She-Hulk Massage!

There are massages where your tired muscles are kneaded into doughy bliss, and you find yourself drifting off to sleep as the rain-forest music plays in the background.  Then there are massages where you need to maintain a tight hold on your core body strength, compressing your muscles around your spine, because if you don’t then there’s a good chance one or more limbs will be torn free from their sockets, and your spine will be cracked like a bread-stick.

I recently had one of those, the second kind.

I’m in Thailand with the family this week, enjoying a lazy beach resort holiday.  As part of our package, we have some free sessions in the hotel spa.  I used one of those sessions on around day three, an “aroma-fusion” massage, which meant the masseuse went easy on me and my moronic sunburn which I’d managed to inflict on myself after only one day in the sun.

As my tender, rare skin faded to a more acceptable medium/well-done, Nicole and I decided to give one of the beach massage services a try.  These are not part of the hotel, little shacks offering great value massages.  We picked one which was 300 baht for an hour.  For context, I’d pay that for a beer in a lot of Sydney bars.  How could we not have one of those every day?  Or two?

We couldn’t.  I soon discovered why.

The massage started well.  Nicole and I were face down on a platform built for two, and the masseuses began to work on our backs.  Firm pressure, hitting the knots, but overall not too painful.  I think my masseuse sensed my complacence, and decided to kick it up a notch.  She positioned herself so that her whole body weight was channeled down her arms, through her fingers, and directly into the back of my shoulder.  I’m pretty sure my shoulder isn’t supposed to rotate backwards, like some toy action figure.  My masseuse — let’s call her She-Hulk — disagreed, and tried to make it so.  I could hear tendons straining, muscle fibers snapping.  She must have registered my silent weeping, because she let off before she could do any permanent damage.

The worst part about a painful massage is knowing that a terrible symmetry must be achieved.  If the masseuse tries to practice some outlawed Twister moves on your limbs, and you survive it, you can’t relax because you know the whole process is about to be repeated on the other side of your body.

After attempting to destroy my other shoulder, and thereby leave me as a disappointing hole in any future Mexican waves, She-Hulk moved down my body to the buttocks area.  I thought, I can handle this.  There aren’t too many nerve clusters or tendons in my arse, are there?  She planted one knee against my right buttock, reached back to grab my foot, and then proceeded to ever so gently massage the back of my head, with my own heel.  I think it was a local technique which roughly translates to “screaming broken white man”.  What followed was a series of manipulations which must be violating some kind of humanitarian convention.

She-Hulk snap!

She-Hulk massaged the front of my legs while I was face-down, because apparently my hips can rotate 180 degrees.  Who knew?  Maybe I am an action figure.  With both feet planted in the middle of my back, she would grab different sets of limbs and then see if she could get them to swap places.  At one point I found myself reaching for Nicole’s hand, the way you might grab a fellow passenger’s hand if your plane suddenly goes into an uncontrolled nosedive and you think you’re all about to die.

Then, after the customary double-fisted blows to the back, an uncharacteristically meek voice said, ‘Finish.’  That was it, I survived.  I hobbled away from the massage table — I think She-Hulk did manage to sprain my ankle when she tried to knock me down from a size twelve to a nine — thankful to have my life, and about eighty percent use of my legs.

We leave Thailand tomorrow, and I have to admit, I am giving serious thought to another hour-long massage in the hut of pain … because it’s the cost of a freaking beer!


Therapy for a Mithril Addict

I woke up early on Sunday morning when my phone buzzed on the bedside table.  It was an incoming email.  I wish I could ignore these things, but I’m an early riser, a light sleeper, and a smartphone notification addict — so I really had no choice.  I checked it.

It was an iTunes invoice.  I opened it up, and it showed me what I expected to see: an in-app purchase against store credit.  Our seven year old son, C, had received a $20 iTunes voucher for his birthday, and I finally relented after months of pleading to let him use the credit for an in-app purchase, rather than buying an actual game.  Or an album.  Or a movie.  Or, god forbid, a book.  So I flipped the switch to allow in-app purchases, and forgot about it.

I can hear you groaning now.  Yes, I know.  This was a mistake.

I didn’t think it would be a problem, because I watched him make the purchase and play the game for at least ten minutes or more.  I knew there was a fifteen minute window where the iTunes account wouldn’t need to be re-entered for further purchases, and I was pretty sure I was clear of that.  After all, C didn’t know the password, he came to me every time he wanted a free game downloaded, so I could enter it for him.

My phone buzzed in my hand again.  Another email from iTunes.  This one, however, wasn’t against store credit, it was against my MasterCard.  $12.99 for a 168 Mithril package on Star Warfare Alien Invasion.  Was that a good deal?  How much does a Mithril normally go for in the real world?

The answer, of course, is not a fucking thing.  It’s like paying someone money for them to fart.

I was really awake now.  C was in for a bollocking.

My phone buzzed again.  Another email from iTunes. this time an invoice for a 666 Mithril package for $37.99.

Something inside me went cold and travelled from spine to stomach.  Oh no, I thought.  Oh no.  My phone buzzed again.  Another 666 Mithril for $37.99.  And again, a chest of coins for Pixel Gun 3D, $24.99.  Then another, and another, and another.  Invoices continued to trickle through, and by eleven o’clock there were fourteen of them, totaling just over $420.

I had the restriction lifted for about half a day, and he managed to clock up over $400 worth of empty crap.  It’s not that hard to do, when you look at some of these games and what their in-app purchases cost.  Q: Who would spend $50 on a box of bullets to use in an iPad game?  A: a seven year old boy.

This all came to my attention on a Sunday, which meant I had to wait until Monday to call Apple support to try and sort the mess out.  Fortunately, when I eventually did find a way through the support maze, the girl on the other end of the phone was very helpful and didn’t once call me a moron.  Can’t say I’d have had the same degree of self-control if our positions had been reversed.  C is now enjoying a lengthy (possibly permanent) ban on all forms of electronic devices, and Apple refunded all of my unplanned Mithril purchases — though we’re not telling C that, not until his 18th birthday.

You know what shook me the most about this experience?  It wasn’t the sheer gall of games creators like Alex Krasnov, Glu Games and iFreyr Games, who seem to think it’s perfectly reasonable to charge fifty bucks for shit which only exists within their games, shit which is only ever going to be purchased by the very young and the very stoned who don’t realise what they’re doing.  That pissed me off, still does, but the thing which really threw me was C pretending for all those months that he didn’t know our iTunes password.  Dad, this game is free and there’s no guns or blood.  Can you download it for me?

He was pulling a long con, and he’s only seven.  And I fell for it.  I’m both frightened and impressed.

Thirteen Fingers

I started playing basketball a few weeks ago — though my definition of “playing basketball” is probably a little loose.  After the first game, a lot of people might contest the idea that I was playing at all, but the evidence supports me:

– I was on a basketball court

– I was wearing a basketball uniform

– A basketball was present

So yeah, point Fenton.  Let me have it.  Christ knows I need whatever points I can get after that first re-entry to the game.

A friend asked me if I wanted to come along and play with a team he’d just joined in a Thursday night competition.  He emphasised how bad they were, how terrible, which frankly is what sold me on the idea.  I’d played before — at one time I played a lot — but I was under no illusion as to just how badly out of touch I was likely to be; and on that score, at least, I did not disappoint myself.  He said they were terrible, I said I was terrible, we laughed … it sounded like just my kind of sporting competition.

So I went along with him the following Thursday night, and as soon as we arrived I understood with a slowly building horror that he’d been downplaying the general quality of playing ability in the competition a lot more than I’d been downplaying my ability.  Very fit and skilled men dashed up and down the court with excellent ball control, solid accuracy and high aggression.

‘These guys are grade two,’ he said.

We were playing in grade three.  Thank God, I thought, but also, one grade below these guys is NOT far enough.

I was handed a uniform to change into, which was big enough for me and one other.  That might have been handy if I were one half of a basketball-playing set of Siamese twins, but I am not.  I am a tall lanky guy who looks clinically unwell in basketball gear approximately nine sizes too large.

As bad as the uniform was?  Least of my problems.

One of the regular guys asked me if I‘d played before.  I think he might have recognised the look of terror on my face from the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.  I said I had, sure, and started counting on my fingers the years since I’d last played in a semi-social competition back in Sydney.  I counted off one hand, then I moved onto the second … and then it happened:

I ran out of fingers.

I stopped counting on the middle toe of my right foot.  I would have needed thirteen fingers to keep count with just my hands.  I had not played a game of basketball for thirteen years.  I had not even picked up a ball in just as long.  My time in London had been completely basketball-free, and I was about to step into a game with only a three minute warm-up to prepare me.  I am going to die, I thought.  Also: Man, I am really old!

I tried to lie to myself that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  The body remembers things, you know?  Sense memory.  Muscle memory.  Instinct.  These were the myths I tried to fortify myself with, but when my time came to get on the court they did not help me.  Not.  One.  Bit.  The ball felt like it had been generously slathered in K-Y Jelly.  My lungs were trying to leapfrog my heart and climb their way up my throat and out of my mouth.  Supposedly simple actions like catching and passing with a modest degree of accuracy?  You might as well have asked me to produce a ball from my arse and tomahawk dunk it from the free-throw line.  And dribbling? Please.  Anyone who witnessed those few attempts at basketball 101 probably thought I was suffering from some kind of palsy, or having a stroke.  Maybe both.  And then there was positional play.  Holy shit, I felt like I’d been invited to take part in a flash mob dance, but without any idea of the song, or the routine, or a sense of rhythm … any of it.

I really could have done with those thirteen fingers.  Maybe a few more passes would have stuck.

About fifteen minutes into this display of basketball heresy, something happened to my body.  Specifically, something happened to my left calf.

(For those who know me well: yes, I’m as surprised as you are.  I have calves.  Who knew?  I’d always assumed my shins were held in place my the most rudimentary of tendons, but apparently there’s some muscle in there too.)

It felt like I’d been stabbed in the leg from the inside.  I immediately switched to a hobble to accommodate the sudden pain, which was subtly different from the dying-man shamble I’d been affecting up to that point.  I hadn’t done anything spectacular to incur the injury; it went pop, like that.  Out of nowhere.  It wasn’t until after the game that I recognised it for what it was: My own body, appalled by my performance, was trying to take me out of the game.  Honestly, it’s true.  A couple of days after the game I could still walk around, which was a much better outcome than the time I’d actually pulled the muscle as a kid, which required crutches and took me out of all sport for two or three months.  No, this was more like an act of sabotage, a warning.  Just stop it, my body was saying to me.  It’s for your own good.  It’s for everyone’s good.

The advice I received from my new team-mates during the time-outs and period breaks amounted to: be an obstacle.  I had height, at least … I should use that.

I thought my injury might have taken me out for what was left of the season, but by the middle of the next week it became clear that this wasn’t a sport-ending injury — it was my body being old and grumpy.  I’d think about playing, and my leg would tighten and zap me with a flash of pain to say, you sure about that?

I played a second game the other night, and I resolved before I started that I would do what I had the best chance of succeeding at: I would be an obstacle.  I would be the biggest, best obstacle I could be.  And for the most part, that’s what I did.  Every now and then I’d depart slightly from the script, take a shot or try and drive, and each time my body would hit me with a warning jolt.  You sure about that? it whispered to me.  Next time it might not be the calf.  Next time it might be the Achilles.  And sure enough, at the back of my heel a sharp heat flared.

People say you should listen to your body.  Okay, I’m listening now.  But why is my body mostly arsehole?

Because My Arse Demands It

There’s a nugget of conventional wisdom which I’ve heard trotted out more than a few times in my life, about shoes and beds.  You’ve probably heard it: spend a lot on shoes and beds, because you spend most of your life either on your feet or sleeping.  Now, that might be true if I were a policeman, or a postman, or a waiter … but for me there’s a significant third element to consider, one which almost certainly takes precedence over my feet: you guessed it, it’s my arse.  If I had a pie chart which split out my time between sleeping, sitting and walking, walking would look like some slim data anomaly, like eating out in Greek restaurants, or voting.  No, my arse is where it’s at, and it’s for this reason that I’m now trying to justify spending a big wedge of my weekly wage on a chair.

I’ve tried every kind of financially reasonable option at home, including sensible chairs from Ikea, replica designer chairs, old wooden dining chairs, children’s high chairs (which I’m currently using to the chagrin of my coccyx), piano stools, drum stools, Swiss balls, ergonomic kneeling chairs … they all leave me wanting to get out of them within minutes of settling in.  I sometimes think the problem is me, that there’s some undercurrent of procrastination which is the real cause of my inability to just plant it and get the job done … but there was a time when I was comfortable sitting in a chair, when I was happy to stay in that position for hours on end.  Those times were when I worked in offices fitted out with Aeron chairs.

If you don’t know what an Aeron chair is, you probably do but don’t realise it.  You might even be sitting in one right now.  The Herman Miller Aeron chair, my arse all but sighs when I think about it.  Sitting in an Aeron is like sitting in a tiny trampoline which has been sculpted to cup your seated form like a child cradling a freshly-hatched duckling.  For several years it’s all I sat in at work, until the financial world melted into an embarrassing sticky mess and companies were all of a sudden cost-conscious about things like chairs.  Sure, they could spare a few billion to buy another company or two: but the priority, the real priority, is to shave a few percent off the chair budget.

Talk about your false economies.  When I stopped sitting in Aerons, I started to spend a lot more time going out for coffee, just to get the feeling back in my legs.  One place I worked brought in chairs which were almost the equal of the Aeron in price, but in comfort terms?  These chairs appeared to do everything in their power to get you out of them.  Apparently designed to accommodate the natural balance of your body, what they would actually do is try to eject you from them.  Any pressure on the backrest cause the back to tilt and the seat itself to simultaneously slide forward, until you slipped straight off onto the scratchy carpet tiles.  Where I am now, the chairs appear to have been upholstered by the same company that does bus seats, and they possess some kind of thermal core which attempts to keep lifting the surface temperature of your back until it blisters.

My coffee consumption has gone way up.

If only they’d spring for some Aerons, they’d see how much better life could be.  I’ve decided to to take matters into my own hands and locate my own Aeron.  Then I saw how much they sell for in this country, and that gave me pause: $1200 and change, minimum, and no options on eBay that I can see.  Yikes.  So I ask myself, can I justify spending such a large proportion of my income on a chair?  A chair?  The answer of course is yes, yes I believe I can.  Why?  Because I spend most of my waking life on my arse, and my arse demands it.


Buy these photos or your family will hate you forever


I’m not a salesman, never have been — but I know when someone is trying to ream out my wallet in the friendliest manner possible.  I had one of these experiences last night.

My mother bought a car recently.  You might be thinking, say no more, car salesmen … but this isn’t about car salesmen.  Not really.  As part of her “great deal” on the car she also received a voucher.  This was not a voucher for a free burger at Burger King, or a two-for-one deal on putters from Golf World … no, this was a BIG MONEY voucher for a studio photography session.

Ah, I hear you say.  Ah indeed.

No, poor Mum has never experienced the kind of hard sell which comes with such vouchers.  She innocently believed the voucher she now possessed entitled her to $800-worth of professional photos — which it did, technically, but you have to consider what that $800 represents.  My mobile phone contract, for example, includes $700 of calls a month.  This is not the same as dropping $700 into a payphone and making a year’s worth of calls.  This is $700-worth of phone calls in the same way that a loaf of bread is worth a trillion dollars in Zimbabwe.  You have to consider the scale.

We discovered the scale of the pricing yesterday evening.  Myself, N, Kid A and Kid B — even the dog — all sat through an hour and a half of posing in excruciating positions while trying to look natural.  Am I smiling?  Yes Mr Photographer, I do believe I am smiling.  These are just tears of happiness streaming down my face.  This is a cramp of joy in my hamstring.

After the session came the “consultation” with the studio owner, and that’s when the real pain began.  That’s when we discovered just how far our voucher got us, and how much deeper we’d need to dig to free ourselves from the emotional blackmail which had just been hand-delivered to us.

So, here are a few questions and comments a studio “artistic director” might throw your way if he or she is trying to put the hard sell on you.

What do you do for a living?  You should interpret this as: how much of your disposable income am I likely to be able to corral?

Describe your house to me, as if I were walking into it for the first time.  Why did I get the feeling he was hoping I’d reveal the location of a hidden wall safe, along with the admission that the combination was just my date of birth because I’m hopeless at keeping track of long numbers?

I’m really pleased that you’ve decided to have this done now, with your children at this age.  I kept thinking: was there any kind of decision-making process involved?  We had a voucher.  Use it or not?  That was the extent of the decision-making process.

This is something you might only have done once or twice in your lifetime.  Oh crap, I thought, is it going to cost that much?  The answer to that unspoken question was yes, yes it is.

This photo (of N and I) is perfect.  It might not be something you would buy for yourselves.  But for your children, in the future, it will be priceless.  It will be how they remember you.  Oh, fabulous.  Thank you for reminding us that we will one day be dead, maybe soon.  Can we have the image laser printed onto our tombstones? 

For the family portrait, you really need to get it in at least the 20×24.  At least.  Anything smaller would look silly.  Because anything smaller won’t cost you an additional $650.

How much have you budgeted for this?  It was a PHOTO SESSION!  We had a VOUCHER!  You budget for holidays, groceries, car purchases and home renovations.  Sane people do not budget for a family photo session.

You can pay it all upfront, or half now and half later.  Or, we also offer a monthly payment plan.  AHHHHHHHHH!

Sorry, you can’t go away and think about it.  The moment you leave this office, if you haven’t made a purchase, we have to destroy the files.  WHY?  It’s fucking digital!  Why in the name of all unholy do you need to destroy the image files the moment we leave?  I understand that to do otherwise would undermine your pressure-selling, guilt-tripping, heartstring-fumbling, account-plundering, exploitative arseprick business model, but come on!  If you demand that I buy now, immediately, lest the opportunity be whipped out from before my eyes and cast into the fires of Mordor, then you can take your photo “art” and jam it in the same dark smelly orifice from which you’d extracted your sales pitch.

Needless to say, N and I resisted the sales pitch.  We’ve resisted worse than you Mr photo salesman — doorstep sellers in London, timeshare salesmen in the Canary Islands, gypsies in Madrid — your sales kung fu is tired and weak, and I’d rather fly the family to Thailand for a holiday and pay a Thai photographer to take shots for a week before forking out for one of your packages.  It’d probably be cheaper too.

But our piddly little free “$800” portrait is just lovely.  Thanks!

Fentonton. Population: 1

The prize for most rubbish New Year’s Eve ever goes to this one, 2011.  It’s only 2pm on the 31st, and I already know this new year “celebration” (yes, fucking air quotes) is going to suck worse than a Christmas without gifts.  Worse than dental work.  Worse than another Twilight film.

How can I know it will be so bad?  Well, I’m sitting in the kitchen of an otherwise empty house in Kent, stone sober, eating breakfast cereal.  My family, my dear beautiful wife and children, are at this moment working their way out of Brisbane airport.  That’s how I know this New Year’s will suck like a Justin Bieber/Jedward collaboration.

If it was a separation of only a few days, or even a couple of weeks, that wouldn’t be so bad; but the solitary stretch I’m looking at is stretched out four long months.  That’s so far past the horizon I can’t know where it ends.

So, boo-hoo for me.  I shall celebrate the entry into 2012 (and yes, I nearly forgot: fuck you, 2011) by having a couple of beers, eating some ribs, and trying to be productive for the last few hours of the year.  Finish as you mean to go on, and all that.  And while I’m eating my Waitrose sad bastard meal for one, I will attempt to distract myself with activity, because if I keep staring at this gaping hole where my life used to be I might fall into it.  I come across one of the kids’ toys, under the sofa or behind a door, and I feel my throat closing up.  I used to think “getting all choked-up” was just something people said, but it actually happens.  These human emotions, they also suck.

Where’s that beer?


So much for focus

So, this thing hasn’t exactly gone as planned. I know I said this blog wasn’t going to be an unfocused ramble, a brain-dump, but … once more, I’ve taken a notion to an unnecessary extreme.

Two posts in over a year. Wow, I’ve got so much to say.
It’s not all my fault I haven’t got around to posting — there are a number of things I can blame for soaking up all my time:
1. Work
2. Family
3. The economy
4. Bit Torrent (not that I do that kind of thing)
5. My dog (every time I get on my laptop, he jumps up on my … ahh, Jesus, get down Brubeck … yes, you, you smell … well, okay, just don’t drool on the keyboard)
6. Sport on TV
7. The estate agents charged with trying to sell my house, who seem to believe everyone is perfectly cool with them trying to push down prices just so they can maintain their fucking volume, imbeciles! You’re only hurting yourselves in the long-run! Sorry, they just piss off all the concentration right out of my head.
8. Lambeth Council (they are beyond blame for NOTHING)
9. Warm, delicious alcohol
You get the idea. I could go on … Actually:
10. Justin Bieber. His whole breathing and living and walking around deal just fucks with my concentration.
There, I’m done. Sorry about that. Why am I even apologising? It’s not like anyone’s going to read this. Writing a blog is basically emotional hedging, anyway.
Position A: If I write something stupid (likely), it doesn’t matter because I’m not famous and no-one reads this thing anyway, it’s basically an online diary.
Position B: If I write something stupid, and lots of people read it because I am famous … who cares? I’m famous! Woo-hoo!
I made a New Year’s resolution back when it was an appropriate thing to do: I resolved to make January FiFuNoMo. Most people (by people I mean writers) have heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. FiFuNoMo is Finish the Fucking Novel Month. I tried to motivate myself. Surprisingly, it worked. Can February be SeFuNoMo (Sell the Fucking Novel Month)? I doubt it.
Maybe I’ll just try to post more on the blog.

Crapalooza 2010

I was gifted some time recently — two weeks between jobs — in which I thought I could get some of my own work done. Long-outstanding work. Important work. Naturally, I opted to fritter this time away with my new procrastination-enabler activity: groping around under my floor for junk from the 1900’s.

Some brief background: I live in a terraced house in south-west London, built in the early 1900’s. Like most houses of this design, a narrow cellar runs beneath the entrance hallway, originally used as a coal-chute. The joists for the ground floor rest on the top of the cellar wall, which leaves a series of shallow gaps where one can peer over the cellar wall to the space beneath the reception room floor, if one were so inclined. I was so inclined.

There is an ocean of crap under my floor. Not just any crap, but old crap. This is an important distinction. If it were simply half-bags of cement and copper-pipe offcuts left by builders, I’d have never bothered with it, but when I first flashed a torch in there I saw what looked to be (and what was) a very old tin of shoe polish. I had to have it. I now have approximately five thousand old tins of shoe polish which I’ve rescued from that filthy void, and if I pull out another one I’ll probably try to open a vein with its rusty rim, but that first sighting is what got me started.

Some things I’ve learned from the experience:

– You can never reach as far as you think you can
– Everything seems much bigger when viewed at eye-level
– Tetanus is almost certainly a fictional malady invented to frighten children into obedience, or at least its method of contraction is a falsehood, because if being cut by rusty metal were a genuine catalyst of the disease I’d be critically ill of not outright dead by now, which I’m clearly not, as I’m sitting here writing about it
– WW1-era Londoners were sick, violent, immoral, perverse, incredibly messy and apparently obsessed with keeping shoes at their shiniest
– Enough is enough only until you want to go back for more

The way I gain access to the trash-trove is: I kneel on the workbench or stand on a chair, reach up and over the wall with my face pressed into the brickwork, and blindly feel around for interesting things to pull out. I can’t see where I’m groping because the joists and the floorboards stop me getting my head into any kind of viewing position. I used gloves for a while, but I couldn’t feel a thing, so I now grope about barehanded, just like they did it back in the day. It’s a messy business. I mentioned about the cellar being a coal chute — apparently excess coal was dumped over the wall. I think I might have developed the black lung.

It hasn’t all been coal dust and shoe polish tins and razor blades. Did I mention there were razor blades? What don’t you want to find when you’re groping around blind with your bare hands? You guessed it: razor blades. But I have also found some pretty cool things. Here’s my top five (subjective) finds so far:

1. A time capsule in the form of an old lemonade bottle, containing a number of old tram tickets and a letter from the first owner of the house to the finder of the time capsule (me!)
2. A Colt .22 New Line revolver, in its pouch and in apparent working order (without bullets)
3. A small jar labelled “Special Black Female Corrective Pills” (with pills)
4. A very old framed picture postcard, presumably of the original owner and his wife
5. What appears to be a home-made opium pipe (without opium, dammit)

The time capsule got us all very excited. It’s dated 1908, addressed from our house, and says (paraphrased): “My name is George Herbert Cowell, the original owner of this house. I wonder when this letter will be found. Enclosed are a few Tramway tickets. We have just had our Tramways electrified.” All written in perfect cursive. I downloaded the image of the 1911 census form from the house, and loe and behold, it matched: George Herbert Cowell and family, all of them but Mrs Cowell employed by the Central Telegraph Office in Waterloo.

The gun was another high-point. When I pulled it out I had no idea what to expect as I tried to open the old zipper on the pouch with my bleeding, rust-speckled fingers. When I saw the butt of the gun shining through I thought it might be a fancy knife. When I pulled out a gun, I was stunned: it was tiny. I mean, really tiny. I later learned it was issued by Colt as competition for the Derringer, but on first sight I thought it was a cigarette lighter. The Colt New Line was made in 1877, a 7-shot rimfire revolver, and it fits very comfortably in the palm of my hand. Unfortunately, being a .22 means it falls under section 5 of the UK firearms act, which makes it a prohibited weapon. A bit of gun oil and a clean-up, you could slot some modern .22 cartridges into that puppy and, provided your hands weren’t too large, you could give someone a nasty sting. Good citizen that I am, I contacted the local chapter of the firearms squad, who are now holding it safe for me in their armory until I find someone to deactivate it. I couldn’t even sell it I wanted to, because no-one would be allowed to buy it – it falls into the same category as a Glock.

The corrective pills were, it turns out, an early form of the morning-after pill. Yes ladies, just one of these a day for about a month after your fun and games will take care of any unwanted “developments”. This may or may not be achieved by precipitating your own death, but that would probably be on account of all the lead you’ve been ingesting by taking these “special black” pills.

Corrective Pills

More details on this gripping adventure will follow, after I’ve caught some Z’s.

I want to live in Fentonton!

The first blog post, so much pressure … come on man, think …

The Oxford English Dictionary defines blog as …



Welcome to Fentonton. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I did not set up this blog while drunk and misspell my own name. “Fenton.blogspot” was taken. I admit I was listening to Ben Folds while I was trying to think of a name, which must have had an influence. If you’re familiar with “Effington”, just swap the words around, hum a few bars, and before you know it it’ll be stuck in your head like a catchy Justin Timberlake track, or tinnitus, whichever you prefer.


Can be a wonderful Fenton place

I can see it from the highway

And I’m wondering

Is there Fenton in their yards

Fenton in their cars

Fenton in the trailers and the back roads and the parking lots

Of Fentonton …

And so on.

So why do I have a blog? Well for one thing, it’s considerably cheaper than setting up a proper website. Also, I can get by without having to learn much HTML, which is fine with me because I’m sure it would be superseded by some new vastly superior programming language about a month after I mastered it.

What makes me think anyone is interested in what I have to say? You’re here, aren’t you? Unless you were trying to get to Fenton.blogspot and you’ve had a few too many ciders. What this blog is not going to be is a brain dump of every random thought which wanders into my head. No, it’s going to be a tightly focused brain dump.

First things first:

I was prompted to set up a blog after joining a book review group called “Booksquawk”. They said, give us a photo and a link to your blog. After two hours of teaching my four-year-old daughter (heretofore referred to as “Kid A”) the principles of SLR photography, lighting, aperture settings, and where the take-the-damn-photo button was, I had my picture. And here’s the blog. It’ll look much better once Kid A finishes that HTML course.

Booksquawk is a book review site whose contributors are all writers. Some of us have even had our books published! Not me. No, I write for the (ahem) love of it. If someone would pay me to do it, however, I would love it so much more. I would love it and care for it and feed it every day, honest. If you’d like to pop over and check the site out, that would be just super. If my HTML tags above failed to work, it’s at “”

That’s enough from me, at least until I have something interesting to post. Interesting to me, anyway.

I want to live

In Fentonton!

I want to die

There too!

Folds, if you read this, feel free to put Fentonton on your next album. Or at least play it next time you’re in London.