.  I've run nightclubs, helpdesks, and teams of IT engineers.  I've worked for airlines, pharmaceutical companies, councils and hairdressers.  But in all those different jobs, I'm never happier than when I'm lying on my back, with my head under a false floor, plugging cables into boxes with flashing lights on.

I am a hard-wired, dyed-in-the-wool cable-monkey, and proud of it. People I work with tend to find this out fairly early and I tend to get asked to do the 'difficult stuff', The conversation will often go something like this:

Them: Aw, damn!

Me: Whut?

Them: This new thing doesn't work?

Me: Whut?

Them: Well, I've got this iPhone (They show me the iPhone, because they think I've never seen one before) and I want to connect it to... Erm... This duck? (They hold up a duck, which looks much like any other duck, but has a slightly more confused and upset look on its face than usual) and I want them to talk to each other but I don't have the right cable.

Me: Is there a right cable?

Them: Well, Maplins said there wasn't, but there has to be, right? I mean, I can't be the only person who wants to connect a duck to an iPhone

So, I go away and make a cable up and everyone's happy (Except for the duck, obvs)

What I'm trying to say is that I'm pretty good at making things work, Mrs Dandy doesn't ask me if I've managed to fix something anymore, she just assumes that it's now fixed and asks what I've had to dismantle in the process.

So, onto today's story.  In 2005, I worked for a large, international, construction company.  It was halfway through my last week when my boss informed me that there was one, last, special job that I could do as sort of a 'leaving present'.  It was unusual and would involve a huge amount of travelling, but there was an overnight hotel stay at a hotel in Scotland and the company were known at the time for their free and easy attitude towards expenses claims.

It turned out that the CEO of the company had bought himself a castle in Scotland, complete with turrets and archways and a dungeon (probably) and he wanted his office wiring up so that he didn't have to commute to Solihull every day (Not that he did, of course, thet'd be mental) The only downside was that He, himself, wouldn't be there, it'd just be his wife... and she'd requested that I'd be there by 10:00am... and it was a four and a half hour drive, as long as I didn't stop at all, ever.

So the next day came, and I flung the bedroom curtains open to be met by snow.  I threw on my warmest clothes, shoved a similar set into my haversack and clamboured into my Audi (I had an A6 at the time, leather seats, climate control, the whole shebang... It were reet lush)

The trip was singularly unremarkable, except that the snow stopped at Carlisle, and so did I for a frankly overpriced breakfast at the services at Todhills.  I drove on through Gretna (Which isn't as picturesque as I'd though it would be) past Dumfries, the home-town of the irrepressible Scots Mick, to the sunny, seaside village of Rockcliffe.

This is Rockcliffe (photo is actual size,
no, really it is that tiny)

If you take a trip to Rockcliffe, you'll instantly know why the Scots are traditionally described as a rugged people.  The 'Beach' isn't made of sand, or even pebbles - It's made of jagged outcrops of granite that local visitors let their babies cut their teeth on. The entire village is closed throughout the summer months on the grounds that "Anyone who's want ta visit in th' warm weather is a Softy-Walter!"

Luckily, when I got there the sun was out and the sea was calm, by which I mean the water was battering against the seafront cottages, but it hadn't, as yet, put any of the windows through - Which I believe is an ancient Scottish friendship custom.

It took a while to find the castle, it was hidden up an unsignposted track, behind some huge pine trees.  Passing through the wrought-iron gates, I drove up the half-mile or so of gravel driveway and parked inbetween a greenhouse that could have produced a chorusline full of Audrey Two's from Little Shop of Horrors, and an attractive middle-aged lady dressed in the neuvau-agricultural style that you can buy piecemeal from Harvey Nicholls (You know, tight-jeans, rugby-shirt and wellies that cost more than my house

She waved at me and called, "Are you the man?"

I whispered under my breath that "Indeed I was the Gods-damned Man." Then smiled brightly, got my heavy toolbox out of the boot and crunched towards her over the artfully scattered, hand-polished marble chips.

"It's in here!" she said as she disappeared into the kitchen, which looked a bit like the one from Downton Abbey, except bigger... It had the bells on the walls and everything.  She ambled through a selection of oak-panelled corridors, asking about my trip and making the concerned noises when I told her about the early start and the over-priced breakfast.  Then she took me upstairs. (For the benefit of the professional tradesmen reading this, yes, I stayed the prescribed four steps behind her all the way up the stairs so that my face was level with her backside) "Here we are." She indicated a large room, completely empty but for a selection of cardboard boxes. "There should be everything you need, he'd like it over there I think."

"Sorry?" I replied, genuinely non-plussed, "I'm just here to connect his laptop and make it work."

"Oh, right you are. Is someone else coming up to build the furniture?" She looked between me, my burgeoning toolbox, the pile of boxes that now obviously contained the office furniture, and the Long-Haired Border Collie that had appeared out of nowhere and was busily sniffing my genitals. "That's Bruno, come off Bruno!" (His name probably wasn't Bruno, but it was something like that, I can't really remember, but you know the sort of thing) She smiled again, and said, "Well, if you just build the table, you can put it on there can't you?"

And because she was... Is handsome a word you're allowed to use for an attractive lady of a certain age? and I'm a sucker for a damsel in distress, and Bruno was getting even more insistant about his desire for my gentleman's area, I agreed.  She turned and went downstairs, with the dog following her closely, and I opened the G-Plan box that contained the desk.

After about an hour of scratching my head and inserting tab 'A' into slot 'F', there was a call from downstairs. "Excuse me, Mr Man? Could you give me a hand?"  I amazed myself by only getting lost three times on the way back down into the kitchen to be presented with the sight of Mrs. CEO surrounded by a sea of carrier bags. "The shopping's just been delivered... I don't suppose you'd give me a hand putting it away?" And I did, because: Knight in shining armour remember?  Then she made us a coffee and we sat at the hand-made kitchen table on hand-made kitchen chairs drinking it from hand-thrown pottery mugs watching the Red Deer frolic in the 'As far as the eye could see' garden.

I went back upstairs and slid back under the desk, tightening the odd screw and greasing the draw-sliders.  Then I cracked my head off the corner of a board as I felt a hand travel up my leg, inexorably towards my Magical Boy Garden of Delights.  Once the dancing stars had faded, I looked down to see Bruno's nose, rather than the hand I had first thought.  I shooed him away, and he looked crestfallen.  I waited, straining my ears trying to hear him trot down the stairs.  When I thought I was 'safe' I carried on with my work.

So, you can imagine my surprise when minutes later a hard rubber bone was dropped onto my scrotum from a great height and I received a similar bump on the other side of my forehead, giving me something of the air of Hellboy.  This time I actively chased Bruno from the room and locked the door behind him.

I finished the desk... Then put together a chair... Connected the broadband up and built the laptop... Built some shelves... Unwrapped the bin... Made up some curtains... embroidered the lampshade and finally made to leave sometime in the mid afternoon.  As I re-entered the kitchen she was stood putting her Barbour coat on.

"Oh, I was just about to ask how long you were going to be, I have to pop out for a few hours." She shook my hand and said thanks, I thanked her for the coffee and she asked if I was driving back to Birmingham.  I said no, and that I was staying locally and driving back in the morning.  When I mentioned the name of the hotel she said, "Are you sure? Because it's closed for the season." She shrugged and I followed her out of the house, jogged to the car and checked the booking form.  It was the right hotel, but there was a note at the bottom of the page that said "check-in from 19:30 onwards." It seemed that I had a couple of hours to kill, so I parked the car at the very closed hotel, walked through a deep, dark forest to find the nearest pub, had a few pints surrounded by very suspicious looking natives and convinced myself that I was firmly in the grip of a local am-dram society's remake of 'An American Werewolf in Scotland'.

When I returned (through the deep, dark forest) the hotel was open, but they had no food available, so I drank whisky until it was time for bed.

I woke up at around 10:00 the next morning.

The snow had followed me.

And due to the fact that the temperature was -45 deg. the car refused to start.

And I was marrooned.

And I died alone and unloved by anyone... Except Bruno.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The blade felt good against my skin.

A lot of you will know, mainly because I bang on about it all the time as if it's going out of fashion, that I call myself a writer.

I write... Books and stuff... Loads of them... All the time... Sometimes, when I get up to get myself a sandwich or something, I check the seat of my chair to make sure that I haven't accidentally laid another book about... Oh, I don't know, The Winiama dancers of Burkina Faso perhaps, or a children's story featuring Rodney the happy slug.

You can buy them from Amazon too, just go there and do a search for 'The Chimping Dandy' and you'll see them there all lined up in a row (or column, depending on your display settings and whether you're lying down)

Go do it now... You'll see all four of the three books I've written. (You should obviously buy them all whilst you're there, it's only polite)

Hey! Hang on a minute!

All four? of the three books?

Right at the end of the list you'll see a dainty tome called 'The James Josiah Flash Project Volume 1' - As written by the titular James Josiah.  It says I wrote it to, but I didn't, it's a wicked lie!  Although in fairness I did contribute a story to it, it's a kind of anthology you see... Never could get the hang of them myself.

But, that does bring us fairly neatly to the theme of today's post.

James Josiah

Author, Demagogue, Professional Penguin Impersonator & Brick-Wizard.

The thing is, he's only gone and wrote a book himself, and it's severely bloody marvellous.

Have you still got that Amazon window open? The one that you used to buy all my books? No? OK - Click on the link below to search Amazon for his books now.

Only the first three are his, those are the ones you should totally buy, right now... Maybe wait until pay-day.  The two volumes of the James Josiah Flash Project should be in your collection already if you have a Kindle, you have no excuse not to have already bought those, they're, like 77p. 

But the biggy, the cream of the crop, quite literally the top of the heap is 'Days of Madness'

This is the Halloween promotional cover
Yours won't be quite this brilliant

This all-new novel, charts a month in the life of Ryan Carmichael, a Systems Administrator for Finnister Solutions. (Who provide Clear Solutions for a Brighter Future) It's not a great month, all things considered.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it makes Ryan question the very nature of reality.

Here, let me read you a random passage - Try reading it in the voice of Kevin Spacey, or Eddie Izzard if you think it will help you relax.


I’d been sat pondering for a good half hour before I realised I wasn’t wearing the same clothes as this morning. I went back to the kitchen and looked in the fridge; it was fully stocked with a load of healthy crap. I looked in the sink, the bowl was empty and the things from this morning had all been put away. 
Now it was quite a clever gag, I had to hand it to him but we have a very fragile mental state at the minute. 
Now isn’t the time to be pulling this shit. 
After my heart had returned to its normal rate and my hands stopped shaking I fixed myself some tea, as in the evening meal not a cuppa. I had a grilled chicken breast with some pasta and the remains of the pesto. It was alright as far as healthy-ish food goes but I followed it with ice cream and beer . In my head this is a balanced diet, I’m sure that lady off the telly that likes looking at people’s poo would disagree. 
I put the dirty plate, pot and grill tray in the dishwasher and went to lose myself online for the remainder of the day. As I sat at my desk I saw a post-it note on one of the monitor screens that read “You owe me a day” 
Well I’m sorry old boy; it just isn’t going to work like that.

Josiah, James (2014-10-23). Days Of Madness (Kindle Locations 719-729). The Penguin's Head. Kindle Edition. 


Isn't it great?

I'm not just saying that because this man gave me my first push into creative writing, or that I'm the Art Director of The Penguin's Head publishing, who published the book (And all of mine too) in the first place, or that I owe him £25.

And, I'm certainly not saying it because I designed the cover *cough*

I'm saying it because it's a great book, that handles mental health issues with a huge amount of sensitivity and dark humour. It takes a serious subject and does the best possible job of turning it into a genuine page-turner, with fully fleshed-out characters and a multi-faceted story that will keep you intrigued until well after the story has concluded.

Look, I could go on like this all day, but at the end of it, you'd be best to just buy this book and enjoy it for yourself then go and leave a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or write a blog about it.

It's this sort of thing that provides new writers with the encouragement that they need to keep writing.

Be a part of that - It'll make you feel better, honest.