Tuesday, 14 January 2020

your boy all glowed up...

As I received another job rejection without interview, it's just dawned on me that my CV seems to mean that I get rejected out of hand for more junior, lower paying jobs and seems to receive more consideration for better paid, more senior jobs.  It's true that my experience is probably better suited to those kinds of roles, but I rather naively assumed that somebody might be glad of the chance of getting the benefit of that experience on the cheap.

Here's the thing:

I don't really want (or need) a more senior, better paid job.

This is leading me to reconsider my career path. I'm starting to think that I really might be better served doing more volunteering and seeing where that leads me. I know how the recruitment process works. Hell, I've been a recruiter myself and have no doubt rejected plenty of people who could have done an excellent job. It's an imperfect process and you'd be a fool to take it personally.

All the same, it's been lovely working with people who really appreciate what I have to offer rather than just binning me off via email on the basis of my CV. (Or, more typically, not bothering to reply at all).

Volunteering only doesn't pay well in monetary terms. In every other way, it's much more rewarding.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

time is on your side...

It's now been 7 months since I stopped working. Technically, as they paid my notice, I suppose I've only actually been out of work for 4 months... but it all amounts to the same really.

As I've mentioned before, I decided about three months ago that I was actually going to look for a paying job. This wasn't always a given, and it took a bit of time away from the long hours of my last job to start to be able to see things more clearly.

Looking for work is a vaguely depressing activity: you need to give it the attention it deserves if you're really serious about it, but at the same time it all seems frustratingly arbitrary. It's a buyer's market, and although job sites and electronically stored CVs means that it's probably never been easier to apply for a job, lots of these places don't even bother to acknowledge your application, never mind telling you that you've been passed over.

As anyone who has been in this position before will know, you just can't take these thing personally. At the same time, sometimes the process is so arbitrary that you just want to scream. There's never going to be a really fair way of recruiting people, but there are certainly plenty of unfair ways. David Brent famously said that you can avoid employing unlucky people by throwing half of the CVs you receive straight into the bin. I sometimes wonder if that's a fairer process than some of the ones I've recently had the misfortune of being exposed to.  The University of Nottingham was already in my bad books for rejecting me for a job on the basis of a competency based interview they tried to carry out over the phone in 15 minutes with a two person panel on a dodgy line. They went even further down in my estimation when they gave me 8 days notice of an interview with a presentation (which itself was on a subject which had nothing to do with the job, but that's another story). The problem wasn't the relatively short notice, it was that I wasn't available on the day of the interview. As is always the way now, the invitation to interview suggested I contact them if I needed any accommodation. Well, presumably you can shift the date of the interview to a date I can attend? No, came the answer, we can't. Thanks for your interest. What?

Anyway. The search continues. In the meantime, I'm carrying on with voluntary work. I've been acting as a sighted guide for the Guide Dogs MyGuide service, and this has seen me acquire a chap I take out running once a week, and another who I take out for a walk every other week. As well as this, I've been doing my usual volunteering for parkrun and, as of this month, I'm now officially a trustee of a Nottingham-based domestic abuse charity. All together, this little lot takes up around 3 days of my week, more or less. To be honest, I'm not sure how I managed to find the time for a full time job. As I said to the chair of the trustees when he asked me how I would find the time to keep up this level of volunteering when I do manage to find another paying job, you don't have to work 60 hours a week, do you? Towards the end in my last job, 50-60 hour weeks were fairly common. No one was making me do them, but I did them all the same. When I get back into work, I'm going to free up all that extra time by trying to just stick to my contracted hours.

Let's see how that plan stands up to the first contact with the enemy, eh?

I'm also thinking of starting to volunteer at the local Oxfam store. It's not out of the question that I might try to find a part time job that brings in a bit of spending money but leaves me with the freedom to spend my time doing the things that I really find fulfilling.

It's nice to have the flexibility in my life. I don't need to find a paying job at the moment, I'm just choosing to look for one.

Anyway. Happy new year.

2020 already looks like it's going to be a difficult one for the world, but as long as we each try to do our bit, then we have something positive to hang onto, eh?

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

the toll of the bell...

My friend Richard died last week.
He was 51 years old.

It's all come as a bit of a surprise. I had a good long chat with him on the phone on the morning after the election, and I was chatting with him via Messenger right up until last Thursday. He apparently died on Friday, although I don't know any of the details.

A couple of weeks ago, at the 22nd edition of the annual Christmas party I have with some other friends, I was only laughing with someone that it won't be too much longer before we're meeting up at funerals. I wasn't imagining that this would be happening quite so soon.

I met Richard around 5 years ago when he was a contractor working on the same project as me. We worked pretty closely for a few years, but we had many things in common, similar backgrounds and a shared love of history, cricket, music and beer. When his contract was up, we stayed in touch. Facebook makes this sort of thing very easy, so even though he was mostly in Southwold and I was in Nottingham, we exchanged messages most days.

Richard was a fiercely intelligent man. He was utterly wasted in IT because he had one of those keen, questing intellects that roams far and wide, devours books and unexpectedly brings into the conversation analogies from the British colonial past and even further afield. I think he was, at heart, a conservative with a small 'c', but he was especially engaged and agitated by the political shit-storm around Brexit. He was fervently in favour of remaining in Europe, aghast at the stupidity of the Leave campaign but also profoundly optimistic that the catastrophe would never happen. We had many, many long conversations on the subject, and I almost never failed to feel out of my depth as Richard brought to bear a rich depth of knowledge of Britain's history in the European project. He was certainly no fans of the lesser talents who filled the modern Conservative Party, that's for damn sure.

Our last telephone conversation was around 8am on the morning after the election, as the dust was beginning to settle on Boris Johnson's landslide majority. Richard sounded tired after a long night watching the results, and he expressed a firm desire to move to New Zealand to escape this tired old country.  Of course, he won't see the consequences of that election result, and I will do my best to keep some of his optimism alive, whatever happens.

I was fortunate to spend more time than usual with Richard this year. As well as our annual get together for drinks with old colleagues, we spent a lovely day together at Edgbaston for the first day of the Ashes series and another couple of days watching his beloved Warwickshire demolish Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in the county championship. I think it is Richard's love of cricket that will stay with me. I have many memories of meeting up with him at the hatch to the Larwood & Voce pub inside Trent Bridge at various intervals during the Test Match over the years. Several of my cricket-loving Nottingham friends will remember Richard as the guy who was always in the squash club bar because he didn't like sitting in the sun and they have a big television screen and a decent bar.

He was a drinker and a smoker, for sure... but what kind of an age is 51? I've known people who have died before, of course, but this one has left me with a genuine sense of loss.  Richard was a kind man and a good friend with a pin-sharp mind that he could never entirely turn off, no matter how drunk he was.

I will remember him fondly and will raise a toast of an excellent Belgian Christmas beer to his memory and will toast his memory at the cricket from now onwards.

R.I.P. Richard. You are missed.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

gifts on the tree...

I've just spent a lovely weekend in the Peak District celebrating a friend's 50th birthday. As part of the festivities, some of us headed over to Chatsworth House to attend the Christmas market and to see the house all dressed up for the festive period.

I was dimly aware that this was 'a thing'. I think it occasionally gets covered on local news when they first get the decorations up each year and I happened to see it once. I would probably have never gone under my own steam, but as part of the birthday weekend and with some friends, it seemed like an agreeable way to spend a few hours before we started drinking again.

I like Christmas, after all.

Well, the first thing to say about this is that it is certainly a fascinating spectacle. Chatsworth House and its grounds are absolutely splendid, of course. The house is beautiful and contains art dating back 4000 years (you have to admire how resolutely the British have pillaged the world over the years, don't you?) and the grounds themselves were designed and landscaped by Capability Brown. It's something well worth visiting in its own right. If it was up to me, I'm not sure that I would necessarily think that picking a theme of "Christmas Around the World" and then dressing each of the rooms accordingly with Christmas trees and the like would really enhance the appeal of the place. Then again, I voted to remain in the European Union, so what do I know?

It's certainly hard to argue that this doesn't appeal to people: there were cars lined up all the way into the grounds, and a shuttle bus taking people in who hadn't thought to pre-book their parking. As we queued up for our 11:30 slot inside the house, the board outside told us that every single 15 minute slot to enter the house was booked up for the whole day. The Christmas market was absolutely booming too, with people queuing up to get some viking drinking horns and scented vegan candles.

I enjoyed my afternoon very much. The tour of the house was fascinating on several levels: it's always a pleasure to look at ancient sculptures and other artwork of varying quality (I have a soft spot for any painting that includes lions, where it's immediately clear that the artist has only got a very passing idea of what a lion actually looks like. There's one ceiling painting here where the artist seems to think that lions have human faces), and some of the wood panelled rooms are absolutely beautiful. However, it has to be said that it was also fascinating watching people in Christmas jumpers ignoring all of this so that they could take pictures of themselves in front of plastic Christmas trees in a room dressed to represent China. There was even a chap dressed in a top hat wandering around and making irritatingly loud conversation with visitors in an alarming mockney accent as though he was one of the servants. Lovely.

Still, each to their own and it certainly made for a very interesting walk around.

I left my traditional Christmas wish on the tree too. 
And we bought some biltong.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

I know what's coming, I'm not working...

I find myself caught in a strange kind of halfway house.

I've been productively spending my time volunteering... it keeps me busy and makes me feel like I'm doing something useful for the world after many years of working for a fairly soulless corporation.

As well as the MyGuide stuff that I've been doing for Guide Dogs, I'm also about to be appointed as a trustee for a Nottingham domestic abuse charity and I'm excited to get started with that and to learn the ropes. As I currently have the time, I have the opportunity to go and watch them working at first hand as well as learning what it means to be a trustee.

When I met the other trustees, one of the questions that they asked me was how, if I was looking to get back into paid employment, was I going to find the time to do all the volunteering I do.

It's a good question.

My answer was simply that, if I do go back into full time employment, nobody is making me work 60 hour weeks and I should therefore have plenty of time for my volunteering if I stick to a standard 37.5 hours.  They seemed happy with this and it's 100% true that no one was making me do the hours I ended up working in my last job. That was entirely down to me and a misplaced sense of responsibility.

If I've learned anything over the last few months, it's that I get far more satisfaction and fulfilment from the stuff that I do for nothing than I ever did for any job that paid.

But here then is the dilemma: why am I looking for a paid job back in the kind of thing that I used to do? I'm distinctly ambivalent about going back to work in a corporate environment and I don't really need the money.... so why am I not looking to do more volunteering or, at the very least, look for a job somewhere that won't pay so well but will be doing an awful lot more good for the world and for my soul?

This morning I spent some time looking at maybe volunteering at a food bank. It obviously wouldn't pay, but it would undoubtedly be a good way to use my time.  I then spent the next couple of hours looking at business analysis jobs that I could do but really don't want to. I might apply for one.

This shouldn't be this hard.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

I'll be needing stitches...

I had a busy day last Wednesday. I think it's fair to say that, since redundancy, my days haven't seemed quite as busy as when I was working 11 or 12 hour days every day.... but last Wednesday was definitely a busier day than average: a hospital appointment first thing, an appointment to take one of my MyGuide clients out for a walk at lunchtime, an interview with the charity that are looking to appoint me as a trustee and then the second week of the short course on creative writing that I'm taking at Nottingham Trent University.  By the time I got home at around 9pm, I was very much looking forward to sitting down with my tea and watching a bit of disposable telly.

At about half ten, I popped upstairs during an advert break (we were watching Elementary on Sky+. so we could have just skipped forward, but I needed to grab something from the bedside table). As I rounded the top end of the bed, I was unscrewing the lid on my drinks bottle when I was suddenly falling. I think my legs gave way, but as my hands were busy, I didn't have any time to react to this before my knees hit the ground and my chin hit the bedside table.

There was a short pause as I gathered myself and did a quick mental inventory: what just happened? have I really hurt myself? I was naturally a bit dazed, and my immediate reaction was to feel my teeth to see if I'd knocked any of them out in the fall. They seemed okay, but my ears were really hurting for some reason. At this point, I realised there was blood coming from somewhere, so I headed to the bathroom mirror to assess the damage. Through the beard on my chin, I could see a gaping cut. It wasn't more than an inch or so across, and it wasn't pumping blood, but it looked pretty deep.


By now, my wife had rushed up the stairs to see what all the noise was about, and together we applied pressure to the cut and tried to work out what we needed to do next. It was tempting to do nothing and to just try and cover up the cut and go to bed, but I'd had a pretty nasty bang and the cut looked pretty deep, so we settled on calling 111, the NHS urgent care hotline. The operator on the other end of the line methodically ran me through the concussion protocols and then tried to assess the cut. I was coherent and seemed to be okay, but we agreed that the cut likely needed stitches and I probably needed to an x-ray. They passed my case on to the A&E department at QMC and told us to get there within the next hour.  It was a pretty efficient process and this call effectively acted as the triage for the hospital, and once we got there, all we had to do was to wait our turn. But there's the rub: we got there at about 23:30, and the screens were showing an 8.5 hour wait.

So we waited.

On my way back from my class, I'd wandered through town at about 20:30 and marvelled at the packs of students in fancy dress marauding through the city on their way down to Ocean. They were quite the spectacle, many wearing nothing more than a pair of speedos, and most of them being extraordinarily drunk for such a relatively early hour. As things worked out, I now saw several of the same people at the other end of the day, arriving at A&E covered in blood. Not a great way to end the evening, but most of them seemed in good spirits. Literally, I guess.

The staff were brilliant.There just weren't enough of them. One doctor and maybe three nurses for the whole department (there was another doctor, but he was called away). What made things worse was that several of the people waiting were clearly suffering from various mental health issues and were there because they simply didn't have anywhere else to go. It's heartbreaking to watch people sitting there with problems that an accident and emergency ward is never going to be able to fix. The staff are amazing, but they can't work miracles and they've been handicapped by a decade of austerity.

By the time we got actually seen by the doctor at about 6am, I was staggered by how cheerful he was, and how, even 11 hours into his shift, he was still looking for blankets to give to some of the shivering students. I was examined, X-rayed and stitched up. The A&E doctor thought he saw a fracture, so I was referred up to the Head and Neck ward, which was just opening up for further consultation. The consultant there explained to me that he was fairly sure that I didn't have a fracture, but because the A&E doctor had documented one, they needed to be super careful to rule it out. Did I mind waiting for a CT scan? Ah, what the hell. What's another couple of hours when you've already been there for ten?

So we waited. We had enough time to get a coffee and something to eat, but then it was the scan and a final consultation to hear the news that I almost definitely didn't have a fracture. They were worried about what's called a "Guard fracture", apparently: named after what happens when a sentry faints at his post and lands directly on his chin, causing fractures on the point of the chin and on the hinge of the mandible on either side (which is why the ears hurt).  I left the hospital with a sore jaw and a couple of stitches, but the feeling that I'd been really very lucky indeed not to have anything worse. A fracture might easily have involved extensive surgery and pinning.

It was a very, very long day.

The thing that I really don't want to think about is *why* my legs gave way. I think we probably know why, don't we? I've an underlying weakness in my legs, especially my left leg, that has been getting worse and worse recently. I've been moaning for a few months now how much harder running seems at the moment. I guess this is another thing that can happen. 

Understandably, I don't really want to dwell on this. I appreciate that something like this can cause as many mental problems as physical, but I really don't want to live my life like that. Maybe it's excessively stoical of me, but who wants to live their life like that?

Mad props to my wife for helping to pick me up and then spending a long, uncomfortable night at the hospital before heading off to work once we got home. I just went to bed, but she's hardcore.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

slow down...

Let's not make any bones about it: I've been lucky with my MS.

Sure, I have some problems: numbness, pins & needles, muscle weakness and wastage, spasms, bladder issues, fatigue... but when it comes right down to it, I've run 6 marathons since I was diagnosed in 2009 and I still go out running 5 or 6 times a week. In the grand scheme of things, my problems are small.

Just recently though, things have been getting a bit worse and are really starting to affect my running. I was warned years ago that this day might be coming: a consultant specialising in sports medicine told me nearly ten years ago that it probably wouldn't be my MS that stopped me running directly, but it would probably be something caused by my MS. This doctor was a runner too, and he'd recently had to stop running because of back surgery, so he was quick to spot how important running was to me and quick to realise how critical it was to keep me on the road. He understood. To be fair, he also said that I would probably never run more than 10km again, so he clearly didn't know everything.

Perhaps he was just a few years early with his prediction.

I've been steadily losing flexibility in my left ankle for a while now but it's become quite stiff over the last couple of months and the achilles is very tender; I've had stiffness and numbness in my legs almost since the very beginning, but it's now taking me a mile or two to shake it off and get into my running stride; the muscle loss in my left side has been apparent for a while now, but I'm now getting niggles across my core and on my right side as my body tried to compensate.

I ran four marathons between April 2018 and April 2019. I'm still running around 25 miles per week and have run just short of 1000 miles in the calendar year to date. It feels ridiculous to complain because I've sat in enough MS clinics to know what this disease can do and how lucky I've been.

... but still, it is upsetting. I was hoping to run another marathon in spring 2020, but at the moment, even a half marathon feels like a bit of a stretch goal. We're almost exactly 12 months since I ran a half marathon PB (at Tissington) and a marathon PB (at Chester) in successive weeks.  It feels so frustrating to find my mileage restricted by a failing body.

Still, although it's frustrating, I hope I'm wise enough to realise that slowing down a little isn't the end of the world (even if it might feel like it is). That doctor was right: running 10km slowly is a lot better than not running at all.


A runner just wants to run.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

the hardest way to make an easy living...

Perhaps it's the weather.
Perhaps it's because I've finally started to read the bleak, dystopian vision presented in  "The Handmaid's Tale".
Perhaps it's something else entirely.

Whatever it is, I've been feeling discombobulated for a couple of weeks now.

Yeah. You're right. I do know exactly why.

It's now a full 12 weeks since I stopped working. As you might expect, I haven't missed working or sitting in an office for 11 hours a day or being on call 24x7 for a moment. Not even once. It's a ridiculous way to spend your life and I've spent enough of my life doing it already. Everyone knows that, don't they? Very few people would work if they could afford not to. With the time and space to actual think about it, stopping doing that job is one of the best things that could have happened to me. Them paying me to stop doing it was even better.

With all that time back in my days, I've generally been pretty good at keeping myself busy. As well as all the usual running and coaching and things that I normally do, I've started doing some volunteer work as a sighted guide for Guide Dogs, I've been doing some facebook moderation for shift.MS and I'm going through the process of becoming a trustee for a Nottinghamshire Domestic Abuse charity. I've also been trying to do a little bit of reading and writing and generally clearing my head of the chiff-chaff of 22 years of full time work to see if I can work out what I want to do next.

I think it took the full three months to really blow away the cobwebs of all that time working a full-time job. I suppose, in the grand scheme of things and after 22 years, 12 weeks isn't really that much decompression time and I might easily have expected it to take longer. In the end, I surprised myself by actually applying for a full time job. It wasn't something that I had been planning, and I don't really need to seek paid employment at all for a little while.... but a job advert popped up in front of me  the other day and I was curious enough to follow it up, to ring the recruiter up to talk to him about the role and then interested enough to apply for it.

Even more surprising to me was that this was an IT job. I've been out of IT for about 5 years and honestly never thought it was something I would want to go back to.

I don't know if anything will come of this application. After all, I'd be pretty lucky to land the first job I looked at.... but at the same time, going through the job specification and putting my application together showed me that I do actually have the skills and experience this company need and that I do apparently have the energy to help them with this thing.  It's really easy to become institutionalised when you spend a long time in one place, to lose sight of your own value. Slowly rediscovering that has been a pretty positive experience and  the application process was quite a revelation for me as I buffed up my CV and crafted my covering letter.  I really do know how to do this stuff, whether I get this particular job or not.

The application went in a couple of weeks ago with a deadline of last Sunday. And now I wait. I haven't heard anything yet, but nor could I reasonably expect to have done so. So I wait.  And as I wait, my focus on the other things I was doing seems to have drifted a little.

The very fact that I have put an application in for a job when I had no immediate plans to do has been like crossing the Rubicon: I was quite happy in my little routines and my little plans for the future, and all of that seems to have been thrown up in the air as I wait to see what happens next.

Perhaps this will come to nothing; perhaps they won't even reply at all; perhaps the won't want to interview me... who knows? What I do know is that I now feel a little trapped in no man's land as I ponder whether I should start a more systematic campaign of job applications, or if I should just be patient and trust that -- as I did with this one -- I'll know a job that I actually want to do when I see one.

I know the answer to that question too.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

the dream...

It was baking hot and Johnny immediately made me think of snow.
“Do you remember that kid?”
“Which one?” I said that like I didn’t know exactly which kid Johnny meant. Of all the hundreds of kids I must have seen over the years, including my own, there was only really ever the one that really stayed with me.
“You know damn well which one. On the West Side, near the Village. Around ’47. What did he say to you anyway?”

How could I ever forget?

It was one of those grey New York days where it seemed to be getting dark before it had ever gotten light and where a cruel wind whipped in off the Hudson. My feet were wet through my boots from walking through those damn puddles on every intersection in town. On a day like that, it seems about damn impossible to get warm, especially when your coat is maybe third-hand and was probably meant for a Florida spring, not a New York winter.

Since we’d got back from France, it seemed like we just couldn’t catch a break. One minute you’re a returning hero, and the next you’re just another bum trying to make ends meet. In those days, we took whatever work we could get and considered ourselves lucky. The Teamsters had the whole place stitched up back then. Same as now. If you weren’t part of that, then you were always grubbing around the edges, picking up the scraps all the while hoping that they either didn’t notice or didn’t think it worth having. It’s no way for a man to make a living, that’s for sure.

I likely wouldn’t even have seen him if the other kids hadn’t been there. It was them that caught my eye as we walked past that alleyway. They were shouting and I glanced over as we were walking past. Looked like a fight, with the bigger guys kicking the shit out of someone or something lying on the ground there with the boxes and the trash. Now, like most guys I know, I can’t stand a bully. As soon as I worked out what we were looking at, I couldn’t just stand there and waded straight on into that alleyway without a second thought with Jonny not far behind.

Like most bullies, those kids took one look at the two of us and hightailed. I let them go and carried on down to the little bundle hunched down in the trash. As I crouched down, it didn’t take too long to figure out that it was a boy. I reckon he couldn’t have been much older than ten, but it was hard to tell for sure. Everyone seemed a bit smaller now. Looking down at him brought immediately back flashing, memories of Europe. I’ll have nightmares about those days for the rest of my life and I can’t forget that dreadful smell that permeated everything. I scrubbed myself for weeks and never once felt clean of it. This kid was skinny too.

“You okay, kid?”
He seemed almost half asleep, but he managed to look up at me with a kind of half smile on his face. “Oh. It’s you”.
Johnny and I, we just looked at each other. Maybe he took a kick to the head.
“Did they hurt you? Those kids?” I gestured back down the alley.
“No. I’ll be fine”. He coughed, and for thirty seconds, his whole body shook with the effort. When he was done, he just sat there wheezing, wiped his mouth and then looked back up at me with that strange little smile.
“Do you need something to eat kid? When did you last eat?” I had a sandwich in my pack somewhere, and I shrugged the bag off my shoulders to get it. I was hungry and cold, but this kid looked like he needed it more than me. I found it and pushed it towards him. “Eat this. It’s corned beef. Bread ain’t too old, but it’s good.”
He reached up and took it off me, started shovelling it in like he hadn’t eaten in a week. Maybe he hadn’t.
Johnny touched my shoulder. “Maybe we should get him someplace warmer?”
I nodded. It was dark now and the night was only going to get colder. There was snow in the air now. He was so dirty that it was hard to say for sure, but it looked like the rags he was wearing were so thin as to almost not be there at all. No decent person would just leave him lying there. There wasn’t a whole lot we could do, but it was surely a whole lot better than doing nothing.
“Come on kid, let’s see if we can’t find you some soup”.
He shook his head vigorously at this. He didn’t want to be moved. I looked around: maybe this was all he had. Maybe it was all he knew. The wind gusted off the Hudson and the newspaper in the alley took off for a few seconds before settling back down onto the icy ground. I looked back to the kid and saw that he was beckoning me down with his hand, all the while with that crazy little half smile on his face, like he knew something. I couldn’t help myself, I smiled back and stooped to bring my face down to his face so he could whisper straight into my ear.

What he told me that day will stay with me forever. He told me that nothing could hurt him now because he was already dead; he told me that I would die too, not now, but in 1953. He was weirdly specific about that, but before he let me go, he told me that this would be okay, that everything would be okay. I believed him, too.

“So, do you remember that kid then? The one in the alleyway in ’47?” Johnny was still talking. I guess the whole thing must have stayed with him too. It seems weird to think about the cold when you’re stood in the middle of the longest heatwave anyone in the city can remember, but at that moment, both me and Johnny were standing back in that alleyway five years ago, cold down to our boots even as we waded through the puddles from the open hydrants.

I guess that kid’s strange little half smile will never really leave me, and 1953 ain’t over yet.


I actually did dream this. I woke up in the morning with this story lodged in my head.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019


Write a brief dialogue between your character and someone else. Make them disagree. Add in descriptive sentences throughout until you feel that it’s balanced.

Ancient Aliens

After a long, comfortable lull in the conversation, Joe leaned forward on the sofa, took a deep and thoughtful breath and looked over the room at Sam. “You know what?” He didn’t pause for an answer but ploughed straight on, “I reckon it must have been aliens”.
Sam rolled her eyes. Not this shit again. A few glasses of red wine, some crappy late-night programming from the SyFy Channel and a few too many spliffs always had this effect on him. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah”. Joe looked thoughtful for a moment. “There just isn’t any other explanation that makes sense”. At this pronouncement, he sat back definitively.
Sam crossed her arms. “Explanation for what?”
“For everything”.
“For everything?” After all this time, Sam couldn’t resist biting. “Aliens are responsible for everything? Would you care to narrow that down a little?”
Joe frowned. “Ancient aliens were here when mankind was still scraping around in the caves. They flew down, showed us fire and built the pyramids and shit”. He sniffed and reached for his tobacco. “Without them, we’d still be grubbing around in the dirt”.
“Yeah. And that’s a fact, is it? No room for argument?” To be honest, Sam didn’t know why she bothered talking to Joe when he was like this. It was funny up to a point, but she should know better than to expect any kind of sense out of him.
“Well, how else do you explain it? The Aztec pyramids. Egypt. We still don’t really know how they built those, do we?”
“Ah yes, if only they had access to unlimited, disposable slave labour in those societies, eh?”
Joe didn’t even bother looking up from the delicate construction of his next joint. “Well, I wouldn’t expect someone like you to understand it”
“Someone like me?” This was old territory, but Joe either didn’t recognise the danger he was walking into, or he simply didn’t care.
“You’re so fucking logical. You need to be a bit more…”.
“Yeah? A bit more what?”
“Open fucking minded”.
Sam laughed. “Pass that over here, you twat and shut up”.
Just another Saturday night.