Monday, 5 July 2021

Book Review: Want You Gone by Chris Brookmyre


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it was amazing

I was over at my folk's place the other week, a mad house as always, but despite the goings and comings, my Dad was stuck deep in a book. When he turned the last page he passed it over to me and said, "You'll like that." It was Chris Brookmyre's 'Want You Gone'. I skimmed the blurb at the back and was amazed to see it was about a computer hacker and a journalist.

When we were kids my Dad famously banned TV from the house for a year, and until recently he never owned a mobile phone. "What would I want one of those for?" he'd say. Anyway, to see him so engrossed in a book about technology, I knew there had to be something to it.

I started reading and by the end of the first chapter I was all-in. There was a lovely tone to the writing; action all the way and flat characters were nowhere to be found. Jack and Buzzkill were so full of tribulations; angst, disappointment, hope and courage, they felt uber-real. Aren't we all made of such things?

I guess I inherited some of my Dad's techno phobia because a lot of the hacker stuff simply flew over my head, but that didn't diminished the story. The author inter-spaced just the right amount of action with the techno-speak, that I just accepted it all and moved on.

It is in the end of the book that this story really shines. I know people are always on about plot twists; nobody more so than authors. I have lost count of the amount of books I nearly dumped because the author rammed in a twist that made no sense. In this regard, Mr Brookmyre is different. His twists were well planned but he resisted the urge to rush them. He allowed the story to dictate when things should happen and the wisdom to let them be what they were destined to be and no more. For this reason, every twist was a delight and made me dive into the following page with gusto.

So, this book is not what you would expect and like my Dad I push it your way with the simple promise.

"You'll like this."

Friday, 26 February 2021

Rock Bottom

 She shot up, wondering if the shouting was a remnant of a dream? She felt Garry throwing back the covers. This was no dream: it was happening right now; someone was in their house! The room was black except for the glow of the alarm clock. 

'What the hell? Who the hell?’ she wondered in the fraction of a second it took for the cover to fall from Garry’s hand and rest on her leg. They had money; this was something she’d always feared could happen. Was it some tweaker? Some scumbag-junkie, looking for his next fix? Would they hurt her; or Toby, or Garry? She reached out for him, intending to draw him back to the safety: but the door came crashing in. He was thrown back; landing on the bed like a wrestler hoisted from the ring.

More and more bodies came crashing into the room; all big, all black, all screaming unintelligible garbage. She tried to scream but her words were swallowed by a gaping muzzle of a machine-gun, hovering an inch from her eye. A black, evil, hole, in the universe; sucking her inexorably toward it. She thought her time had come; her life was over, but then she heard the word; “Garda!”  

She let out her breath. It seemed like a dream: her life; her bedroom, now full of strangers, one of which was kneeling on her husband’s chest: holding a weapon over his face. These couldn’t be Guards. Guards were there to protect them, not this. Her heart thundered in her chest but her limbs were frozen in place. Second by second, her sensibilities started to surface. She was being attacked, her family was in danger, she had to do something! The word’s that slipped past her lips were as much a surprise to her as anyone. “What are you doing? Get off him!”

The man kneeling on Garry flicked an eye toward her and it was in that moment she realised she was naked. Some primitive urge kicked in and she drew the duvet around her, instinctively knowing these men were dangerous to her; all men were dangerous in the right circumstances and these circumstances were beyond right. Another black-clad-body landed on the bed and she screamed but the one with the gun maintained his deadly poise. The second man grappled with Garry’s until he was secured in handcuffs. It was all crazy; insane, she had no idea what to do.  

“What is going on!” she demanded as Garry demanded to be freed. The muscles on his torso were bunched in knots as he tried to buck the man off his chest. She reached out to help him but her hands were slapped away. The Gunman slid his knee onto Garry's neck and his finger settled on the trigger.

“No!” she whimpered, seeing what was going to happen. Thankfully, Garry stopped struggling. The whole scene seemed to last hours, but in reality, it was the work of a moment.

The man who had cuffed Garry now turned his attention on her. He reached for her hands, the digital clock reflected in his visor made him seem like some kind of robot. Perhaps she’d been wrong, this might all be a dream after all.

“Hands out, Muss’s,” he demanded in a lilting country accent. It was far too lilting to come from a Kevlar clad body.

“No,” she said, clutching the duvet closer.

“Hands out!” he yelled, yanking her wrists forward and snapping the cuffs on her. The pinch of metal on her skin drove any delusion of fantasy from her mind. This was happening, it was all really happening. The duvet fell away and she was exposed but it seemed unimportant. The man with the gun turned his head toward the door, and yelled, “Clear.”

A tall man entered the room so quickly he must have been waiting just outside. The guard with the gun relaxed a little, moving the gun so it pointed at the roof. The boss-guard spoke for the first time; his words surprisingly soft, but his voice carried authority beyond its decibels.

“What’s your name?” he asked Garry, who was still yelling at the guard kneeling on his chest.

“Garry fucking Harrison! What’s your fucking name?” he growled. There were veins standing out on his neck and his skin was crimson with fury.

“Garry Harrison, I’m serving you with a court appointed search-warrant for this address, as well as business holdings on the Nass Road,” the man said, laying a sheaf of papers on Garry’s chest. A moment passed where everyone seemed to come to terms with this new dynamic before the Boss-guard nodded at the man holding Garry. This seemed to be all it took to downgrade the situation from attack to wary disinterest. The gunman took his knee of Garry’s chest and moved two steps back.

“What that gives you the right to break into my house? Hold my family at gunpoint?” roared Garry, but he stayed lying on the bed where he had been left.

“I think you will find, that does,” the guard said, nodding at the papers on Garry’s chest.  “This is going to happen, no matter what you do. I suggest you co-operate and it will go all the more pleasantly for everyone,” said the guard, his tone mundanely disinterested in Garry’s input.

“Cooperate! You’re having a laugh! I’m going to have your arse for this!” roared Garry as he tried to get to his feet. In the blink of an eye, a black-clad-guard had Garry by the neck and dragging him toward the landing. The boss-guard face said he expected nothing more.

“Stop it! You’re choking him!” she shouted after the man dragging her husband away. Garry was a hot-head, it was up to her to bring sense to this situation. They had nothing to hide! The best way to get this over was to let them do what they want.

“Search the house, we don’t care! We’ve done nothing wrong. We are honest, law-abiding people, and Garry is right, you’ve made a mistake. He’s an engineer... an engineer, not a criminal,” she said.

The tall man looked at her but his face gave nothing away. Instead of explaining himself, he asked, “And your name?”

“Kate, Kate Harrison! Who else would I be?” she yelled, aghast that the man would think she were anyone else. If they thought they knew who’s house they were raiding, surly to hell they know who she was. This only reinforced her certainty that they had made a terrible mistake.

She was about to let the man have a piece of her mind when she heard Toby start crying in the next room. One high-pitched wail was all it took to throw all the rest of this mess to the back of her mind. “Take these damn things off me, that’s my son,” she demanded, shaking her manacled fists, she didn’t give a damn who could see her tits.

The boss turned his head and said, “Bring the child to Mrs Harrison.”

“Take these off!” she demanded again, shaking her handcuffs even more violently. “

“Out of the question,” the tall man said.

“He can’t see me like this,” she said, feeling a sob rise to her chest, praying the man standing in front of her would see past the situation and imagine his sister, or his mother, in such a situation. “What am I going to do for Christ sake?”

The guard sighed and rubbed his forehead. Then he looked out the door and said to someone unseen, “Can you ask Detective Sim’s to come up.” When he turned back, he looked at her worriedly. Kate heard the door to Toby’s bedroom open and his cries became clearer. She was about to demand to be freed a third time but the boss guard beat her to it. He leaned across the bed and pulled her arms toward him. He slid a small key into a hole in the cuffs, but then stopped, and glared at her. She nodded her understand and he sighed before unlocking the handcuffs. “Give me one reason...they’re going back on?” he said quietly, placing them in his jacket pocket. At that moment, a woman appeared leading a tearful Toby into the room. He broke free and threw himself into her arms. His terrified eye’s flicked across the strangers surrounding him before he buried his head in her armpit.


As she stroked his head, she promises herself that she would make these men pay for what they were doing to her, and her family. She wasn’t sure how much Toby understood, but judging by the shivers running through his body, he understood plenty. The boss-guard addressed the woman who’d brought Toby. “Would you get Mrs Harrison ready and bring her down stairs?” The woman nodded and everyone else filed out of her bedroom.

When they were alone, Kate asked, “What’s all this about?” She was hoping the bond of sisterhood would trump any stupid piece of paper a court had mistakenly issued.

The woman didn’t smile, didn’t give her any hope, she simply said, “Get dressed.”

Wednesday, 10 February 2021


 I had a wild thought today; why not become the happiest man on the earth?

     Oh boy, what a challenge? Surely I’m going to need millions…no billions of quid? A drop-dead-gorgeous partner, or three! A,, ten! A yacht; or a super yacht; or a super-super yacht. A dozen sports cars? Famous friends, fame, glamour, notoriety? How the hell do I get all of that? More importantly: will it work?

    How much money is enough? How many car's equal happiness? Who is lovely enough? How do I stop time? Are my friend’s real friends? Does it even matter?

    Science looked into this question a few years ago and decided the happiest man alive was a French man, training to be a Buddhist monk; his name is Matthieu Richard. Matthieu had no mansions, no super-cars, no billions in the bank or yachts. I can’t comment on partners; that’s between him and the big man in the sky. So why was he judged to be the happiest man alive? Well, they measured his brain and it looked happy. 

                What did Matthieu attribute his fortunate outlook too? Exactly that, actually, his outlook. He judged himself as fortunate and tried to view everyone around him in a benevolent light. He stopped thinking of himself and choose to think of others. The person he was speaking to, the person he was working for, the person he was looking at, in-fact, anyone but himself. In doing that he got happier. It seems too simple to be true, but it was. 

                Yes, this seems like one of those click-bait headlines which ends in a stream of Viagra ads or get-rich-quick-programmes, (they don’t like being called schemes these days). Strangely, it didn't. It was as blindingly simple as it's true. Being nice to other people, without thought of yourself, will make you happier. Buying won’t do it! Owing won’t do it! Coveting won’t do it! Being bigger, rarer, more expensive, more renowned, more revered, more feared, in fact nothing you can think of will do it besides being more liked.

                I've a personal insight to share with you. I went to the supermarket today and as I was crossing the parking lot I lost my wallet but I was oblivious. Later, as I wandered along the veg aisle, a young man tapped me on the shoulder and asked;

                “Is this yours?” He was holding my wallet. 

                “Oh my God, yes!” I said and took it from his fingers. I was flabbergasted, not because it had much cash but because my cards were inside. It would have taken me weeks to get them all back. I wouldn’t have been able to pay for my shopping and that meant I wouldn’t have eaten.

“Thank you,” I said as I took it.

                “I passed you in the car park and thought it was yours.” I didn’t know what to say. I was too muddled. He just turned and walked away. I thought I should have offered him something for his kind deed, but it came to me too late.

                For the rest of the night, I kept thinking about the guy and wished I'd done something more than just saying thanks. Then I thought how I felt after doing something for another person without expecting anything in return. I remembered how good I had felt. I remembered the feeling of warmth, of joy, of contentment that had followed and I hoped the man that had helped me got all of those and more. That was when I realised how foolish most of the things I dreamed for were! 

                Money won’t make me happy!

                Houses won’t make me happy!

                Numbers on a bank account won’t make me happy!

                But, making people happy will make me happy, and being kind will do the same..and they costs nothing. 

I think it's worth a go. It can't hurt to try.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Itchy Feet


        I must have been born with itchy feet. 

        Since I can remember, I've been on the go. For me, it started early; earlier than I remember. My Mom told me this story.

        I was one; perhaps one-and-a-half, and she decided to take me to the beach. When she got there she laid out a blanket and hoisted me out of my fourteen-stone pram. I've seen some photos and I can tell you I looked like an Elizabethan, lady-in-waiting, bonnet and all. (The shame of it!)

        No sooner had Mom laid me down than I was off! With my terry-cloth-clad-arse wobbling in the air, I scooted for freedom, on my year-old hands and knees. Like all good Moms, mine scooped me up and put me back on the blanket but I wasn't having that; not for a second! The world was out there and I was having it!

        If you've locked horns with a toddler you'll know, there will only be one winner. This was the epitome of an unstoppable entity desiring an immovable object. I was getting in that water if it killed me, which it probably would. Eight, even ten times, she retrieved me before she decided to say, "Sod it." 

    I crawled over wave-smoothed gravel and sun-warmed sand, until the water was an inch away. She expected me to stop as soon as it hit my fingers, but she was wrong. I plowed on until the waves lapped my chin, and showed no sign of stopping. She could bear no more and scooped me from a watery death, and carried me back to shore. I howled and cried all the way up the beach. 

        From nowhere, a voice called out to my mother. "Hay, Missus!" She turned to see an ancient man watching the whole debacle from the promenade; he was beside himself with laughter. "Are yea training that yoke for the Olympics, or what?" he said, and howled some more. My Mom was so embarrassed she hightailed it for home. 

        Me? I take it as a complement. I can't say I've changed that much. I still have an unnatural attraction for the sea and have a desire to know what's over the next hill. Honestly, I think this is a gift I got from my Mom. We are both inquisitive creatures.  

        So from both of us; charge toward the horizon, and try the unknown. Life lived at it's fullest will never be regretted. 


Saturday, 4 July 2020

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner.

After work today I stopped off to buy a Lottery ticket. I don’t often do it but the jackpot has gone over one-hundred-and-thirty-million Euro. Oh man, imagine that? Imagine if I beat the odds and hit it. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! But don’t get me wrong, I’m not a gambler. I just enjoy the daydream. That’s worth seven Euro, surely?

So, the evening passed as normal, well, the new normal. I ate dinner, did some laundry, and settled down to watch a movie. During a break, an advert for an online casino appeared and it made me glance at the ticket poking from the top of my wallet. Was I being a fool? It took me a microsecond to make up my mind I wasn’t. I was simply paying a very reasonable fee for some entertainment. But it got the question of chance into my mind.

This weekend, some Irish pubs have opened their doors for the first time since March. I love the intimacy of strangers in a place where tomorrow seems a lifetime away. I'm a social being by nature, and choice. But tonight, I’m sitting in, watching Independence Day, with the hounds. You see, subconsciously I'd made a calculation, like when buying the Lotto ticket. Now, when I look on the choice I can consider the odds. If I chose to go out and mingle with others, what will I risk? 

If catch C-19, I've a one-in-five chance of having serous breathing problems and needing some sort of hospital assistance. If I was really unlucky, I could be part of the 2% that die. Let’s put that into perspective. My chances of winning the Euro Lottery is one in one-hundred-thirty-nine million. My chance of having long term health issues from Covid-19 is one-in-twenty. Chance of death is, one-in-fifty.

We’ve established I’m a gambler but how much of a gambler am I?

I don’t believe we can hide from all the dangers the world throws at us. I actually believe that some dangers make living more enjoyable. If Covid-19 was a long-term reality of life, would I hide away perpetually? I don’t think I would, not if it was just me. You see, I have side-bets to consider. I have two parents who I interact with daily. If I gamble and lose, their chance dying is one-in-four. ONE IN FOUR!

Am I willing to gamble my family for a few hours of mindless pleasure?


Not on your life!

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Book Review: Persuader by Lee Child

n's Reviews > Persuader

Persuader by Lee Child

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really liked it

I was going to give this book a 3, but the ending brought it back up a half notch, to 3.5 which I rounded up to an Ok 4.

I've read a few Reacher books so I knew what I was getting into. Jack is a man men imagine being and someone women might dream of bedding; but he has been blown out of all practical proportions. I know that description would seem to be a little stereotypical, but that is what he is. The stereotypical daydream of a reluctant hero.

This is not completely a bad thing because most of us pick up a Reacher book for a little escapism. Even though some of the action is far fetched, we will ourselves to believe for the sake of the dream. As always, this book starts with Jack acting like a puffed-up, cock-sure, know-it-all. It is only as the story moves into its final stages did I actually start to warm to him. Things should not always go the way of the hero in my opinion, because that is life. I think less than perfect characters are more likable, but in Jack R's case, even his failings are ones glossed in glory.

The start was good, very good in fact, but the story soon began to waddle like an overweight banker. We hashed and rehased a frankly unbelievable incursion into a criminals household where, Reacher, was neither liked or trusted at any stage.

Then came the endless list of gun specks. They meant not a jot to me. I have held a rifle and a shotgun, and fired both proficiently, but there my interest and knowledge ends. I found all this details boring to begin with and when the twists began to come, the details still didn't seem that important. I get it, there are lots of different kinds of guns.

So back to the good stuff. The ending. From the moment Reacher decides to make his move, Lee Child is back doing what he's great at. He grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you helplessly through a melee of violence you cant tear your eyes from. It is in this part of the book that Reacher stops being an overstuffed character and becomes someone you might actually hold up in admiration. It certainly rescued the book for me.

I do like Lee Childs' writing and I enjoy Reacher, but I don't think this was one of his best.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Proof Of Heaven

His head rests in the crook of my arm as I cradle him. I look down, and despite his pain, his eyes are filled with trust. He is my best friend, my closest companion, my family and the love of my life; he is more than I deserve.  

“It’ll be all right,” I assure him as my fingers stroke his silky fur. He blinks once, trying to understand, then gives my passing thumb an exhausted lick. “It will be all right,” I say again. He sighs and closes his eyes, letting the full weight of his head hang on my arm.  I look up and try to compose myself. I’m holding myself together, barely, because a grown-ass man just can’t be seen blubbering in between the displays of cat toys and rubber bones. I swallow down a lump in my throat and force my self to look away from him.

The girl behind the counter is looking down; writing or texting. I know she is doing it so she won’t have to look at me. It’s not because she is not nice; she is, it’s because she’s been witness to the journey we’ve made together. She was here on our first day, when he was only a speed-ball of fluff. She’d knelt down to rub his puppy-tummy and made such a fuss of him. That day seemed like only yesterday. How has the time gone so quickly? I guess love is the answer. He filled my days, my hours, with love; making them skip past in the blink of an eye.

The door at the end of the corridor opens and the man nods, telling me it's time. Somehow I manage to find my feet and the girl looks up from what she is doing. She watches us cross the room and my friend lifts his head. I can feel the warm, soft, weight of him shift in my arms. He's looking at her; probably hoping for a treat or a belly rub. As I draw level with her desk she stretches out a hand to him and I pause while she rubs him behind his ear; that special place. His tongue pokes out, once, twice…but he is too tired to manage a third air kiss for her. She takes her hand back and looks at me with sad eyes and I know all she wants to say, but can’t.

I shake myself mentally and move on. He holds the door open for us and I see the bed he's made on the table. It’s one of the new ones from the shop, with a fur blanket folded neatly beside it. As I pass, he rests a hand on my shoulder, as if I’m the one he is tending to, not my friend. I lay him down gently and tuck the blanket around him. He looks up at me with his huge brown eyes and I wonder if he knows what’s coming. I think he might because he always seems to know what is going on in my head, even when I don’t know myself. 

'It's for the best' I reminded myself. I'd heard all the reasons a thousand times but I just don’t want him to go. I couldn't face it without him, just couldn't. I want to scoop him up and run far far away, where old age and sickness can’t find us. I'd have done it too if I thought it would work. But this is the real world, where saying goodbye to your dog won't get you a day off work. A world where people expect you to suck it up and stop acting like a drama queen. And I could do it too, if only he was going to be there to help me.

I nod at the man who is standing by with the syringe, but I won’t look at him. I just keep rubbing my buddies head. As the needle pricks his skin, his eyes find mine and I knew he knew. I could see it. He was frightened and I didn't know what to do. I felt sucked into his eyes, as if he was staring into my soul. That was when something miraculous happened. I could feel his thoughts like I so often believed he could feel mine. I realised that all the time I thought I was minding him, he was actually minding me. His fear wasn't for him, it was for me.

I leaned close and whispered in his ear, "It's Ok, boy, I can manage it from here."

I swear he smiled at me. There was no anger, no resentment, no regret in him; just all the best things God ever created, wrapped up in a blanket of fur. His eyes flicked closed once, then once more, then opened no more.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Dead Man's Grip - Book Review - Author: Peter James


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really liked it
Read 2 times. Last read December 30, 2019.

This was my first read of a Peter James book and I liked it.

Out of the gate he had his hooks in me, always a good thing. Slick opening chapters painted an interesting backstory with a few well chosen lines. I much prefer this to a fifty page build up. Just show me the outline, I'll add my own colours.

Into the meat of the book now. Mr James clearly knows the in's and out's of a police station...just saying...think what you like :) I enjoyed it for the most part, but I did find a few moments repetitive. I know it might be realistic but I get enough of that in my normal day. I did like the characters and I thought they were fairly realistic. Tooth is weird, but I guess that worked in his favour.

So why did I mark it down a star?

As we were reaching the conclusion of the book, I didn't like they way they found where Tooth was holding the kid. It was an illogical jump of savant proportions. But what followed was a thumping good race to save a life, which I loved, right up to the moment the Tooth came face to face with a British Bobby!

Biff, boff; it was done and I was scratching my head. How did a world class killer and master of unarmed combat get bested like that?

It smells to me like the author was told to come in on a word count and cut a few corners to get us to the end.

I my opinion, this book could easily be a five star read, if it was given a little more elbow room at the end, and a tummy tuck in the middle, but I will be sure to read a few more of this man's books.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Under Fire.

I hated having to travel by coach, but it was either this or thumb. A student nurse's wage doesn't go far, all you have to do is look in my purse to confirm that. I could have taken the train from York to London, but it would have cost me an extra forty quid. Five hours on a bus was worth the pain, as long as I got to see my family. I missed home so much.

As the journey neared its end, I gazed at the outskirts of my city while it passed outside the glass. Tower blocks and trees, all bathed in the orange glow of sodium lights. I watched London course over the head of the little old lady who slept peacefully in the window seat, while Dizzee Rascal played in my earphones.  Four hours forty-three minutes, not long to go now. The little old lady stirred and yawned herself awake. She winced as she tried to straighten her neck and kneaded it with a knotty hand.

“These journeys are getting harder and harder on my old bones,” she said, turning toward me and smiling broadly. With her cherub cheeks and sparkling blue eyes, she was the picture of jolly decrepitude.

“A crick is a curse,” I said, then offered her my scarf to make into a neck pillow.

“Have we far to go?” she asked when she had found a comfortable way to sit.

“Twenty minutes I think, but the traffic is heavy. It might be a bit more,” I offered, noting the sluggish way the bus was weaving its way into the heart of the city. Although I had grown up here, there were so many parts of London I'd never seen, and judging by this part, I wasn’t missing much. A squad car screamed passed the traffic; half on, half off the footpath, and vanished into the distance. I watched the old lady's eyes follow it, but like any seasoned Londoner, she kept her opinions to herself.

A couple of minutes later, the bus braked hard; stalled in the middle of a one-way traffic flow. Nothing was moving and soon horns started to bay the drivers’ frustrations. I raised myself up and tried to see what the hold up was. Up ahead, people were spilling out onto the road, and they weren’t walking, they were running. Hundreds of people were running in all directions, panic written large in every movement they made, and we were stuck right in the middle of whatever was coming. A murmur of concern started in the front of the bus where the passengers had the best view.

“What is it, my dear?” asked the lady, resting a fragile hand on my arm.

“I’m not sure but something is going on up ahead,” I said, not wanting to worry her. That was when I saw the policemen appear, all of them rushing forward in riot gear. There were even coppers on horseback.

“The police are coming,” I said to the old lady, and I could see her relax a little. I felt better for seeing them as well, that was until I realised, they were running away from something, not toward it. A wall of hoodie-wearing bodies crashed into the street, hot on the tail of the police. I knew we were in serous trouble. They were throwing anything they could lay their hands on, and smashing what they couldn’t lift. Worst of all, they were coming right at us.

The bus driver mustn’t have liked the look of it either as he slammed the bus into reverse and began backing up. He got a few feet when a blaring horn and a crash of metal stopped him. We were boxed in and the mob was nearly on us. A brick hit the windscreen and shattered it into a million pieces.

I grabbed the old lady and pulled her away from the window, saying, “Mind your face.” All along the outside of the bus, fists and boots beat against the metal, while more windows imploded. I moved the old lady into my seat and covered her face with my arms in case our window was next. I looked down the coach to see the bus driver abandon his seat and rush toward me. He hurdled my legs in his haste to get to the back of the bus, and then I saw why. Three guys were climbing through the broken windscreen. They looked young, lean and mean and were dressed like LA rappers, despite being as pasty as vampires. They began demanding money from the people, speaking in that weird kind of ghetto talk I'd heard in the hospital emergency room. If the passengers weren’t fast enough handing over their stuff, the yobs speeded up the operation with a threat, or a blow. As they moved closer, I felt real terror for the first time. Then he was standing over me as I cowered in the aisle, trying to shelter the old lady behind me.

“Purse!” he yelled, shaking the piece of timber he was holding for emphasis.

As I scrabbled for my coat pocket, I heard myself say, “Just don’t hurt me.” I could feel the old lady’s hands on me, as if she were trying to pull me away from the man. It wasn’t until one of her veiny legs dropped in front of me that I realised she was actually climbing over me.

She stood right in front of him, looking even tinier than she had earlier, and glared up at him. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” she said, her voice controlled and unwavering.

“Fuck off, Grandma, before you get a hurt,” snarled the thug, and tried to shove her aside, but she braced herself against the seats and held her ground. I saw the guy cock his arm and I knew he was going to bash her with the stick. He could kill her. I jumped up and threw my arms out past her head and screamed, “Noooo!”

His arm was still cocked, but the blow didn’t come. Outside the bus, the riot continued full steam, but inside a hush fell over everyone. The other two marauders were standing there, watching, waiting for something to happen, and it did.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves! All of you!” barked the old lady, but this time she was not looking at the spotty-foreheaded man, holding a rod above her head. She was lambasting the other passengers on the bus. “I’m eighty-one years old! Should it be me standing up to this animal?” she demanded.

The yob clearly didn’t like the word and began to draw his hand back afresh. Instead of cringing from the blow, she thrust her face forward. The unexpectedness of the move stopped the guy a second time.

“Go on so, hit me! You won’t be the first to try,” she said, as I tried to pull the old lady to safety. She struggled out of my grip and advanced on the thug, her fists balled at her sides, her back ram-rod straight. The man was forced to take a step back when a voice came from behind.

“That bitch be crazy,” said one of the hoodlums, as he plucked a handbag from a woman’s arms. But the woman snatched the bag back and held it to her chest. Then, she too rose and faced down her attacker. When a man a few seats away got to his feet, a wave of rebellion found life in defiance. One by one, all the passengers stood, silently confronting the enemy, like a terracotta army.  I saw confusion flicker across the eyes of the man in front of me, then I too let my hands fall to my sides, standing behind the old lady who was brave enough to tell these crooks…no.

 I would not cower, I would not yield, and if this kid laid one finger on the lady in front of me, I would scratch his god-damn eyes out.The thief nearest the front of the bus turned and ran. Now there were only two. The weight of our glares grew heavy on them, and the second buckled. He lept through the windscreen, calling for his mate to follow. But right there on a intercity coach, good and evil were locked in battle. The little old lady acted first. She used one finger to push her glasses higher on her nose, then asked, “Well?”

“Bitch be crazy,” said the man quietly, lowering his baton, then he vanished the way of his friends.

A few seconds passed as everyone came to grips with what had just happened. The old lady turned to face me. Her hands were rock steady, but the colour in her cheeks had risen far beyond rosy.
“Oh my God!” I squealed, as I held my face in my hands and danced with exhilaration.

The old lady smiled at the fool I was making of myself, then said, “He was right you know?”

“Right?” I asked, confused.

“This bitch be crazy,” she said with a conspiratorial wink, then simply retook her seat.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019


“Come on so, you fat bastard!” I yelled, and he was a fat bastard. Hog-beast fat, with a triple-ring neck. Ok, he was bigger than me, but I was fit. He didn’t stand a chance. Particularly seeing as there were four of us, and only one of him. There were hands on me, my friends’ hands, stopping me from doing too much damage. The stupid thing was he could have avoided it all. All he had to do was apologise for knocking into me, and spilling my beer...then buying another of course.

“You total knob!” he said, and gave me the finger. I couldn't believe the gall of him, after all, I was the one who had been wronged. I started to struggle in earnest. Before, I might have been saying Let me go, while thinking, hold me back, but now I wanted at him for real. Its hard to describe how I felt; I was shaking, and I was buzzing with excitement. Everything was heightened, my body seemed to be swelling up on adrenaline and anger. I'd never felt anything like it. It was...I was...awesome. 

“At least I’ve seen mine recently,” I sneered, and looked down my nose at him.

“What did you say?” he demanded.

“You heard me, Shamu.” That one really got him. He reared back, his jaw trying to grind his teeth to dust.  

“Fuck you,” the big ape roared, then hocked a ball of spit right in my face. I was frozen for a second. I couldn’t believe it. Then the red mist descended. I slipped through my friends’ fingers and launched what could only be described as a majestic punch. I had every ounce of my strength behind it and I swear it actually whistled as it cut through the air. I threw myself into battle with a roar William Wallace would have been proud of. This was going to be as easy as hitting a barn door.

But then the door moved. Really really quickly as it happened. My hand was still arching toward him when I felt his knuckles connect with the tip of my chin. Things moved so quickly, they seemed to happen at once. His pudgy fingers were surprisingly solid on the underside of my jaw, jackhammering my teeth together. I was lucky not to have my tongue amputated. The bones in my legs seemed to dissolve and the power of my punch dragged me forward. His next blow found the end of my nose, and after that...well...let’s leave it there. 

My mates dragged me to safety, apologising to Shamu as they went. So, here I am, sitting outside a chipper with a blood-stained shirt and a sore nose. My mates are simultaneously concerned for me and angry at me. I don’t want to talk about it, because honestly, I thought it would have gone differently. I know you might expect me to feel shaken, or frightened, or ashamed; and I do...a little. But that was my first ever fight and I survived. I’d taken a punch…a real one, and I was still ticking. I guess like all normal people, I was trained to avoid violence; fed stories of one-punch killings and lives spent behind bars. But that was behind me now. The shackles of fear have been cast from my wrists.

As my friends yakked, I sat and rubbed my nose. They gave me guarded looks, wondering what was going on in my brain. I think they would have been surprised to find; I was looking forward to the next fat bastard who dared spit in my face.