Don’t Ever Dream, Dennis

Was Dennis excited? You bet your sweet ass he was. He had never been to see his beloved Barcelona play, and by chance had finally been given the opportunity to do so; mere days before they took on AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League final, a fellow Barca fan had offered him a spare ticket. That Dennis was able to take up the offer was equally serendipitous; he was, in fact, an Amsterdammer, but had been given a trip to Athens as a combination Christmas/Birthday present by his wife. By chance, it was in the Athenian Olympic Stadium that the match would take place. He was lucky also, in that she didn’t mind him skipping out on their Summer vacation for one night in order to see his favourite football team. So it was that Dennis was in high spirits when he arrived in the Greek capital.

If it seemed to good to be true, well…that’s because it was. Conrad, the friend who had presented him with the ticket, and Anushka, another supporter of Catalonia’s finest who had yet to see them play, met him in a local café bar. It was there, while sipping from a can of none-to-delectable Aegean, that he finally had the chance to see the actual slips of paper which would grant him entry to the OAKA, and he saw to his dismay that the tickets had a section tippexed out. What was the meaning of this? Anushka assured him that it was nothing to worry about; the seller had instructed her to simply write in a name & passport reference number over the tippex. Dennis was not completely convinced, but simply trusted to luck. After all, there were three of them, what could go wrong?

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Upon leaving the café bar, the trio set off for the metro that would take them to the stadium, and Conrad had the bright idea of smoking a joint on the way. Anushka, most sensibly, refused. Now, Dennis was hardly a weed aficionado, but he thought, ‘What the hell’ and accepted the blunt gratefully. He had not intended to smoke quite so much of it, but by the time he threw the end away Dennis realised that he’d had roughly half the spliff… Probably wouldn’t matter though, right?

Once they hopped on the M1, however, he discovered that his mouth was getting increasingly dry. He suddenly had a desperate thirst, and could only think of when he might be able to purchase a blessed bottle of water. Conrad and Anushka were excitedly chatting among themselves, blissfully unaware of Dennis’ situation. Gradually, but inexorably, his throat began to close. Gripping the handrail for dear life, Dennis began to lose consciousness. As he did so, his fingers relaxed, and as he tumbled to the carriage floor he simultaneously tumbled into oblivion…

He came to at the sensation of water splashing onto his upturned face. Some sort of lozenge was shoved into his mouth, and he heard a voice from a long way away saying, “Suck on this, it’s sugar, you’ll feel better!” Slowly, as if covered in molasses or submerged in tar, he climbed back to his feet, aided by his two concerned and compassionate companions. They took him off the train at the next stop – still five or six short of their destination – and brought him up to the surface to get some fresh air. He thanked his comrades for not abandoning him. It transpired that Conrad had cheekily robbed a bottle of water from a commuter after Dennis fell, and had subsequently used it to spray the unconscious unfortunate in the face! Dennis laughed at this, and after a a few long gulps from the bottle felt well enough to continue.

Once they arrived at Irini Station, they made the short walk towards the Olympic complex and were confronted by Catalan stewards inspecting all the away fans’ papers. Confidently, the three amigos stepped up to the cordon and handed over their tickets. One made it through. The other two were brought to one side, and informed that their money had been spent on counterfeits. Anushka was lucky. Conrad and Dennis were not.

The two men, now sullen and dejected, trekked back through the city centre and tried to find a bar showing the game. A few minutes after kick-off, they looked in the window of a dismal dive of a place – a dark, dingy club with overpriced beer and haughty service – and saw the match playing on a small screen. Maybe, just maybe, their night would be salvaged by a tremendous Barca victory that would leave them with smiles on their faces…

By now you know that this is not that kind of story. Their heroes were annihilated, demolished, torn apart. Milan capped off a wonderful performance with a 4-0 victory that would live long in the memory of all concerned. Of course, there were two voluble AC supporters in the bar who made absolutely sure that Dennis and Conrad experienced the full humiliation of the evening. How considerate of them.

What a calamity.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Blockbuster Medical Invention

A leech, a bedbug and a mosquito go into a bar.

They all order the same drink and, even though they have to pierce the skin of their prey in order to sup, all leave with their thirst quenched. Their victim is none the wiser.

The barman enquires, “How’d you little devils manage to stab that poor blighter without ’em noticing?”

None of the three can speak English, or any other human language for that matter. That would be ridiculous. Do keep up. Anyway, they nonetheless answer as truthfully and honestly as they can – by drenching him with their spit.

Once we synthesise the anaesthetic qualities generated in such saliva, the brief painful prick of the needle will be a thing of the past. More importantly, this breakthrough will aid in any number of operations and treatments, helping ameliorate or even eliminate the suffering of countless patients.

As in so many other cases; if you want to find the next great scientific advance, look to nature.

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Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Birthday Bash

She may be a jolly good fellow, but she’s nowhere to be seen.

A great big party laid on in Sinéad’s honour; champagne, balloons, firecrackers, the works. Family wrangled in from all over to toast the occasion. Her mother had toiled ceaselessly to make it an extravaganza to remember…but the girl herself had done a bunk. AWOL. Hadn’t even the forethought to mention where she was going.

If he was honest, Pascal would admit that he got a kick out of it – he loved seeing intricate plans come a cropper. It was probably why Greek tragedies appealed to him; Sophoclean irony, or something along those lines. He tried to behave in the appropriate manner as his parents fumed…but you’d have needed industrial bleach to wipe the smirk from his face.

The dowager of the house, Eileen Noonan, was getting steadily more irate – doubtless as the young lady herself was getting steadily more drunk. Eventually, long into the night, just as the tension inside reached its apex, the doorbell rang. Pascal could barely contain his schadenfreude-fueled glee as he let in his sozzled sister. Quick as a flash, Mrs Noonan confronted her prodigal offspring in the hallway.

“Where have you been?” demanded the humiliated old dear.

“Out”, came the impertinent, impetuous reply.

THWACK

Pandemonium. The slap, dished out by way of retort, literally knocked Sinéad off her feet. Suddenly Pascal’s amusement evaporated; his teenage sister lay prone, practically out for the count, while his mother was being physically restrained by her quick-thinking eldest son. Good old Conor, braving the flying-fists to get between mother and daughter. No, it definitely did not seem so funny after that. As Pascal would put it later, ‘Nothing like physical violence to put a dampener on an evening’.

The subsequent apology by the mater familias left a lot to be desired too, given that Pascal felt that it was transparently insincere and uncomfortably manipulative. He dared not speak to Sinéad about it, but he did come to his own conclusion: The smack served to illustrate why his sister had walked out of her own party without notice – if you had a mother like that, wouldn’t you want to escape her too?

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Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Your Behaviour is Suspect

The line went dead. I quickly put the phone away and, with eyes closed, pinched the bridge of my nose.

Shit.

This was exactly what I had been afraid of – and, presumably, precisely what the authorities had intended. Picking me up in a cop car, in broad daylight… Not exactly subtle, was it? Yet my ego had convinced me; of course they were sincere, of course they were interested in recruiting me! Dumbass.

They had sweet-talked, and cajoled, and complimented, and I had swallowed it all, becoming drunk with praise and attention. Glug glug glug… Flattery will get you everywhere, boys! What a picture of naivety I must have presented, an absolute sucker for fawning sycophancy.

No matter that, after coming to my senses, I had rebuffed their advances. No matter that, in the end, my principles had held firm. No matter that I had ultimately turned down the offer to cooperate with their investigations. Who was going to believe it? “Oh, yeah, you got picked up in a paddy-wagon, talked to the gatekeepers of the establishment for a few hours, and then emerged none the worse for wear and, supposedly, untainted by the experience…”

I was a dead man. Or, at least, about to enter a long, hard period of isolation.

The phone call had confirmed it: A comrade affably informing me that she had seen the police pick me up the day before, and asking what had happened.

Sometimes there is nothing that you can do or say – the weight of assumption is insurmountable.

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Solidarity, brothers & sisters…🌟

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Skylight Through The Gloom

That was the moment Cliff changed his mind. Watching through a film of tears, he could not help but be moved by the scenes of celebration taking place below. He had loved her, no question about that…but he had also taken her for granted. This, his grand plan for winning Chloe back – his secondary objective to humiliate that prick of a groom, of course – was almost immediately rendered null and void.

From his bird’s eye view of events, he could only now fully appreciate the depth and sincerity of the affection his former paramour had for her new husband. The seemingly endless sea of congratulatory faces, the evident delight of all present, cut through the self-pity he had succumbed to for so long heretofore. Seeing her so relaxed, so free from anxiety, so happy… It somehow made him exponentially happier just to witness it.

He realised now that he could never do anything to harm her enjoyment of life. Chloe deserved nothing but the fullness of joy, she had earned her matrimonial bliss.

As Cliff retreated from the edge of the skylight, he knew it was time for him to move on with his life.

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Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Blarney about Blarney’s

After 6 months in Berlin, I’m feeling pretty well-ensconced in my surroundings, and nowhere more so than a little pub in Kreuzberg by the name of Blarney’s. As the name implies, this is an Irish bar, but don’t let that put you off; despite the abundance of green, the obligatory framed map of Ireland, the preponderance of shamrocks and so on, this is a very chill place.

I have yet to try the Guinness – on account of my paranoid distrust of any & all pints of the black stuff outside of the 32 counties – but they’ve got Berliner Pils on tap and that more than does the trick for me. They’ve also got bottles of my favourite soft drink in the world – Fritz Kola natürlich – and they never have problems with their taps, lines or kegs for their various drinks vom Fass.

Then there’s the barman and co-proprietor, Ecki. What a gent this man is… Thoroughly charming, he’s the friendliest German in Berlin – which is lovely, as Berliners do have a tendency to be somewhat reserved at first – and cannot do enough for his clientele. He’s particularly generous to his regulars, bringing drinks to wherever they’re sitting and carrying away the empties whenever required.

My beloved Arsenal were the first reason I ventured to this part of Berlin; it was the nearest place I could find that would show their matches. I subsequently discovered that the place is the home of Berlin’s Arsenal Supporter’s Club, and has been since 2002. Whisper it, but Ecki is in fact a Manchester United supporter (boooooo!) but he is always affable and wishes us Gooners luck before every match (yaaaaaay!). Not for him the tiresome exchange of insults and negativity that pass for ‘banter’ in the UK & Ireland – just absolute affability and willingness to get along. My kinda bloke.

The regulars are a great mix of young and old, with 20 year old fellow Arsenal supporter Fema being the youngest drinker I’ve come across and some other barflies at least in their 70’s if my amateur estimation is correct! It’s a very family-friendly establishment too, with the most entertaining aspect of watching this seasons clash between the Gunners and United at Old Trafford being the vocal encouragement & protestations of a young Arsenal fan who had obviously been brought by her adoring parents – she may have been less than 10, but she was ten times more dedicated than the rest of the club following that day! Point is, the environment is a warm and safe one for any & all patrons.

I’ll certainly be there this Saturday, cheering on the Arsenal with the usual crew – John, Alex, Peter, Ned, Fema, Mad Jens et al – and only having to nod in the general direction of Ecki to have a pint brought over to me. Ah, bliss…

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Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☠

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Nothing’s ever on

CLICK

“…you. That. Yes, that. The thing in your bloody hand, what do you think I mean?! Anyhow…fuck is it for? All you little bastards have it now – carryin’ it around like it’s a status symbol, or badge of honour, or some rubbish… Does it even do anything? ‘Cos ya seem to walk around the place exactly the same, only with a handy excuse for your inconsiderate bullshit. Fuck is the point?! We never needed that shit…and we would’ve appreciated it a lot more than you if we’d had it! Oi! You kids, come back here, I wasn’t finished…”

-CLICK-

“I didn’t grow up in a ‘neighbourhood’. To be honest, I find it a peculiarly American idea; white picket fences, suburban detached houses, two-up-two-down, kids bicycling to and from school… This was all alien to my upbringing.”

“Murray, are you seriously suggesting that the Republic of Ireland does not have the same notion of neighbourhood as the United States?”

“Look, I lived in a stand-alone house with endless farmland on one side and a dual carriageway on the other. Actually… I tell a lie; the farmland did end…at a golf course. Bordering each of these things were trees, all varieties of ’em. They seemed like a kind of protective canopy to me, a buttressed layer between myself and the outside world…”

“All ludicrous generalisations aside, it does sound like this…insulation…contributed to your fear of the world, and your detachment from…”

-CLICK-

“…come to ‘Handbags at Ten Paces’, the show that allows ordinary people to let loose in a no-holds-barred, full and frank debate with absolutely no limits as to the means they employ! As ever we’re joined by a moderately-sozzled audience armed with rotten eggs and an arsenal of vegetable artillery. St. John’s Ambulance are standing by, so without further ado, let’s meet the contestants!

[applause]

“Allo, I’m Samanfa from Chingford and I’m a Railway Operations and Maintenance Technician…”

-CLICK-

“…this fascinating ‘Public Proposal Saturday’ brought to you by Snickers – not getting hitched for a while? Grab a SNICKERS! – where we’ll be bringing all the white hot wedding-to-be action from this packed restaurant in the Cotswolds. Mark Lawrenson, what do you think?”

“Well this places just oozes romance, dunnit?”

“Unquestionably, Mark. Now we’re all on the edge of our collective seat, waiting for that big moment when one lucky gal in here is going to experience some serious shock and…awwwwww”

“That’s dreadful, Gary-”

“Pipe down, Mark. This truly will be an unmissable event, and…what’s this…THERE HE IS! He’s down on one knee and launching into the shpiel!”

“Oh my days…”

“Quality input as ever, Mark. She…she has her hands over her mouth, she can’t quite believe it…You can tell that she’s absolutely DESPERATE to avoiding crying, can’t you Mark?”

“That’s a face all too familiar to you, I’d imagine, what with your matrimonial situation…”

“Thanks Mark. Well, it looks like the flustered fellow, the proposer if you will, has come to the end of his prepared lines… So what will it be Missy? We’re just going to take a quick commercial break, but then we’ll be-”

CLICK.

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“You’ve probably seen a bumper sticker that says, ‘Kill Your Television’. Don’t bother; corporate-dominated television and radio are busy killing themselves”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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