Tag Archives: Martin Cororan

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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Benevolence & Balzac

God westerners suck! Greedy, whining little brats banging on about their first-world problems. If our forefathers could see us skulking around posting trolly reviews about how our i-phones won’t pick up Wi-Fi or how the local coffee emporium used full-fat by mistake they’ve give us the hiding we so richly deserve.

Never has this been brought home to me so clearly than by the conversation I had with a work colleague yesterday.

That he’s Indian is relevant.

We were talking about the process of testing software. We meandered.  I asked what he did in his spare time.

‘My father left me some land. I get back whenever I can to check on the crops and oversee the harvest.’

‘How much land?’

’40 acres.’

DSCN0404

’40 acres! If you owned 40 acres in England you’d be king.’ (I’m pretty sure that’s how it works).

‘In India it is not so big – We produce maybe 60,000 bags of rice per year – 50KG apiece – enough to support the 40 families who work for me.’

‘But you make a healthy profit?’

‘No, no profit, a small loss actually, but it is good to give back. When I am older I will travel home and become a farmer full-time. It is a divine trade. A doctor you need maybe once a year, but a farmer you need every day.’

I have two thoughts: 1. What a profound thing he is doing for his fellow man. 2. I want to beat him up. I am a whiny westerner and he’s making me feel bad. I must go and blog about my hurty tummy and have total strangers reassure me. (‘Cheer up! You are only part-turd’ MARTIN LIKES THIS).

‘You own land?’ he asks.

‘Yes,’ I reply, ‘not 40 acres, but a nice house, on a hill.’

‘And you live in this house with your wife and kids?’

‘No, I’m divorced – Not a pleasant experience – Gonna take a decade or so off.’

To do his response justice you need to imagine it spoken in a Punjabi accent: ‘That would be a mistake. You need to get a move on before the sperm shrivel up in your scrotum…’

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Adventures in Pedantry

I ordered something called a Hero Burger. The nice lady asked if I would you like to supersize?
‘Isn’t it already heroic?’ I inquired.
‘It is, but you get more of everything on the next one up.’
‘What’s that one called?’
‘We don’t have a name for that one yet sir.’
‘Shouldn’t that one be called the Hero Burger?’
The nice lady gave me the special look she reserves for vermin. ‘I guess so!’
With shades of my father I added ‘Might I suggest The Super-Fluous?’
Where on earth did that mustard fart of indignation come from? On ninety-nine days out of a hundred I would have let something so inconsequential go by the by, but today my Hero (now demoted to Side-kick) Burger was presumably going to arrive laced with various bodily fluids and interfered with beyond words. Such is the price of perfection.
Back at Castle Cororan (still surprising peckish) I found a package waiting for me. I opened it. It contained three bottles of peroxide. I am a bald man. As such I was perplexed. The invoice revealed that I share my address (different postcode) with a hairdresser across town. Ah, irony abounds. When I contacted them to arrange a pick up their manager was so impressed with my honesty that he left a gift on the doorstep – two bottles of luxury exfoliant. How delightful. I used one and the skin proceeded to melt from my face. Picture the bald man running around in just his pants, howling like a child who has touched a nettle. By Jove I demanded satisfaction.
But what’s the protocol for complaining about free stuff? There isn’t one is there? I’ve found a gaping hole in British (and possibly world) etiquette. I must write to someone. This is marvellous / unacceptable (delete as appropriate).
Scarred for life, but ebullient with my newfound revelation I set off for a corporate shindig. There an old colleague reminded me of an incident that completes the triumvirate of pedantry.
We both worked with a young man for whom English was not his first language (For the sake of anonymity we’ll call him Tim). Tim would’ve spoken perfectly good English had he paid attention in the lessons that had been paid for by the company (i.e. he’s fair game).
As well a possessing poor grammar Tim was also a prolific skiver – both in the amount of days took as sick-leave and in the amount of time he spent asleep in the toilets. Every two weeks or so his line manager and I would get an email explaining why he was absent. Because his English was terrible he would make attempts to describe the symptoms rather than succinctly state the ailment – the most memorable of which was: ‘I not be work now – big stomach – much pooh – also puke.’
A few days after his various misdemeanours had been tackled in a performance review he took me aside and asked for my help. ‘You tell me how to say this?’ he asked, and then proceeded to graphically described diarrhoea. Even in the midst of a bollocking you could see the cogs turning; setting up the next bout of absence. I told him he was giving too much information and provided a shorter syntax for the condition. He thanked me.
Sure enough – a few weeks later the glorious email arrived: ‘I cannot come to work today as I have Ass Mayhem.’

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Mish-Mash

My pet chickens need feeding and all I have in the fridge is a spicy chicken pizza. Mmmmoral dilemma. It’s probably no one they know, but best to be on the safe side. In the absence of any grain I find myself pushing a trolley round Tesco Express.

‘OK, you’re a chicken,’ a rather attractive woman overhears me say out loud to myself, ‘what do you like the look of?’ A key-lime pie takes my fancy, but it’s completely impractical. My beak’ll never pierce that lid, and what am I going to do with the ramekin afterwards? Channeling poultry doesn’t appear to be one of my skills.

Back at home the hens seem non-plussed with the selection of cakes I set out before them. The guilt at having forgotten to stock up on their favourite nosh drives me to boil up some rice. A good ten minutes is spent wondering whether or not to add seasoning. Eventually, on the proviso that they’ll taste better if I ever decide to put them in a pie,  I reason that I can stretch to a bit of salt and pepper.

In a scene straight from ‘Come dine with me’ I apologetically serve up the chow. They wolf it down affecting clucks of contentment, but they’ll probably slag me off in the taxi back to their coop.

It wasn’t my idea to get the chickens, but I’m glad that they’re here. Their entire day consists of asking ‘is this edible?’ The answer is invariably ‘yes’.

I order more bird seed online, which instantly infuriates me. Modern life is too easy and too well defined. There’s a slick way of doing everything – ordering seed, buying pre-packaged grub, uploading blogs. Even previously off-the-beaten-track holidays are now pretty much nailed down as experiences. Just once it would be nice to find something ill-defined and reckless (if only so I could complain about it not being better organised). I pledge to go out foraging for sustenance and a female of child-bearing age, but my hunter-gatherer instinct has taken the day off, and I find that women generally object to being clubbed on the head and dragged back to your house by their hair.

So anyway, that’s breakfast out of the way. I check yesterday’s post. The copyright office informs me that my next book ‘Froth’ has now been copyrighted, but that my William Shatner-based satellite navigation – the ‘Shat-Nav,’ has not. The reasons for this rejection (written in biro) are that:

1. William Shatner has already copyrighted himself.

2. The uneven timbre and spacing of his voice may well misinform motorists, leading to peril.

Besides cooking for farm animals I’ve also published ‘The Melting Pot’ on the site ‘Smashwords.’ This means that, in addition to the already published Kindle version, it is now available on i-Pad, html, pdf and several other digital formats:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/131778

Spread the word. I thank you…

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Writing about ‘Baddies’…

‘Rapscallion’ – surely a contender for best word ever (closely followed by ‘nefarious’ and ‘skullduggery’) – all synonymous with villainy.

The starting point for all this was a short story competition about bad guys. I’d decided to come at it from the tongue in cheek, pendulum-swinging, overly-convoluted-diabolical-world-domination-pencil-moustache-Mwhahaha-school of thought. The thing about meglomaniacs is they’re always so well organised. I can barely get out of bed in the morning and there they are building secret lairs in volcanoes and radar-jamming space stations. It strikes me therefore that a better arch nemesis than a super-spy would be a management consultant who, rather than killing henchmen and bedding women, clogs up the supply-chain with bureaucracy and makes it really difficult to order plutonium. In place of a climatic showdown my story ends with a sheepish looking technician shuffling into the command centre, mumbling ‘the software in your death ray isn’t backwards compatible,’ and that’s that – pfssss.

This bit of nonsense got me thinking: What makes someone really bad? I’m talking about attributes rather than catalysts. Is it in the traits they possess or in the ones they lack? If I had been born without empathy would that make me callous or merely emotionally efficient?

‘The banality of evil’ is a phrase often uses on history programs when referring to the Nazis. Many of the officers who ran Auschwitz argued fervently at their trials that they were only administrators, and that they couldn’t be held accountable for the genocide taking place under their noses. The inference is that evil is an absence rather than a substance. This is obviously an extreme example, but in our own little ways we’re all walking the earth mercilessly  projected our beliefs and expectations onto each other, leaving the gas on, the seat up, not remembering birthdays; little omissions and cut-corners. At what point do they tips the scales and spill over into malevolence?

The reason for all this naval gazing is a book idea I’m working on that centres around a protagonist called Methusaleh – a hebrew name meaning ‘when he dies, judgment.’ He comes to the conclusion that, because every action has a plethora of unseen repercussions, it is impossible to be truly good. As a consequence he decides to go full steam ahead in the opposite direction and have a ball. He does not wish people ill-will. He is simply morally ambivalent.

Speaking of malevolence and ambivalence I’ve just made my first foray onto Twitter – a God-forsaken place filled with the murmurings of the undead. The first tweet I encountered read: ‘OMG – Just stabbed myself in eye with pen LOL.’ Does my wanting them to disappear from the gene pool make me a bad person?

https://twitter.com/#!/Martin_Cororan

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Know your audience…

Googling oneself…marvellous.

Yesterday’s query threw up the following from ‘The Birth Club’ at babycentre.co.uk:  

 Now I know my target demographic (alcoholic mothers) this should make marketing a whole lot easier…

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Why I write…

Walking through a crowded Waterloo station each morning I catch snippets of obscure and often harrowing conversations. Yesterday I overheard a man say ‘…Two years ago I was happy…’ followed by a woman uttering, ‘…Christ, if something doesn’t change soon I’ll take…’ Similarly this morning I saw two women weeping uncontrollably whilst being consoled by complete strangers. Not to concentrate on the macabre, I’m fascinated by the idea that, as I walk down a busy street, all these little stories are passing me by – mostly unheard, often interlinking, sometimes fantastical – and every so often people forget their British foibles and just erupt.

Most of my stories tend to come from this angle – the question of what is going on beneath the surface of apparent normality.

Of all the tales ever conceived The Melting Pot has burned the brightest so far. I was very driven to get it into print, and spent a considerable sum of money in pursuing that purpose, but it’s only recently that I’ve stopped to ask myself why?

I certainly don’t have any designs on being famous – quite the opposite in fact. I like the idea of one day being on a train, seeing someone reading the book and being able to watch their reactions from afar without being recognised – anonymity AND notoriety…

I just said all that out loud…I’ll shut up now…

Latest Google-search: ‘guerrilla marketing constipation.’

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