Tanka #01

Another exercise from my creative writing class. To write a tanka, a Japanese poem that contains five lines with thirty one syllables in total, five in line one, seven in line two, five in the third line and seven syllables in both lines four and five. Here is mine.

I’ll drive to Bury
With my daughter tomorrow
To follow our boys
With three thousand fellow fans.
Just win. Win ugly. Three points.

Gavin Dimmock. April 7 2017

Haiku #01

Once again, an exercise from my creative writing class. This time to write a haiku; a Japanese poem that contains three lines with seventeen syllables, five in line one, seven in line two and, finally, five syllables in line three. Here is mine.

I wrote a poem
In my writing class today
I wish I hadn’t.

Gavin Dimmock. April 7 2017

Acrostic Poem #01

Another exercise from my creative writing class. This time the challenge was to create an acrostic poem; a poem where each line begins with a letter that spells out a word. As ever, my mind is never far away from Bradford City, so I immediately chose that as the basis for my acrostic poem. My intent was to pen a verse very different to the one that came out.

Writing this poem came quite easily.

Reading it to the class was very difficult. It is still difficult to resist even after 36 years.

Being present on that day in my past
Recognising the danger from that spark
And emerging from the stadium before the
Dreadful, destructive, destroying
Flames tore through wood, claiming
Ordinary fans just like me.
Reducing brother, father, son and wife to the fifty six
Dead.

Crying when the memory returns in the
Intervening years,
Thinking to myself why wasn’t it
You?

Gavin Dimmock. April 7 2017

The Kerning. (Early chapter)

***This is a chapter (draft at moment) that I intend to appear early in my story, “The Kerning”.***

September 1972. The boy.

The boy had been taught not to cry. To show no weakness at any time.

It wasn’t that his parents were cruel to him. Far from it, his mother and father adored him and his older sister. When home, his father spent as much time as he could with the boy, playing with him, teaching him, passing down skills and traits. The boy learnt the best way to bait a line from his father during many sunny afternoons spent at the side of the creek, his mother happily watching them as she laid on an old blanket under the shade of a tree. Has father taught him the correct way to use his new catchers’ mitt, a present for his birthday, and how to pitch the ball with consistent, accurate results. He learnt to be disciplined, well mannered and respectful from his father.

His mother, Evelyn, a beautiful, warm, compassionate woman, taught him to read and to write. She taught him how to say his prayers. She showed the boy how to tend the small garden at the back of their modest house, describing the plants and flowers to him, explaining which ones were good to look at and which were good to eat. He helped his mother tend to their small flock of chickens, happy to feed and water the birds, dutifully cleaning them out and eagerly running to her with the eggs he collected. He learnt to be honest, truthful and considerate of others from his mother.

His father taught him not to cry. To not be weak.

Soon after discarding the training wheels, he’d lost control of his little red bicycle and had crashed into the mail box, grazing his knees, knuckles and elbow and partially loosening a tooth. His father had knelt down, pulled the bent bicycle off him and stood him up. Then, taking a clean handkerchief from his trouser pocket and unfolding it, his father had spat gently onto the cotton square and wiped away the dirt and grit from the boy’s cuts. Holding him firmly by his little shoulders, heaving from his sobbing, his father had quietly commanded him, “Stop your crying now, son, be a good soldier. Soldiers don’t cry.”

And, when helping his mother to the collect the cuttings after she had pruned the rose bushes, he’d torn his fingers on the thorns. On seeing the crimson drops spring from the cuts, he’d run to his mother in tears. She hugged him tightly and stroked his hair. Then, as he calmed and his crying softened, she kissed the blood from his fingers, telling him, “No need to cry, Eric. You don’t ever need to cry.”

The previous summer, the boy had been playing on the rope swing his father had rigged from a thick branch overhanging their back yard. The tree, a big, ancient elm, grew on their neighbour’s side of the fence and cast cool, welcome shade onto the boy’s yard. When last home on leave, the boy’s father had sought their neighbour’s permission to erect the swing. The Lutz’s, Harold and Bettina, had no children of their own and were more than happy to agree.

The boy loved the swing and played on it daily until the afternoon of the accident. Harold and Bettina Lutz saw the boy happily swinging as, returning from the grocery store, Harold pulled his battered station wagon into their drive. The car came to a stop, the old couple watching as the boy played, his head appearing above the fence panels then disappearing only to swing back into view moments later. The boy’s laughter accompanied the music playing on the car radio, the creaking of the tree branch and rope swing adding to an idyllic sound.

Harold smiled to himself. The Lutz’s had longed for a family of their own. Both were the only survivors of large families, Harold’s from Austria and Bettina’s from Poland. After escaping wartime Europe and finally settling in America, they had met late in life. Too late for children of their own. They had spent plenty of time trying for a family but, after three miscarriages and with Bettina nearing forty, they decided that, maybe, it wasn’t in God’s plan for them to be parents.

Harold was climbing the steps to his front porch, brown paper bags full of groceries clutched to his chest, when he heard the crack. He instinctively knew the branch had snapped and he turned quickly. Dropping his packages, Harold ran down the drive. The bags fell to the concrete, paper splitting and tearing; eggs shattering, milk bursting from Tetra Paks, canned goods rolling down the driveway. As he ran the sole of Harold’s loafer clad foot came down on a can of beans. Harold tried desperately to stay upright as the can skidded from under him but his balance and control had gone. His body arced and twisted into the summer air.

The energy created by his brief charge and even briefer spin through the air, drove Harold’s right knee solidly into the unyielding driveway. Two hundred pounds of weight smashed into his kneecap fracturing the joint. Pain tore through him as he lay on the ground clutching his knee and calling for his wife.

“Der Junge, der Junge!” The boy, the boy! Harold cried out to Bettina.

Harold was swearing violently in German and cursing his stupidity when Bettina arrived. With his wife by his side, Harold somehow managed to get to his feet and, husband and wife, they limped and staggered their way to the boy’s yard. In spite of his own agony, Harold’s mind filled with terrible thoughts of what he’d find there.

In the grooves worn in the grass by long weeks of swinging, trailing feet, and with dappled sunlight coming through the remaining branches of the tree sat the boy. His right arm held limply against his dirt covered tee shirt, the boy raised his head towards Harold.

Two faces, both ashen, both cut and bloodied, regarded each other. Piercing blue eyes, dry of tears, looked up at the old man.

“I didn’t cry, Mr Lutz, sir. I didn’t cry.”

Derek the Sheep and the Deeds of Darkness

An exercise from my creative writing class. Randomly select ten fiction titles and create a piece of prose or poetry that incorporates them. (The titles I selected are at the end of this piece – I managed to get most of them into it. Started on Friday 24 March 2017).

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Derek the Sheep and the Deeds of Darkness

(DRAFT #2)

Derek the Sheep opened his eyes and immediately screwed them tightly shut again. The bright sunlight flooding into his penthouse suite, whilst welcoming in its warmth, was piercing and painful in its brilliance and dazzle. And after a night on the town with his homies, Derek wasn’t up to brilliance and dazzle. All he wanted was a big mug of coffee and for someone to appear by his bedside with a tray bearing a F’English complete with hot, buttered toast.

Despite the thumping throb in his head and a throat that felt raw and dry, Derek could really do with a full English right about now. He cast his mind back, trying to remember last night. He struggled to recall much. Especially after he and his cronies had been thrown, rather unceremoniously Derek thought, from the club. It wasn’t the first time they had been “asked” to leave “Without The Moon” and, Derek thought happily to himself, it was unlikely to be the last time either.

Derek smiled. Parts of last night were coming back to him now. He chuckled at the memory of Mr Fox, his oldest friend, and how Foxie had necked a full bottle of Captain Jack before staggering across the dance floor to the jukebox. Or, Derek wondered, had Foxie danced and jigged his way cross the dance floor? You couldn’t really tell with Foxie, what with his normal prancing, loping gait. Add a full bottle of JD to that and Foxie might have been grooving his way over. Derek decided to give Mr Fox the benefit of the doubt and concede that he had been dancing. Either way, loping or dancing, Foxie had somehow made it across to the record machine and been able to jam a pocketful of coins into it before choosing a song on the jukebox.

And what a beauty Foxie had chosen. “Going Underground” by The Jam was always a sure fire hit with Derek and the boys. A tune absolutely one hundred percent guaranteed to get them all out onto the dance floor and busting a few moves. Who could resist taking to the floor when that classic came on? They liked to think of themselves as able to hold their own when dancing and that they each had some killer steps and shapes that they could throw. You know, the kind of slick, well rehearsed and confident dance steps that would wow the ladies and make each of them an attractive proposition for the night. But then, Derek and the boys were generally paralytic by this time and, if they could still remain in an upright position, they considered themselves to be world beaters. The reality was that Derek and his mates dancing was less John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” or “Pulp Fiction” and rather more akin to Boyzone when they made their very first appearance on Irish TV.

So, last night, their dancing had provoked merriment among the clubs other guests. The merriment had become banter, banter became coarse words, coarse words brought unfriendly replies and oaths. It had led, predictably enough, to shoving and pushing and fists and feet. And barstools, Derek remembered. Several barstools had entered the fray.

Well, that was what got them kicked from the club. Foxie had been livid with the bouncers, demanding the return of the money he’d fed into the jukebox, furious that he’d not been able to hear all his selections. Foxie did like to get his money’s worth in everything after all.

As they lay sprawled on the street among the discarded trappings of a night on the town – crushed and torn kebab boxes, broken bottles and used condoms – Derek agreed that it had been very rude of the club to neither refund the money or let them hear the remaining songs. He’d been eagerly anticipating the sound of Dexys booming around the club. Foxie could always be relied on to choose a Dexys track. As he lay in bed, Derek wondered which song Foxie had picked. Such a shame they’d missed it. He hoped it had been “Come on Eileen”. Derek loved that one.

He chanced opening his right eye a little. Through tiny slits and despite the searing brightness of morning he saw that no one had seen fit to bring him breakfast. He sighed in disappointment. With a tremendous effort he forced both his eyes open and stared around the room.

He was puzzled. Taking into account his thumping head and the possibility that it was affecting his perception, Derek was fairly sure that he wasn’t in his own bedroom. And, if this wasn’t his own bedroom, then he had an uneasy feeling that he may not actually be in his own penthouse. As he looked to his left Derek saw that he wasn’t alone either.

Under the covers was the unmistakable form of another person.

Foxie! Thought Derek at first, until the figure shifted a little and a hand poked from between the sheets. A hand that didn’t look remotely like Foxies’ and that ended in nails painted a deep purple shade of nail polish. Derek was quite certain that Foxie didn’t paint his nails. And, even if he had painted his nails, Derek was confident that Foxie wouldn’t have overdone it by adorning them with those fiddly little jewels and shiny charms that seemed to be the current trend.

He cautiously lifted the sheets. Lying beside him was a female. Quite an attractive female mused Derek as his gaze took in her naked body. A very attractive female indeed. He silently congratulated himself on what had obviously turned into a successful night despite the earlier mishap at the club.

Derek was still perplexed though. Who was she? And, if this wasn’t his bedroom in his own penthouse, whose bedroom was it? Hers, Derek reasoned. It had to be. Didn’t it?

He slid from the bed anxious not to wake her. He was feeling ropey from the night before, hungry for a fry up and far too confused to want a conversation with his strange, although beautiful, companion. He moved to the window and gazed out across the rooftops. The hurly burly of city life was in full flow. Cars crawled by in queues of traffic, deliveries were being wheeled on sack carts from the backs of vans to stores and shops. Commuters walked briskly by, tourists posed for snapshots in front of the Eiffel Tower. Pigeons fluttered past his window and landed on roofs and chimneys. The normal cycle of everyday life.

Hang on a minute, thought Derek. The Eiffel Tower? His mouth dropped open and stayed that way as his brain tried to compute what he’d just seen. The Eiffel Tower? What was that doing in Bradford?

Drool began to drip from his still open mouth. He snapped it shut and wiped his arm across his lips, dragging spittle across his cheek. His mind still befuddled from the drink and antics of last night, Derek contemplated what he was looking at. He’d only seen it in films and pictures but it sure looked Eiffel Towerish. He briefly considered if Bradford had, in some bizarre and inexplicable way, ended up in Paris. Through the hastily lifting fog of beer, bourbon and whatever else he’d taken, Derek the Sheep was certain that the Eiffel Tower wasn’t in Bradford. And, therefore, neither was Derek.

It was becoming apparent that between sprawling in the filth and piss outside the club and waking up just a few minutes earlier, Derek had met a beautiful woman and, somehow, made his way to Paris.

The actual Paris. In the France that lay across the English Channel.

Now, Derek had many faults, vices his family and friends gleefully called them. Gambling, however, wasn’t one of them. Derek preferred to speculate on stocks and shares, on property and trades. This almost always came as a shock to people when they first met Derek, especially if their first encounter with him was on a night out when he was causing merriment with his mates. He’d had a good job which had earned him a very decent salary and he had money to invest. And he had invested wisely, at the right times and with the right deals. His success had enabled him to build up an attractive portfolio of shares and properties. He’d become modestly wealthy over the years and been able to retire early. He had the time and money to enjoy life and its fine trappings. His success had allowed him to pay cash for his luxury penthouse. A penthouse which, it now seemed, he’d misplaced somewhere.

Sure, Derek placed the odd bet on the National and on major rugby and football tournaments but he didn’t much care for the whims of chance or for sporting gods to dictate his fortunes. He preferred the cut and thrust of finance and the ability to spot market trends and for his next trade to bring him monetary success. He understood the rudiments of betting but had never really got to grips with betting odds. It didn’t, however, take a seasoned gambler to calculate that, with every passing second bringing the likelihood that Derek was, indeed, now in France the odds on him getting his sausage, bacon, eggs and beans anytime soon were rapidly shortening.

Derek slumped down onto the edge of the bed in shock. He groaned disconsolately.

The figure beside him stretched, a lithe leg appeared, the toes caressing his thigh.

“Bonjour, my husband.” Breathed a sultry voice.

It was about this time that things got quite odd for Derek the Sheep.

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The titles I randomly chose from the fiction section were:

The Deeds of Darkness by Edward Marston

The Secret Place by Tana French

Derek The Sheep by Gary Northfield

A Song on the Jukebox by Pat Posner

Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

Without The Moon by Cathi Unsworth

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Paris For Two One by Jojo Moyes

The Other Side of You by Sally Vickers

#TeamTwenty

When Saturday comes and the sun burns high

From up in a pale blue Yorkshire sky.

We leave our house, we lock our door

Heading to that place where ‘oft before

We’ve cheered and laughed, we’ve sworn and cried

And played our part in the magic inside

That place of steel and concrete, of wood and stone

That they named Valley Parade but that we call home.

 

We meet with friends, in a pub in town

For a bite to eat and a Guinness to down.

For me, my faves, chips with a BLT

For you, perhaps, something healthy?

At the crowded bar with our drinks in hand

We check to see what team is planned.

The eleven looks good, the shape looks fine

We’ve power up front and a solid spine.

 

Gilliead and Marshall will maraud each wing

What will their tricksy footwork bring?

This pacey pair patrolling the flanks

Crossing to the strikers in our ranks.

New star Wyke wears our hallowed number nine

Once worn by Bobby in another time.

When Stuart, our boss, was just a youth

And played with passion, desire and truth.

 

With the sun cracking fair up in the sky

As slim, whispy clouds overhead skoot by.

It’s a perfect day to watch the boys

To feel the highs and to share the joys.

Among kindred souls in a tight packed crowd

With young and old all singing loud.

On such a day, where would you rather be?

So come on, join us. Be part of #TeamTwenty.

Waddle was a Bantam.

***THIS PIECE WAS PROMPTED BY AN EXERCISE FROM MY CREATIVE WRITING CLASS. WE HAD TO USE SEVERAL RANDOM PHRASES AND WORDS TO INSPIRE US TO WRITE A PIECE. MY PHRASES AND WORDS FELL KINDLY FOR ME AND BROUGHT A DAY FROM TWENTY YEARS AGO BACK TO MY MIND.**

Saturdays in January are very special for football fans. Especially the first Saturday of January. That’s Third Round Day. A magical day for fans of the game of association football. The day when teams from the top two divisions in English football, the Big Boys, enter that season’s FA Cup competition.

For fans of teams lower down the leagues, in Divisions One and Two and, for a few feted clubs from the non-league scene still surviving at that stage, it is the day when their lowly clubs might get drawn against of the giants of the game. A “glamour tie”. A money spinner. For players it’s the opportunity to test their skills against better players; to see if they can match them, compete against them, maybe even beat them. For fans it’s a the chance to witness, live and in the flesh, those teams and players that they only ever get to see on TV or read about in the Sunday papers.

Third Round Day brings the hope of a money spinning tie and the tantalising, undreamable, unlikely chance to cause a cup upset. For many smaller clubs, reaching the third round doesn’t happen that often and is a rare and wonderful thing. The big clubs fear Third Round Day, for who wants to be Goliath lying at the feet of David? The hopes, the dreams, the anticipation and expectation. The fear, the excitement, the chance to gamble and win it all or to fail and lose. The compact grounds, not worthy of the title of “stadium”, with fans just few yards from the field of play. Where the shouts and cheers of the packed terraces ring out loud, proud and coarse around the twenty two combatants on the field. Cheering their teams onwards, berating their opponents. The cries and screams from the fans rallying, driving their idols to greater endeavours.

Oh, the magic of the FA Cup.

On January 5th 1997, my team travelled to Wycombe Wanderers for our Third Round tie. Wycombe, recently promoted from the non-league Conference in 1994, were the minnows. My beloved Bradford City, my Bantams, were in the division above and, due to our higher league placing, were the giants for that tie. Our season was a struggle and, when May came and the season ended, we narrowly avoided relegation in the final games. However, on that Saturday, we avoided the ignominy of defeat by a lower team and prevailed 2-0 at Adams Park. Both City goals coming from the most unlikeliest of players. Thirty one year old defender, John “Tumble’ Dreyer, getting both goals that afternoon.

If the first Saturday in January is special, then the last Saturday of each years first month has extra meaning. Especially if your club won their third round match and were safely into the fourth round. A home draw is always preferred. Obviously. Get a home draw and you stand a chance. Well, you might stand a chance. Or, half a chance at least. If you can’t get a home draw the next best thing is an away tie at a big club. No one wants to travel to play at a small club, someone like Barnet, in the fourth round. If you have to play away from home, then you want a big club.

So, what about a trip to Goodison Park for a fourth round tie in the FA Cup against Everton, one of the giants of English football? Yes, please.

The third round victory at Wycombe aside, we’d had a poor season. A terrible December saw City claim just two points from our six league matches that month. And our first league win in eight matches, and only the sixth of our campaign, didn’t come until early January with the defeat of Oxford United at Valley Parade. We weren’t expected to have a chance against the mighty Everton and we were expected to come unstuck against the Toffees.

Bradford City, my City, my adored Bantams, were the underdogs for this game. We were David facing the might and power of Goliath. Sandals, a slingshot and a pebble pitted against armour and a gleaming sword, its blade honed to deadly perfection. Everton were two divisions above us and with a host of better players, much, much better, players. International players, players with quality and pedigree. Players with exceptional skill. Everton’s squad was choc full of quality right throughout the team.

To the match. Halftime at Goodison Park and, with forty five minutes played, it’s all square. Nil nil the score. Deadlock. Honours even. The dream is still alive. Well, David hadn’t been killed by Goliath. Not yet. David still breathed and fought. David’s slingshot had yet make its mark.

But surely Everton’s quality would ensure the bog boys prevailed? Their class would show through, their LED brilliance would dim the weak light from our 40 watt tungsten bulb as the second half unfolded. Surely?

Four minutes into the second half. Bradford attack down the right flank, the ball at the feet of City’s winger Chris Waddle. His pace diminished, his talent unsurpassed, Waddle checks and steps inside his two Everton markers. His left foot, that beautiful left foot, exquisite and sublime, delivers the ball into the box. Mark Stallard, the Bradford City striker, knocks it down to the edge of the Everton penalty box where it is met by another left foot. A left foot attached firmly to the onrushing City defender John Dreyer. Tumble hits it first time. The strike is perfection and the ball arrows beyond Neville Southall into the Everton goal.

The ball nestles in the net. The City players turn in celebration.

The home fans silent. Stunned faces. Disbelief.

The away end erupts. Stunned faces. Disbelief. Dawning realisation. One nil to City. Astonishment. Pandemonium. City fans delirious.

One nil to City. One nil? To City? ONE NIL! CITY!

Can we hold on? It’s a long way to full time.

How Chris Waddle was even playing in the claret and amber of Bradford I will never fully understand. It is incomprehensible. But, for a brief period, Waddle was a Bantam. Between October 1996 and March 1997, thirty six year old Waddle graced our club, playing twenty five times and netting six goals. Waddle and his magic.

Two minutes go by in the match. Fifty one on the clock. Everton’s Andrei Kanchelskis on the half way line, City’s Rob Steiner chasing, harrying, haunting him. Kanchelskis forced toward his own goal, Steiner in pursuit, snapping at him, terrorising him, forcing the error. Kanchelskis plays the ball short. It falls mid way inside the Everton half, right in the centre of the pitch. Waddle arrives within moments, scampering onto the loose ball, his socks around his ankles.

That’s when it happened. And I still can’t believe it did. Not really. That’s when Waddle flicked the switch and magnified our 40 watt halogen bulb with his diamond light.

Waddle hits the ball first time. He doesn’t take a touch. He doesn’t pause or look up. He doesn’t thump it or bang it hopefully forward. The wizard waves his wand, Waddle’s left foot caresses the ball. It arcs into the darkening sky, its path predetermined by footballs Gods. Its route clear. Its destination certain. Waddle hits the ball and he knows. He just knows. He turns, the ball still in flight, his celebrations begin.

Neville Southall knows too. Near the penalty spot as Kanchelskis backtracked, anticipating the back pass, Neville knows. By the time the ball is dropping, Big Nev has only made it back to his six yard box. He knows. He turns and stoops in vain. He’s too late. The ball drops behind him. He stands, bewildered.

Instinct. Class. Talent. Call it what you want. We called it two nil.

Magic. Sheer magic from Waddle. The master dribbler, the wing wizard. Skills learnt at Newcastle, forged by Tottenham and graced at Monaco, were now displayed on a heavy, grass bare pitch in the colours of little Bradford City. Waddle the England legend, now Waddle the Bradford hero.

Bedlam in the away end. City fans up and jumping, leaping. Arms aloft. Fists pumping the air. Hugging one another. Clasping brothers. Embracing strangers. Cheering. Disbelieve again. Disbelieve not only at the score line – two nil to Bradford – but disbelief at that goal. Did that actually happen? That moment of wonder? Did that simple, yet amazing touch from Waddle, and it was just a touch, really happen? A look at the scoreboard. Everton 0. City 2. It happened. Insanity.

Is it enough though? There are thirty minutes left. Can we, will we, hold on?

And then, just minutes later, another goal from another City player. This time from Bradford born and Bradford bred Andy O’Brien. OB to the fans.

But it’s an OG from OB. Everton under pressure, harried and harrassed, play the ball long. It’s knocked down into the box towards an Everton forward. O’Brien stretches to clear the danger but diverts the ball and it’s a goal for the home team. 1-2 in the fifty fourth minute.

Goodison Park erupts as the home fans sense they can salvage the game. After all, City are two divisions below them and are bound to panic and run out of ideas and steam.

Everton hit the ball long again. Route one worked once, it’ll suffice again to get them back into the match. This time City head the ball away and it is turned forward to Steiner on the centre spot. He plays the ball short to Waddle and turns, running towards the Everton goal. Waddle’s left foot again as he pings it first time back into the path of Steiner.

The Swede outpaces two blue and white defenders. He controls the ball with his first touch, left footed. And with his second touch, curls it, right footed, beyond the stranded Southall. Steiner doesn’t stop running, he simply wheels away, sliding and somersaulting in joy. The ball is in the net and Steiner is forever in our history, in our records. In our hearts.

Cue crazy scenes. Well, crazy scenes on the pitch among the City players and on the City bench. Crazy scenes in the away end among the Bradford faithful. No such crazy scenes with Everton fans, players and staff. They are shell shocked. But, then, so are we. But, unlike them, we are three one up.

Everton 1. City 3. Three. THREE!

The noise is deafening. The cheers and shouts. The singing of the Bantams. The boos, oaths, curses and whistles from the Toffees.

Injury time. Hanging one. Everton pressing, City defending deep. Holding on, holding out. Now it’s the Bradford fans who are whistling. Shrill noises, imploring the referee, Mr. Reid, to blow. It’s gone ninety. Come on, blow it. Call time. Blow the whistle! JUST BLOW IT! BLOW!!

An Everton throw in. The ball runs to Gary Speed on the left. He knocks it past his defender and thumps a cross into the box. But it doesn’t reach a teammate. Instead, the ball, whipped with devilish pace, flies into the net and Everton have a second goal. They have a lifeline.

But it’s the FA Cup. And we all know about the magic of the FA Cup. And Waddle is a maestro on the flanks, a wing wizard. And Waddle the Wizard cast his magical spell that day.

Gavin

***The video is grainy. The memories are clear. The emotions intense. Have a watch of it.

NetGalley Review: “Behind Her Eyes” By Sarah Pinborough

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“Don’t trust this book. Don’t trust this story. Don’t trust yourself.”

So reads the strapline for this book. However, I urge you to trust me and I implore you to beg, borrow or steal a copy of this terrific read. You may even decide to buy a copy. Yes, that’s it. BUY A COPY. Heck, why not buy two copies and give the spare one to a friend? Because, trust me, you will want to share this book with other folk.

Having briefly met Sarah Pinborough last year and after being impressed with her sparkling contribution to a ghost story forum, I promised myself to give her books a go. As such, “Behind Her Eyes” is my first foray into her warped and deviously tricksy mind. You wouldn’t believe that such a charming and (relatively) innocent looking woman could deliver one of the most jaw dropping twists to a story line that I have ever read.

I’d read many comments and recommendations for this book across social media, and I was fully aware of, and intrigued by, the tantalising hashtag “#WTFthatending”. However, despite reading numerous mysteries and pyschological thrillers previously and although I was prepared for the twist ahead, when it came, the ending left me stunned. I thought I had it sussed out as the final chapters unfolded but the punch, when it landed, was a knockout.

Louise, a secretary at a private practice and a single mum, has a brief dalliance with David, an attractive man in a bar. So begins an absorbing and well paced tale as the lives of Louise, David and his wife, Adele, become dangerously entangled.

The story is set in modern times and told from the viewpoints of both Louise and Adele. Occasional flashback to events from the characters pasts help to pull you into this fabulous tale.

Sarah Pinborough has crafted a genuinely absorbing thriller which merits the accolades and recommendations it has received. Often books do not live up to the hype and hysteria surrounding them but “Behind Her Eyes” does. In fact, it exceed them. In my view, it deserves to be crowned the Thriller of the Year. It really is that good.

Trust me.

(I read a free digital copy of this book provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

“The Kerning” – revised chapter, 30/01/2017

Present Day

The sign on the window had grabbed his attention, its words proclaiming ‘THE BEST COFFEE & PIE IN TOWN!’ He loved coffee, and who didn’t like pie? But more than the promise of not only good coffee but THE BEST COFFEE IN TOWN, he was drawn to the sign itself, the words hand painted onto the glass. It wasn’t a printed poster or a cheap flyer pasted onto the glass. And, instead of a computer generated stick on graphic, it was actually old fashioned sign writing. He liked that. The connection to a dying craft spoke to him. He recognised the precision required from the craftsman to draw the lettering, the skill needed to tease the coloured sign writers’ enamels into the letter shapes and the artistry in adding the shadows and highlights that made the message leap from the window. He recognised the dexterity required in handling the long haired brushes, the flexibility of the fingers to turn, twist and drag the brush effortlessly over the smooth glass. The steadiness essential to ensure accuracy and to prevent errors or costly mistakes.

Now, sitting at a booth by the window, his fingers cradled around a cup of coffee, he could clearly see each individual brush stroke in the enamels, the fading sunlight from outside illuminating each letter, casting brightly coloured shadows onto the table top. He moved his hand across the wooden surface, the colours playing over his fingers, the sun warming his skin.

Studying the sign, he found himself remembering moments from his past, from a time before he’d become the man he now was. A time before he’d taken his first life, though he’d taken many since. From when he’d been happy to mix those enamels; choosing a clean pot, part filling it with a base pigment then carefully adding each different colour, stirring and mixing until the sign writer was satisfied with his efforts. Until the finished colour was correct and its consistency perfect. He’d enjoyed drawing the messages onto signs and windows just like this one, and had delighted in shaping the letters under the old man’s tutelage. He’d been happy to watch as the old man corrected his errors, keen to learn as the experienced sign writer made adjustments to the designs he’d sketched; smoothing the curve of a letter here, thickening a downstroke there. A time when he’d been eager to learn the craft and to follow a different path through life. A time before he’d practiced a different craft, before he’d mastered the art of killing. Before he’d become Lister.

A waitress, a pretty brunette with a stud through her nose and a dazzling smile, made her way around the tables and booths. She stopped to talk briefly with each customer, filling each empty cup from the coffee pot she carried. He watched as she headed back to the counter to get a fresh pot before approaching his table.

“Can I get you a refill?” She flashed him a wide grin, her lips coloured purple with lipstick, crisply defined lashes framed dark brown eyes, a hint of devilment apparent in their depths. “What about some pie?”

“Fill her up, why not?” Lister replied. “And that pecan pie looks good. A slice of that too, please”.

“Great choice. Cecil made it this morning.” she pointed back behind the counter at a heavy-set man in kitchen whites. “Cecil’s pies are awesome. You want ice cream with that?”

He nodded at her. Yes to the ice cream.

“We’ve got vanilla ice cream. Is that okay? Are you staying in town?” This last question innocently asked, something she probably asked every new face she served.

“Vanilla is just fine.” Lister smiled broadly, an open and honest smile that screamed I’m a regular guy, average, unremarkable. Forgettable.

*Vanilla.*

“Just passing through. But it sure is nice round here. I’ll be certain to stay longer on the way back.”

“You do that. We’d love to see you again.” She smiled back at him, refilling his cup. “I’ll get you that pie.”

She turned, moving away to fill his order. He watched as she walked, her uniform stretched tight across her body, the caramel-coloured fabric clinging suggestively to her. His eyes took in the curves of her ass and swept down her legs. Small butterflies rose from beneath her white socks and soared up her toned calves. Each brightly tattooed insect seemingly in flight with the rise and fall of her steps.

A smile, fleeting, almost indiscernible, played across his mouth. He stirred a splash of cream into the coffee she’d replenished. Lifting the cup to his lips he breathed deeply. The aroma filled his nostrils and he sipped slowly, savouring the flavour. Lister had few vices, killing people not withstanding, but chief among them was coffee. He took huge pleasure in a good cup of the brew and the promise of “the best coffee in town” had certainly appealed to him. Although he couldn’t validate its claim to be the best in town, the coffee was certainly very good. A damn fine cup of coffee, wasn’t that the phrase? Where was it from, he wondered? A television show from the 1990’s, he recalled, its name eluding him. It wasn’t important, he thought, he would remember. Lister rarely forgot. And Lister never forgave.

The waitress returned with a plate bearing a generous mound of ice cream under which, Lister assumed, hid a slice of pie. “There you go, sir. A slice of Cecil’s finest pecan pie. Enjoy.”

As she bent to place the plate before him, Lister read the badge pinned to her uniform, the fabric stretched tight across her breasts. Donna had clearly inherited her uniform from a previous, smaller waitress. Lister reckoned Donna liked the effect that wearing it a size too small had on customers. No doubt she got bigger tips from her customers because of it. Well, from the men anyway. Prompted by Donna’s taut uniform, the image of a glamorous brunette siren popped into his mind. Audrey Horne. The sweater girl from TV’s ‘Twin Peaks’. He smiled, he knew he’d remember. Damn fine coffee indeed.

He took a mouthful of the dessert, enjoying the crunch of the pecans, savouring the sweet stickiness of the warm maple syrup and the cold bite of the ice cream. Like the coffee it was good, but then, in his experience nearly every pecan pie he’d eaten tasted good. You could rely on pecan pie never to disappoint. And Lister didn’t like to be disappointed.

While he ate, he continued to study the painting on the glass, the lettering tinting his view of the street and colouring the scene outside the diner. He traced the letters with his eyes, following their outlines, assessing the craftsman’s work. Very impressive, he thought, good shapes, even strokes, neat brushwork. The kerning, however, was poorly executed. The spacing between many of the letters was too great making each letter appear disconnected from the other and disrupting the flow of the words. The artist should have taken greater care with the kerning, should have paid more attention to adjusting the subtle space between the letters. He should have taken greater care to ensure the message read as perfectly as possible before dipping his brushes into his enamels and committing the letters to the glass.

But, thought Lister, that’s why his services were in demand. When his clients had issues that needed resolving or mistakes the needed correcting, they turned to him. If someone made an error or needed to be removed and a clear message to be sent, they paid Lister handsomely to “kern” their problems. And Lister was very good at adjusting the kerning.

Outside, clouds moved across the sun, dulling the light coming through the window, snatching away the colours playing over the table top. Rain began falling against the glass and to slip haphazardly down its surface. His concentration broken, Lister checked his watch before spooning the final piece of pie into his mouth. Glancing at the check Donna had left, he reached into his jacket pocket and produced a small billfold. He removed the necessary notes, placing each neatly folded bill under his plate. Thinking about Donna and the butterflies, about her uniform, far too tight in all the right places and damn fine in every possible way, he smiled and added a few extra bills.

He drained his coffee before straightening his tie in the reflection from the darkening glass. Standing, he shrugged into his overcoat and pulled his cap onto his head, angling its peak low over his right eye into his preferred position. Then, exiting the coffee shop, he stepped into the storm. With a final look at the lettering, its surface now slick and obscured by rain, Lister turned and left the window into his past behind him.