Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Me as a Fire Warden

Tomorrow, which is really today, I am going to let off fire extinguishers. I am excited by the prospect of this. I hope they make noises like klaxons when they are fired. I am trying to imagine how it is going to feel. I wonder if there will be a kick-back, if the force is going to be strong enough to knock me off my feet. I would like to think so, but I doubt it will be. I bet the noisiest they get is a “Whoosh!” And I bet that “Whoosh” doesn’t even warrant an exclamation mark. I hope I am wrong. I hope they honk and make a right mess. I hope my “training” is fun. Otherwise, I will be really annoyed that I volunteered myself for it on my day off.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Coffee Launch

This is what I've been spending my time on lately. In five hours it all kicks off. I am a bit nervous but also very excited. Last night was spent stamping the backs, and this morning I numbered the sixty-six that were in the bathroom because I needed a shower. The other thirty-four we can do in a bit. I am going to do some dancing beforehand to get my endorphins going. I think I will need a lot of endorphins. I will have vodka on stand-by, though.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Take-away Dave

This is the third instalment of the "Take-away" tale.

Take-away Dave

Dave lay in the darkness. He couldn’t get his legs to work, but he’d managed to drag himself away from the steps using his arms, in a different take on the “commando crawl”. He could feel a soft, damp dust on his skin. It was how he imagined the colour grey would feel. Every now and then, Dave flicked on the lighter to try to get an idea of where he was, and then he’d crawl in the direction that seemed most promising. He was wary of using up all the fluid. Lighters generally didn’t last too long, and he had no idea how long he would be down there.

He thought over his last hour of freedom. He had not used it wisely. He had used it up shutting out the words Jo was trying to get him to hear. He had closed his eyes to her and mouthed ShutupShutupShutupShutupShutup over and over again, until she’d screamed at him and pushed him out into the street. He’d walked around for a while, smiling to himself, before stopping in at work to see if he was needed that night. He’d delivered to two other houses before he got to this one. He wished he’d done this one first, and then maybe when their food didn’t show up, the other customers would’ve raised the alarm. The records would trace him to this house, and the police would come and rescue him. It’d been a good few hours now, though. Surely when he didn’t return with the money, they would have reported him missing?

He’d fallen on cardboard. If it had just been concrete then Dave knew he’d be in a lot worse shape. His legs had hit a stack of hundreds of tins of paint, though. Maybe not hundreds, but lots. They’d crashed down on him; metal, cylindrical and heavy. Most were full. Hence the non-working legs.

He illuminated the cellar again. He realised it was not one room, but a series of rooms, connected by doorless openings. From one he heard the whirr of meters, of numbers falling down on counters. Ahead of him he could see a corner that had been tiled white, floor to ceiling. And then he spotted the hooks.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Guest Post

Jenn Ashworth has written a sequel to "Disappearing Takeaway Man". Well, it's actually more of a prequel. It would seem she has cottoned on to my fibbing.


I lied to the police. That isn't something I ever considered doing before, but it was easier than I thought. I might have blushed, I might have stuttered - but it was 4.14 in the morning, I was wearing monkey pyjamas and it would have been strange if I hadn't.

This is what really happened:

When the man arrived at the door, I was feeling a little low. I was having what some of my friends call 'an episode'. Normally, when this happens I order take-away and sit up all night watching The Sound of Music. Sometimes I drink green tea with slices of lemon in from a mug with a map of the world on it. Sometimes I drink other things. What I am trying to say is that although the beverage may vary, the take-away must remain constant. There might even be chemicals in it that make me feel better. Who knows?

When he arrived I was already waiting behind the door. I heard his car, and opened it while he was taking it from the back-seat. He had a bright red insulated bag to keep the foil cartons in. I remember that, because I'd never seen it before and it was detail about a job I'd never done. I wanted to save it in my mind in case it ever came in useful for a story.

When I paid him he smiled at me and because it wasn't the usual man I smiled back and asked him if he'd remembered to bring the free prawn crackers. He laughed and said he would never forget. He said that free prawn crackers was a major selling point of the business and one of the many reasons why they were ahead of their competitors. He asked me if I liked them, and said he was thinking about changing his supplier.

I told him I didn't eat them, but set fire to them in the dark with a cigarette lighter because the flame glows blue.

Now if someone told you a little known fact about one of your own products, a product that you've just admitted is the mainstay, the core of your livelihood - you'd want to know, wouldn't you? You'd show some interest. You'd ask questions. You'd perhaps want to go into the house and try it out.

I don't know why he had to make such a fuss. The cellar, I said, is the darkest place in my house. Wait until you see them go. It's like slow fireworks. He was unconvinced. He was, to my mind, really quite rude. I was forced to, well, use force. I'm not proud of it. I stayed with him in the cellar for a little while, but it was cold and I wanted to watch the film so after not too long I left him on his own. I let him keep the lighter and the remains of the crackers. I made a little joke as I closed the door. I said, 'I'll be back soon to 'take you away' from all this.' I don't think he got it. I did all the laughing myself, turned up the sound on the television really high, and imagined the little blue lights flicking on and off in the dark under my feet.

I try never to be impulsive. It makes things complicated. I had to steal his car, drive it away, and park it somewhere secret. I got a taxi home. I sat in my bedroom. I messed my hair up and put on my pyjamas so I would look plausible when the police came.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Disappearing Takeaway Man

Today, I was woken at 4:15 am by incessant knocking at the door. My first thoughts were “G has another eBay delivery,” and I paused there, head slightly off the pillow, debating whether I would get up and answer the door, or whether I would lie back down and snooze on. As I was deciding this, I checked the time, which was not the expected 7 am, but was 4:15 am. No way was I getting up at 4:15 am. And then I heard smatterings of conversation, and what sounded like a police radio. I peeped out from the tiniest gap in the curtains and saw a car with the number 21 on its roof. It was indeed a police car. So I went downstairs in my stupid slippers that fall off if I try to descend too quickly, and I opened the door. The police. They were at the door. I was confused. I wondered if I’d inadvertently committed any crimes.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello,” said the policewoman. “Have you had any Chinese food delivered tonight?”

This struck me as a weird question to be asking someone in monkey pyjamas at 4:17 am.

“Yes.(?)” I wondered how she knew. I couldn’t figure out where this was going.

“Did you know the delivery person?”

“Err...not personally, but we have ordered from there before.”

“Right. Okay, then.”


“He hasn’t returned, and you were the last people to see him.”


“Sorry to have woken you. Thanks for your time.”

I hope he just got tired and went home. I hope he’s okay. I’ve been thinking about it all day. There’s nothing in the local paper about a disappearance or a kidnapping or anything, so hopefully all is well now. I want to ring the takeaway and ask, but I think it might be a bit inappropriate. I think it’s best if I just try to forget all about it.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Ten. Handstand Competition

We are having a handstand competition. Our hands always seem to be leading the way, in everything we do, lately. I don’t think it is like this with other people. I don’t remember it being like this with anyone else I know, anyway.

We are hand-standing against the hill. When I was younger, I used to be able to kick my legs right over and plant my feet against the grass, and then kick them back again, up into the air. Now I’m not so brave, or bendy. Nowadays, I can hold my own against gravity for between ten and twenty seconds, never much more. Ivan can’t handstand for shit, though. The longest he’s managed to stay up is seven seconds. I am winning gloriously.

From upside-down, the world looks so much bigger. The sky becomes the ground, spotted here and there with the cotton of cumulus, and in turn the ground becomes the sky, stretching out forever in greens and browns and greys. Things don’t make any more or less sense, though. Even with all that extra blood rushing to my head, I’m still confused as hell about what is going on between us. It seems I’ve gone from a carefully executed nonchalance to being this animated bundle of anxiety and wishings. And I’m not quite sure when and how it happened. And I don’t know how Ivan feels in all of this. Part of me wishes I could get back to the time when I didn’t care.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Internet Death Panic

When the internet dies, you go into a blind panic. You start shouting at people, hoping it is something they’ve done and so can also fix. You urge them to fix it, and quickly. You are waiting for an important email. Actually, you’re not at all. You were just about to take your turn in Scrabulous, and you were also sending out invites to something, and you’d even taken the time to go down your friend list and only check the boxes of people who you know might be interested AND available, rather than spamming everyone. You understand that someone living in Minneapolis will not be able to just hop on a plane, no matter how good a friend they are. This goes for London, too. Spam annoys you. You cannot understand why some people don’t have the courtesy to think about what they’re really putting out there. You are mindful of this, and always endeavor to be considerate. So, you were in the middle of all this when the page was not found. Internet death. You unplug the modem. You wait, then you plug it back in. After thirty seconds you click on the Firefox logo. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Unplug the modem again, for a bit longer. Still nothing. The internet is dead. There is nothing anyone can do. It is not just your network, it is the provider. Your friend across town has just phoned to confirm this. What to do now? The invites haven’t gone out. It’s not a problem. You think about them, hovering somewhere in cyberspace, all those zeros and ones lost forever. You probably won’t bother sending them out again. If people want to go, they will go. And then somewhere just at the end of the panic, there is a new feeling. It is freedom. You feel like you’ve been given an evening to do things with. You spend the next few hours writing, and then you watch a film. The film is beautiful, and it inspires you to write well into the early hours of the following day. There are birds singing when you finally decide it is time to get some sleep. You dream of connections lost and found, and of people all across the world spilling thoughts and ideas that can be seen and referenced and imprinted in memory, kept safe in the hearts of strangers and friends.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Speaking Is Sometimes Scary

When it all gets out of control, you will sit in the dark on the sofa in the too-big bathroom, and you will wonder how it happened. You will retrace your steps, visualize the footprints retreating into the past, backing away from where you are now. You know it’s not a bad place. You know others would kill for this. But you can’t help but feel it’s snuck up on you somehow, that you’ve been caught in an ambush and you can’t even remember there being any cover from which to ambush you from.

Breathing helps. Deep breaths. You try to imagine the worst thing that could happen. This makes you feel better. You are pretty sure the likelihood of all your clothes disappearing from your body is fairly slim. But there is still the threat of silence. The havoc your voice can wreak on this whole thing is massive. Without even doing anything. All your voice has to do is nothing, and it will be a disaster. It’s this disaster that scares you the most.

You will be kind to your voice for the next few weeks. You will let it say what it wants, whenever it wants. If it wants to sing in the shower, it can. It doesn’t matter that your housemates are waiting at the door, sleepy-eyed, bathrobed. And when you walk past them, hair dripping, you will just shrug at their raised eyebrows; your voice will not explain a thing. And on the bus, your voice will mumble at the window, it will replay conversations, inserting words that should’ve been said at the time. You will pretend you don’t notice the stares of the other passengers. You will not bite your tongue.

After a while, this incessant speaking will be second nature to you. You will strike up conversations in the unlikeliest of places: in public toilets, at the chemist, in the “feminine hygiene” aisles of supermarkets. You won’t be able to help yourself. Words will be dripping from your mouth without thought, without relent. And then, when finally it’s your turn to stand under the spotlights, it will be a relief to be there solely for the purpose of speaking. It will feel like it’s the one thing you were born to do. And every atom of you will be pure joy.