Tag Archives: Martin Cororan

…In Which Raconteur Skills Abandon the Ageing Lothario

The man sitting next to me is on a date. I know this by the way he answers his phone. He has that higher-pitched air of non-threatening concern so essential in the initial wooing process  (You know, the one that gets abandoned forever after a few weeks)…

‘That’s alright. I was a little late myself…No, it’s the independent one next to Starbucks… OK, see you in a few minutes.’

His date arrives and greets him with a warm smile. The man, eager to impress, steps up to the plate and unleashes the conversational mother-load: ‘Sorry for the terrible directions. Maybe we should have just met at Starbucks…but…I like to drink in places where they pay their tax.’

Even the delivery is a little strange – Kind of passive aggressive – Like: Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

‘Oh,’ the woman replies, a little taken-aback. ‘Well, it’s a nice choice.’

‘Yeah…lots of companies seeking to avoid…tax…at the moment…there’s…’

He glances around the room in desperation. Our eyes lock and we share a telepathic moment.

Help me brother!

Hey man – You did this to you – Pull your shit together.

‘Facebook…and…’

‘I think maybe some of the banks,’ his date tries to assist.

‘Yes, probably – goodgood

I hate to see brethren stumble, but what am I supposed to do? Lean across and say: Tell her she looks great you douche? And besides, my date has just arrives and so I’m like: Watch and learn my young apprentice. Listen to the Surgical Sensei work his lyrical mastery…

…And within less than a minute we’re talking about Supply-Chain-Management.

How the hell did this happen?

I fall back on my training. It tells my to show interest and ask questions, so I dredge up: ‘What’s the best supply chain you’ve ever managed?’ Her face relays so many complex messages – a mixture of I’m sorry for bringing this up / Stop asking questions / You’re only making it worse, whilst also answering the question (Multi-tasking! Women are amazing!)

Over on the next table the other guy’s date is performing the coup de grace. ‘I think maybe Google don’t pay tax as well?’ They leave soon afterwards. I appreciate their honesty (put it down to experience and move on).

But I’m still there, trapped in a rictus. I don’t think it’s the women’s fault or mine – Nothing in common – that’s all. Time and time again I’m bottling lightning and laughing at my own jokes (always a good sign), but no amount of electricity can reanimate a corpse.

Forty minutes in fate cocks the weapon and places it against my temple.

A comment about TV prompts her to say ‘I’ve just finished watching the Nordic crime drama – ‘The Killing.”

‘What a coincidence – I also enjoy killing…’

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My Punchable Face…

…Or ‘My Expletive and Dwarf-laden journey home…’ (Certain words have been substituted to give this a PG-13(ish) rating).

Aldgate station, London 17:45, usually quiet, on this particular occasion – rammed to the gills: ‘We apologise for the congestion,’ droned the tannoy, ‘This was caused by a fight on a train and subsequent cancellations.’

A cursory glance at the board told me that I wasn’t getting home via the conventional route. I took the next available train going west and changed at Baker Street. As I reached the start of the escalator an incredibly short man cut in front and tripped over my feet. Temper-wise he went from zero to a zillion within the space of a nanosecond – peppering me with a barrage of C-bombs and spectacularly overreacting.

‘Charming,’ I replied like an imbecile. Further C-bombs abounded.

In addition to the man’s height deficiency he was also three rungs below me. As such my genitals bore the brunt of his fury;  an overarching thought throughout: I am perfectly positioned to kick you right in the face…but I’m not going to do that. Sure, you look like a midget with a Napoleon complex, but you might be a ninja. I can’t go out like that. It would be like choking on a marshmallow or getting run over by a segue.

A voice from behind came to my aid: ‘Mate, calm down, I saw – It was an accident – you pushed in.’ I turned. The voice belonged to a man in a three-piece suit

‘Well you can funf yourself as well,’ screamed the ninja.

‘Ok…’

Napoleon stormed off leaving me a little shaken.

‘Don’t worry about it mate,’ reassured Three-piece, ‘guy’s a douche – you handled it well.’

‘Thanks.’

‘I would’ve hit him!’

‘Fair enough.’

Far below Napoleon had clearly decided our encounter wasn’t over and was waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator.

‘If you ever deliberately trip me again I will slit your throat you C-bomb.’

‘Mate, it’s been a long day – I’m not doing this.’

‘You’ll do what I funfing well tell you you’ve doing.’

‘OK…’ I went to the right side of the platform, as did Three-piece. Napoleon followed.

Together we tried to placate the little man whilst he continued threatening and bombarding us with abuse. Eventually he lost interest and started to walk away.

‘Jeez,’ sighed Three-piece. ‘I bet you wished you’d pushed him down the escalator.’

‘What did you funfing say?’

‘Oh c’mon! No one can be this angry!’

The train arrived, packed to the rafters. No one got on board. It pulled away leaving us on the platform.

‘Yeah,’ snarled Napoleon, ‘you thought you’d escaped, but now you’re stuck with me.’

Three-piece made a strange noise. I looked to him and saw that he was laughing his ass off. He set me off.

‘This isn’t funfing funny!’ Napoleon declared.

‘It’s quite funny,’ Three-piece responded.

‘This is ridiculous,’ I added. ‘You’re ridiculous. Why are you so aggressive?’

‘If you don’t stop laughing…’

Before I knew what I was saying I’d stepped up to him. ‘I tell you what – Throw down or f*&% off.’

‘Oh, you want we to throw down? I’ll funfing throw down. I’ll throw you off the funfing earth.’

I am living proof that it is possible to find something hilarious whilst also fearing for your wellbeing. ‘No, I don’t want you to throw down. I want you to go away.’

Another train arrived. The three of us got into the same carriage and stood staring at one another for the next ten minutes . It was the closest I’ve ever come to an out of body experience in that I could sense how smug I must look, but was powerful to wipe the provocation from my lips. Three-Piece was clearly having the same issue.

At Paddington the two normal-sized people alighted.

‘Bye C-BOMBS!’ Napoleon yelled.

If I was going to smack him I’d left it a little late. I looked at Three-piece. He gave me a cheeky wink.

‘BYYYEEE,’ we both waved euphorically.

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Gift of the Gabbage

Someone has labelled everything in the park. A tree has a piece of paper attached to its bow with the word ‘tree’ written on it, the ground is labelled ‘ground;’ a lamppost ‘lamppost.’ Not everything is so literal. One of the bushes is christened ‘Bean Head,’ and a bench sports ‘No Thugs.’

FullSizeRenderAll in all there are close to forty such signs. It’s like something out of Alice in Wonderland (‘Drink me.’)

What would prompt someone to do something like that?

My initial ideas (in the order they arrived): Prank / Peruvians / Some kind of protest / Epic breakdown / Insane.

It’s not in Spanish so it can’t be my Peruvian stalkers, (unless they’re deliberately using another language to throw me off the scent – Los Rapscallianos!) See previous post: Digame!

If insane then just imagine what a treasure trove their home must be – all the nouns assigned a little sticker – knives labelled ‘stabby friends’ or ‘she will be mine.’

‘I’m just going down to the ‘Green-play’ (park), but first I shall put on my ‘cloth skin’ (coat) and ‘fruit-bowl’ (pants).’

FullSizeRender (1)I want to engage with you fellow human. What are you?

I got to the train station without being accosted by a white rabbit (shame). I have a long commute each day. On occasion it grinds me down. Yesterday, wedged against some guy’s ass-crack, having miraculously secured a seat, I thought ‘You know what would spruce this journey up? A Mariachi band! I could hire one and get them to follow me around for the day. Sure, it would compound the overcrowding, but think of the joy it would bring, to you and your fellow commuters. I dismissed the idea as fanciful, but later found myself researching the matter thoroughly and ascertained that I could employ said musicians for the grand sum of £300 (el etiquette Trabajo de Mexicanes es muy bueno!) Were it not for the prohibitive train fares I may well have proceeded (£50 a head for a day return! (plus the guy who plays the bass is normally as fat as a house / sports a coffee-table sized sombrero – he’d need two tickets)) – Maybe if I booked in advance I could get some kind of super saver, but then I’d need to travel off peak…
…the point being – it would be amazing, but people would think I was unhinged…

Perhaps the phantom labeller was attempting something equally uplifting. Who can say? Unless they leap naked from behind the bins one morning, a half-dead pigeon twitching between their teeth, and screech a heroin-fuelled explanation into my face we’ll never know. I apologise crazy person. Our failure to communicate is 50% my fault…

But it’s not all misfire. I know a guy with a Filipino wife thirty-two years his junior who speaks no English. They communicate exclusively through Google Translate (and presumably blowjob morse code – one speculates), and they seem to get along just fine!

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Guff & Gubbins…

Imagine an embryo in a suit sitting at a desk in a cubicle disguised as an adult. Somehow it has made its way into central London on a grad scheme; the main responsibility of which appears to gravitate around the concept of making me feel old and decrepit. More pressingly (he) is now occupying the room that houses the cabinet in which my work shoes reside. I tap on the glass and open the door.

‘Hi, do you mind if I just get my shoes?’

All the blood drains from of his face. The transformation is quite dramatic. ‘Yes.’

‘You do mind?’

‘Yes I do…sorry.’

‘Oh…well I’ll jus-‘ The wall of stench hits me. He was been breaking wind – a lot. It’s a very tiny room and he clearly wasn’t expecting company. I am physically repelled and contain the outbreak with a hefty slam of the door.

Given a moment to think I realise that I probably should’ve handled that better – maybe acted as if there wasn’t a paint-stripping reek assaulting the inside of my throat and calmly returned later. I smile through the glass to show him that there are no hard feelings and that I shall retrieve the aforementioned footwear in due course. Shortly thereafter he scurries away.

4084833608a5daa7c93e65460d0af83b885b907724ee782c48b0b2c36307d596d5ad42c7Later I am returning from lunch when I see the lift doors closing. I make a dash for it and step inside. There is already someone within – the graduate! He seems mortified to be in a confined space with me. The lift takes an eternity to begin its accent, and we are only moving for a few seconds before a robot announces ‘Emergency call activated.’ The graduate steps forward. A red light is flashing in the space recently vacated by his ass-cheeks. He becomes flustered.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I reassure. ‘It happens every other day. They should probably think about relocating the button. Someone’ll ring through in a minute and we’ll be on our way.’

…And then the stench hits me – worse then before! We are in an even smaller room. There is no escape. Embryo won’t look me in the eye. His suit looks highly flammable. He is taking a very great risk. This is too glorious an opportunity to pass up.
‘Seriously, there’s no point squeezing one out stealthily. I’m the only other person in here and I know it wasn’t me.’

‘What wasn’t you?’

Come on!’

‘How do I know it wasn’t you?’

What wasn’t me?’

‘…Whatever it is you’re talking about.’

‘How do you know? Cos it was you. If there was one other guy in here then there might be an element of mystery, but as there isn’t, there isn’t.’

Before we descend into a he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it territory a muffled, metallic sounding voice comes from the lift’s side panel. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Yeah, you can let me out of this dutch oven before I asphyxiate.’

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Summon the Posh

There’s nothing more skank-ass-ho than a man walking through a park at 8am wearing a tuxedo. And it’s not like I didn’t take every precaution to prevent this from happening. I left the Christmas Party at a reasonable time, caught the train, cranked up my headphones to drown out two Gen Y girls who were engaged in a competition to see who could be the least socially aware (‘I’m such a free-spirit that men can’t handle me…’), shared some ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ type vibes with fellow passengers (‘We all did it!’), got delayed, commenced the walk home, saw my car at the midway point, knew for certain that I was way too drunk to drive, got into the passenger seat just for a minute, just to rest my eyes, just to get a bit warm and then – BAM – right in the middle of the school run and kids faces at the window and ‘Mommy, is that man dead?’ and ‘No darling, he just doesn’t have his life together’…oh, and the judgemental eyes of the upwardly mobile middle-class like I’ve stumbled into the hood and am gonna get stabbed up or barred from Waitrose or both…

I looked at the dashboard clock – too late to go home and change before dropping my car off for its MOT. An image of the queen popping out of Buckingham Palace to buy some fags was firmly ensconced in my brain as I rucked up at the garage – lop-sided tiara and foie gras stuck between her teeth. My deodorant, impressive though it was, had long-since given up the ghost and my waxy skin / stubble combo spoke only of shame.

Various overall wearing staff made no attempt to hide their amusement as I stumbled up metal steps to a port-o-cabin and heard a voice that sounded like Eartha Kitt’s demonic transgender uncle mumble that I was here to drop off the Audi.

‘Why are you in a tuxedo?’ the man asked

‘Why are you not?’

‘Fair enough.’

Then came the annoyance of him asking me complicated questions like ‘Is this your address?’ and ‘Has your phone number changed?’ and all I could think off in response was: I am an aristocrat in decline, I’m going to be spectacularly overcharged, Where can I purchase the healing elixir that is bacon? 

With both hands I reached into my coat pockets to retrieve the car keys and came upon the handles of a set of maracas (which I already knew were in there from when I got out the car, but for some reason had failed to stow in the glove box).

The man could see them (and hear them) and now I was off the chart crazy. An explanation was surely forthcoming. Should I use the real reason (So that I’ve got something to do when I’m waiting at the lights)? No, of course not:

‘It’s how we, The Elite, identify ourselves to each other in public. I usually use a French horn, but my butler’s having it polished.’

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You are fragile and temporary…

2015-02-09 15.35.23 copyEnding One: The Thorn Tree was a pub in Wakefield, infamous for being an excessively violent place in which to drink. My friend had taken me there specifically to prove this point and was duly rewarded. Within an hour a fight broke out between two women. Some karaoke was hastily cobbled together. The mood calmed somewhat.

I believe (if memory serves – it was a long time ago) that I was in the process of being light-heartedly chastised for something when my friend stopped mid-sentence and glanced over my shoulder.

‘I think the man behind you is dead.’

‘What?’

He repeated himself. I turned to look.

‘No, don’t look. It’d be rude!’

‘How am I supposed to verify if…?’

For a few awkward moments we debated what to do – finding it semi funny / semi disturbing, and pretty certain that it would all turn out to be a misunderstanding.

‘No, I think he really is dead.’

We both stood up and took a few short paces over to the man’s table. He was sitting bolt upright, his face composed, eyes wide.

‘Evening,’ my friend said.

‘Excuse me?’ I added.

‘No blinking – He’s not there.’

An old gent, out on his own, a half finished pint, a silent slipping away. It was real.

Whilst my thoughts drifted towards the realms of ‘Is it sad that he died alone or good that he died in pub?‘ my friend had far more practical considerations in mind. Eager to preserve the man’s dignity he calmly made his way over to the bar and informed the landlady. Her reaction was the complete opposite of what had been hoped or intended. Rather than quietly dealing with the matter she flew into a fluster and started making it all about her. A very public call to the emergency services alerted the entire room to what had transpired, and we watched in bemused horror as she draped a bright yellow tea-towel over the man’s face in order to hide the fact that he was dead.

‘What on earth do you think you’re doing?’ I asked.

‘Well I can’t hardly use a sheet can I? He’d look like a ghost. ANYONE KNOW WHO HE IS?’

‘I can’t tell,’ one of the punters replied. ‘He’s got a bright yellow tea-towel over his face.’

Some in the room found it tragic; others hilarious. A few (me included) found it both.

This blog is read by a few hundred people. Statistically therefore one of you (us) is going to die a comedy death at some point, and all the things you’d like to be remembered for – being a great man, woman, lover, philanthropist – will take second billing to having chocked on a dildo during a hen-do gone horribly wrong, or decapitated by a shard of frozen urine being expelled from a plane (‘You remember Pete?’ ‘What, Pissy-Pete?’ Or ‘Hey, how about Phil?’ ‘Oh yeah, the tea-towel guy?’ etc)…

Think on…

 

Ending Two: Mike, 59, ex-marine, ex-North Sea oil rig diver, IT developer, salt-of-the-earth, two weeks from getting married for the second time, December 2005 – my leaving do. Mike’s a naturally scruffy person (a man after my own heart), but under his fiancée’s instructions he’s gone out and bought an incredibly expensive suit – Armani, voluminously huge – the kind Al Capone would’ve worn. He spends the evening taking it out of a travel bag to show people, uttering a single, well rehearsed line of dialogue and replacing it in its bag. The line:

‘I’m only going to wear this twice. Once when I get married and one when they bury me in it.’

At 10pm he leaves – last train to the south coast. We shake hands. It has truly been a pleasure. We’ll see each other tomorrow for my final day.

The next morning a phone call diverts me from the office towards a coffee shop. ‘Leaving presentation’ my all-about-me brain suggests. I push through the front door and someone is whispering in my ear that Mike died in his sleep from a brain aneurism. There then follows a fog of floating into the office, gathering up my traumatised team and taking them somewhere they can breathe. We are joined by our project sponsor, a very senior manager who laments ‘It’s a shame the pubs aren’t open. If ever there were a need for a stiff drink…’

The phone rings – my boss – Where are you? – In a coffee shop – Your team? – With me – Have you forgotten that you need to get a software build out my lunchtime? – Mike… – Yeah, I heard – Then you’ll know that the software build will need to wait a little while – I know you’re in shock, but that’s no excuse for being unprofessional – There are grown men here crying, you need to dismiss the idea from your mind – Listen Martin I will not…

The senior manager can hear what is happening. He makes a gesture to me that I should hand over the phone. ‘Hang on, Rob want’s a word.’

‘Hi Andy, it’s Rob. Yeah listen, show some compassion and f@$* off!’ He ends the call and hands the phone back with a wry smile.

I write to Mike’s fiancée (whom I’ve never met). She asks me to read the letter out at his funeral. The whole team are there, and the senior manager, and his manager, but not my (now ex) boss. All throughout the service I am feeling sorry for him and thinking that he has failed to grasp one of life’s fundamental lessons – that life does not go on, and that all things stop for death.

Mike’s fiancée comes up to me afterwards and says: ‘He rolled over in the middle of the night and whispered, ‘Great to be in bed with the one I love.’ That was the last of him.’

In moments such as these you can only go with your gut. A phrase like that doesn’t need my sympathy. It needs admiration:

‘My word,’ I reply. ‘That’s how I want to go out!’

 

Ending Three:

On Christmas day 2001 I went with my father to lay a wreathe on his mother’s grave. It was cold and had snowed recently. It was a sombre moment and there was a pregnant pause that needed to be filled with some poignant words.

But I wasn’t the one to fill it. Feeling somewhat belligerent I decided that my father (a man private about his feelings) was going to be the one to speak and not me. A considerable amount of time passed in silence. It became awkward, oppressive, slightly funny, then awkward again. Eventually, when he realised that I wasn’t letting him off the hook my father turned to me and said:

‘You know, when I pop my clogs, I’d like to be buried in a snazzy cardboard box – a pink one – something garish that offends the mourners.’

This is how we’re dealing with bereavement is it? I thought. OK, I can run with it…

‘When I die,’ I responded, ‘I’d like to be liquidised and surreptitiously added to the reception punch. I could then literally be a pain in everyone’s arse.’

Father upped the ante: ‘I’d like to be loaded into a catapult, fired into the air and, wherever by body lands, be left to rot…no, not a catapult – a trebuchet – I’d go further.’

I brought it home: ‘When you go I’m going to have you fitted with animatronics so that I can remote control you to rise from the grave going RRRRAAAHHHH!’

‘And that’ll help you cope will it?’

‘I imagine so yes.’

‘Oh good.’

 

Epilogue: Why have I written about death? It’s not because I’m building up to a personal revelation. It’s simply this.

I was meeting an old friend for lunch on Friday, but she cancelled due to fears about getting on a train to London. The killings in Paris had her on edge. I was socialising with a client a few days beforehand when we heard that a couple in San Bernardino had killed fourteen people over a work dispute. They themselves were later shot dead by police. On Thursday a man in London arbitrarily pushed a complete stranger off an underground platform into the path of an oncoming tube. The blogosphere is currently alight with debates over gun control and whether or not to invade Syria, blaming God, David Cameron and the American senate to name but a few. A company I’m working with offers terrorism insurance. I’m led to believe it’s now a fairly standard practice. I have a strong opinion on all of these things, but in some respects that’s also part of the problem – Everyone shouting into an abyss. Never before in human history have people been spoon fed death, terror, death, terror by ubiquitous media morning, noon and night. Never before have they had to be so sophisticated in compartmentalising certain horrors and placing others into context so as not to go insane, so well done you!

That’s probably the only point I was trying to make – Well done you. That I’ve chosen silly slants on the stories is part defiance and part irreverence. I once saw someone I love die and there was nothing warm or graceful about it. Afterwards I carried the mantra around in my heart: You are fragile and temporary. It would help all of us I think to know our place in the grand scheme of things…

…But statistically the world is becoming a far safer place – more parts of it enjoy more liberties then ever before, there is more diversity, less racism, greater rights for women. If we can work out how not to use everything up we might just get where we’re going.

For example: In the dim and distance past if I’d taken a shine to another man’s wife (or his cave) I’d have had to bash his head in with a rock and move in. Now alI I have to do is stalk her on Facebook, take her out to an obscenely priced restaurant, get criticised for not knowing which fork goes with which course, have her post my faux-pas on Twitter and subsequently struggle to gain the acceptance from all of her judgmental friends.

Simpler, happier times…

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Ah, the horn…

So, I’m in an underground bierkeller watching an oom-pah band wearing lederhosen playing Michael Jackson covers….

Brass…and the woman next to me says ‘I bet the trombonist gets way more sex than the others.’ (She actually said something far ruder, but fill in the blanks).

‘Why do you say that?’

‘Watch and learn my friend.’

Sure enough, at least once per song he’d wander out amongst the punters to flagellate his proboscis in someone’s face (always female). Once I realised what he was doing and how blatant it was it slightly cheapened the experience if I’m going to be honest.

…There then followed a segue onto discussing other band members via an argument over whether one of the songs was the theme tune from Fame or Danger mouse…

…It was agreed that we should get on to the guys at Freakonomics and ask them to investigate why there’s always a direct correlation between playing the tuba and being fat. Nothing against fat people (or tuba players), but I defy you to find a thin one. It’s as if they hear the dulcet boh-boh-boh-bom and immediately hang back for that extra piece of cake.

Convinced we were onto something we initiated ‘drunkwise’ – a practice whereby the structure of one’s sentences sounds clever, but under closer inspection is revealed to be utter drivel:

‘Maybe if we banned tuba playing we could solve the obesity crisis?’

‘Perhaps not a silver bullet, but certainly one ingredient in a smorgasbord of measures.’

‘Good god, you wouldn’t want to let a tuba player near a smorgasbord.’

‘Quite right – I chose poorly metaphorically speaking – a raft of measures.’

‘It’d probably sink…’

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