Friday, October 29, 2010

A Brief Introduction.

Written 02/03/09

New England Iron Bridge
By Andrew Laws

As I stare down the perfectly straight road towards the grey blue collapse of the horizon I find myself replaying a familiar inner monologue to reassure myself I am doing the right thing.  We all have these inner voices, of reassurance or doubt.  Nobody can living through the same topics of self cancelling self doubt and reassurance that come to me on these endless car journeys.  But then we all like to feel unique.

It’s the very nature of long distance driving in America that draws me back to this land, as if I were connected by a cerebral elastic band.  While most people dread the long hours of solitude on these featureless roads I savour them, they are the serene ying to the maddening yang of my life back in England.  Here I am anonymous, another corpse in waiting, hurtling through the countryside in a mass produced godless tin can.  Nobody here will judge me based on my family name, a name that brings so much prejudice and unwanted attention at home.  In fact the very word home has become a shallow lingual token to me.  My family’s money affords me the cash to own several homes, but I haven’t had a fixed address for many years now, I saw each place I lived as nothing more than a brick box in which to accumulate material objects I had no love or need for.  But what is a curse for me in England fuels and funds my time spent wallowing in anonymity elsewhere in the world.  My inner monologue assures me that I’m doing the right thing, I didn’t choose my name, it was thrust upon me and I refuse to allow any external public pressures to guide my path through life, and so here I find myself.

Born to what I hesitate to call ‘lower classes’ my path would have been brutally clear; school, study, work, die.  Being born of old money creates a challenge that most people lusting after wealth are utterly oblivious to.  If you have no money then you need to work to buy food and pay the bills, your job becomes you and your path is clear.  If you have no need to work for money then what defines you?  After a shallow and destructive younger life I decided to make my own private mark on the world in a way that few are afforded the luxury to do so.  I follow rumours, heresy, urban myths and dare I say it, ‘hype’.  However I am not some crusader for truth (and certainly not for justice), I desire no fame from my life, I have no need for the money and searching for the reality behind rumour for my own purposes affords me what I consider to be the most perfect way of life.  I have no deadlines, no responsibility to an employer or agency.  I certainly have no loyalty or responsibility to my family, all now long dead, leaving as a hereditary curse this damned name.

I have been in America for nearly four months on this trip, idly cruising from state to state, staying in (what I must admit) are rather nice hotels.  I sit in crowded bars, I sit on the periphery of large groups of people in parks, next to intimate tables in restaurants and I listen.  I listen for feint whispers of maybes, the hushed tones of rumour and conjecture.  Armed with the slightest of truths I set off to track down the possibility of truth behind wild rumour.  Often truth is unyielding in it’s pursuit of obscurity, which is probably why I feel such a kinship with it.  I am alone, my pursuits unrecorded, my presence unremarkable, my very being inconsequential. I am at peace.

Entering Mass

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New to Google Android? Grab these apps first!

Getting your first phone with the Google Android operating system is exciting and bewildering in equal measures – although the Android software is very intuitive a guiding hand can probably save you a lot of head-scratching.  All Android phones come with slightly different programs (apps/ applications) installed so don’t be alarmed if you already have some of the apps we recommend.

To get started on the Google Android Marketplace you’ll need an account, but we’re going to assume you’ve sorted that part before looking at this list!

The essential Android Apps (all free!)

Dolphin Browser
The internet browser that comes with Android is a little bit limited, installing Dolphin browser will give you web browsing facilities that you’re used to having, like tabs and the ability to refresh pages.

Advanced Task Killer
The battery on your Android phone will last a lot longer if you install this app.  Once installed running this app will give you the ability to shut down programs that you’re not using.  It sounds bizarre but Android doesn’t really close programs when you come out of them, it leaves them running so that you can open them again faster.

Google Maps
The chances are that your Android phone will already have Google Maps installed, but it’s worth getting the latest version to make sure you have all the cool new features like ‘Google Navigate’.  Google Navigate is getting better all the time, and if you’re brave you can use your Android phone and Google Navigate to replace the satellite navigation in your car!

The non-essential (but rather cool) Android Apps (all free!)

Wikitude World Browser 
This rather astounding app uses what’s known as an ‘augmented reality’ technology.  With this app running you can hold your phone in front of you and view information ‘pinned’ to the image of real world that your phone’s camera is picking up.  It sounds complex, but it’s very simple and very cool!

If you’re in the UK you can use this app to watch content from the BBC iPlayer, myPlayer also gives you the ability to watch live TV and listen to live Radio.

Google Sky Map
Another great augmented reality app, point your phone at the sky and find out the names of the stars you see!

I’ve decided I’m going to stop the list at this point, there are so many thousands of Android Apps available that deciding which are ‘best’ is a bit subjective.  But the apps I’ve listed above should get you off to a flying start!

Jack Kerouac’s writing rules, and why he should be an inspiration to all writers.

I’m new to Kerouac’s writing and even although I’ve only read ‘On the Road’ (and feel like I’m the last man on earth to do so) I already consider him an inspiration.  Despite the fact I’ve been writing (and have been regularly published) for about ten years I will always consider myself a novice writer, I don’t see how any writer can consider themselves as anything else – even if you’ve sold millions of books you’ll always have so much more to learn.

I don’t claim Jack Kerouac as an inspiration stylistically - although I will admit there is a similar stream of consciousness style to my own work – I’m inspired by the ethics of his writing style as well as his bloody minded persistence in chasing artistic recognition through publication.  ‘On the Road’ appealed to me because of the sideways look at life that defines it; it’s something that somewhat echoes my own anarchist leanings.

Kerouac was fond of a tipple or two and would lecture anyone who would pass within a few feet about the rules of his style – the ethics of his writing.  Allen Ginsberg apparently got tired of Jack Keroauc only relaying his rules via the medium of drunken rambling and (backed up by mutual friends) encouraged him to formalise his rules as a list, and here they are:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty "essentials".

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
  4. Be in love with your life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You're a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Now I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand every one of his thirty points, but (in much the same way as I view Keroauc’s work) I like the feel of it, the unspoken insinuations, the themes between the lines.  This list represents a glorious mix of madness and sanguine sanity that speaks to me as a writer (and of course as a modern human).

I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past few years forcing myself to learn the strict rules of grammar and form, but the more books I read (and fall in love with) the more inclined I am to wander from the path of the straight and true; while being understood is still more important to my writing style than anything else I’m learning that in order to express how I (or my characters) feel on an emotional level it’s okay to break the rules occasionally.

As an aside Jack Keroauc wrote many of his books in the years before ‘On the Road’ was published.  It was only once he became a best seller that publishers rushed to publish his earlier works.  Speaking as a writer who has written two books (I’m currently writing a third) that are yet to be published in the mainstream I’d be a fool not to take encouragement from a fact like that.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Facebook is evil, let me tell you why!

This blog post is taken from chapter two of a novel I’ve written called ‘Getting it’.  More and more people are starting to feel a little icky when they find out what motivates Facebook’s existence, and while this excerpt from ‘Getting it’ doesn’t reflect exactly how I feel about social networking (it’s fiction after all) there are some observations that you might agree with, or that might get you thinking.  Question everything!  A few of the people who have read my book have told me that they really identified with this chapter, so I’d be interested to hear what you think, you can share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Before you read this please bear in mind that because it is fiction it should be taken with a pinch of salt, this is not specifically about Facebook, but about social networking as a whole.  The examples of evil are FICTICIOUS and are not intended to reflect the real world too closely, although if we stop questioning everything maybe this could become reality in the near future...

If I’m honest with myself (and you) I’m still a little steaming about what happened last week at that gig.  I’m trying my best to calm the irritation Beth has introduced into my life.  She has tried to ‘friend me’ online and I’m protesting in the most modern way possible: I’m ignoring her invitation.  I hate being hassled over the Internet - my sister hounds the living crap out of me online but she’s an exception; she’s always an exception to any rule of irritation.

How have these online abominations known as social networking websites become the primary way we communicate?  How did they manage to creep up on us so fast?  With pandemic disease mankind can take precautions, but social networking is so virulent nobody has any choice but to submit to it.  You can’t inoculate or evacuate to protect yourself from Social Networking.

I resisted getting involved in this brave new world for as long as I could, but eventually I found myself missing out on a lot of social events.  Because I wasn’t signed up to the right website I wasn’t getting any invitations to the pub, parties or to any other social occasional.  At first it appeared my friends were organising a second life online, then it just sort of crept up behind them and became their real life.  Instead of using websites to talk about social events the sites themselves became the social event; a social event that is twenty four hours long, seven days a week for the entire year and probably the rest of your life (or at least until the next big thing comes long).  Knowing the habits of my friends I wouldn’t want to be stuck with them at a party that never ends, but it would appear my friends desire that very thing.  It’s less all tomorrow parties and more the never ending story.

Social networking is a party you can never leave - I had friend (called Mark) who deleted his profile only to watch it become immortally sentient without him.  He could no longer log in and update his profile but the world could see it, and what the world saw was Mark’s profile continuing the automatic interactions with other profiles that he set in motion when he signed up.  It was like Mark’s online profile page had become self aware, like it had become a beast in its own right.  This online version of Mark - and I hesitate to call it ‘Mark II’ without making it sound like a male grooming product - couldn’t create any new information to share with the world, but the huge body of data that Mark had previously fed it was more than enough for the beast to thrive on.  Social networking is a hungry and greedy beast gorging itself on the huge slabs of highly personal information we willingly feed it.

Social sites have forged us into an image that is their ideal, not our own.  We’re being led like innocent willing lambs to the commercial all consuming financial slaughter.  The money grabbing capitalists behind social networking must be laughing until they loose bowel control (down the trouser leg of their designer suits) when they consider the fact they’ve created a foolproof way of relieving users of as much cash as humanly possible.  Actually foolproof is the wrong word to use; social sites rely on the foolish to survive.  They need fools to spend hours slavishly entering their likes and dislikes otherwise they wouldn’t be able to sell their private and most personal data to the highest bidder.  Without this unpaid data input they wouldn’t be able to target users with adverts optimised to a terrifying degree to have the deepest possible impact on the psyche, and the greatest possible draining effect on our wallets.  If the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist, then the greatest trick social networking websites ever played was convincing the world they’re free to use.  The owners (or rather equity partners and faceless investment groups) behind these social networking sites are a cancerous growth on humanity, feeding off the hopes, dreams and misery of their users.

A good friend of mine was going through a hell of a time last year watching her mother die from cancer, sadly just a year after her father passed away.  She was an only child and the burden weighed so heavily on her she lost weight and for a while became quite withdrawn from our circle of friends.  Naturally this painful and lonely suffering was reflected (and to some extent detailed) in the posts she made to her profile page.  Immediately she was fed adverts for pharmaceutical companies.  These evil morally bankrupt cankers on the soul of humanity even sent her an email offering a discount voucher for a local funeral service.  If during a time of such distress you noticed an undertaker loitering outside your house like a drooling vulture you would quite rightly make your feelings clearly known.  The adverts on profile pages are just as parasitic and cold hearted.  So does my (now bereaved) friend still have a profile on the site that wronged her so painfully and with such financially motivated maliciousness?  Does she still log in ten times a day and nourish the machine with her joys and distresses?  You bet she does.

My Kid Sister met her husband online so she’s kinda bias, but as I said, she’s always the exception to the rule.  I can’t help but find it a bit terrifying she sees all of these mass media conglomerate owned websites as benevolent cupid types bringing lovers together.  God it makes my blood run cold with dread.  However much you’ve read someone’s profile I bet your first impressions are still based on the photo they’ve chosen to post of themselves.  She married just a year ago; she’d only met the guy a few times before she popped the question but was convinced he was ‘the one’.  She’s a wonderfully warm hearted girl, and usually she’s also wonderfully cynical but she’s sure her computer match will last.  She told me complex algorithms and countless variables have scientifically ruled out the possibility of a failed relationship.  I guess the heart wants what the heart wants, but what if it’s all the failed relationships we have that make the ones that work so wonderful.  Oh man, now I’m getting really depressed.

I’ve got friends who use dating sites as a means to shag as many women as possible, and no matter what the complex algorithms may think they’re not looking for love.  I haven’t spent a great deal of effort pointing this to my little sister - it would be mean to shoot down her romantic notions of computer designed love with contrary reports.  To me she’s still that funny looking little kid who cried her little heart out when I accidently pulled over the Christmas tree one year, and more than anything else in the world I want her to be happy.  Heaven only knows I don’t want her to go through what I have over these past couple of years…

Heroin and Cocaine are blamed by society for being the root of many evils, but it’s a sad truth that the damage legal addictions can cause is far more widespread and touches (and destroys) more lives than any illegal drug.  Social Networking is a dangerous addiction, and it destroys more relationships than narcotics ever could.  If you’re unfortunate enough to split up with a partner then your profile will broadcast the fact to your friends within seconds.  Your profile page is like a big mouthed kid with zero compassion or tact.  Social Networking is an abusive lover who we return to despite years of hurt, in the vain hope that something will change for the better.  Saddest of all is the hope it will start to respect us.

So as I say, I had strong reservations about signing up, but in the end if I hadn’t have got a profile I fear I would have become invisible to my friends in the real world.  My friends are desperately important to me; if I can’t keep clear channels of communication open with them then I can’t help them.

Another reason I signed up was because the world around me flipped upside down – until this year when my friends met online we would discuss our day to day lives, but now our day to day lives are online we’re left with few offline topics.  I’ve been to the pub to meet friends a bunch of times and we’ve all realised we have nothing to talk about; we already know what each other have been up to every moment since we last met thanks to social networking.  I signed up because I had a genuine fear that if I didn’t know who had poked who, and who had detagged whom then I’d find myself with nothing to contribute to conversations.  It was starting to feel like all my friends had been invited to a party I had been excluded from, and just to spite me the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was how great the party had been.

I didn’t forgo all moral outrage when I signed up; I used a nickname only my closest friends know me by.  By using a false name I have become a non-entity, some falsified illogical data, a black hole of reason in the social networking metrics.  Some of the personal details I submitted are true (age, hair colour) but if they try and monetise my presence on their website using the false hobbies and interests I’ve entered then they’ll have to find some pretty niche products.  I’ve encouraged my friends to join me in this mild rebellion, but they’re too concerned they may lose the vouchers they’re sent in exchange for divulging their entire lives to these corporations.  Oh how cheap they sell their souls, at least bluesman Robert Johnston got taught how to play his guitar ‘real good’ when he sold his soul, all my friends are getting in exchange is a medium size pizza for half price when buying a XXL pizza on weeknight evenings (excluding Mondays and Fridays).

There’s so much I want to do for my friends that the idea of missing out on any aspect of their lives terrifies me.  How can I offer my love, help and advice if I don’t know what they’ve been up to?  Mind you, it’s not like social networking allows me to dive deep into the well of my friend’s emotions.  While updates of one hundred and forty characters or less may give the profiteers all the information they need it’s not enough for a true friend to gauge how someone is feeling.  Imagine for a moment a law has been passed making it illegal to hold a conversation using any more than fifty syllables - we could still communicate the basics, but we’d all soon be either terminally bored or so desperate to properly express ourselves we would have a stroke and die.  So why do we accept these shallow snippets as satisfactory in our online lives?  I’m not reactionary enough to claim our love of the quick fix instant hit of social networking is a symptom of a far larger problem in society, I guess I’m just a bit saddened the long conversations I had deep into the night with some friends have been replaced by a single line of text on a website that says something like ‘going shopping LOL’.  My god, if the simple act of going shopping is causing you to actually ‘laugh out loud’ then I suggest you try something like kicking a football about in the park; you’ll laugh so hard you’ll probably prolapse.

I would rather know every intimate detail of a small group of friends than know tiny bits of information about thousands of people I only half know.  The only thing hundreds and thousands are good for is the top of iced buns, and at a push as a weapon of distraction should one come under attack in an ice cream parlour.

I have an idea how to fight back this rising tide of emotional brevity - I’ll start writing letters to my friends.  I’ll write long meandering soul searching letters tackling tough issues and discussing feelings.  At least I would write letters if I thought any of my friends would ever read them and reply.  They’re probably too busy laughing out loud because they’re doing the ironing or something.

I’m painting a grim picture of my group of friends, and I don’t mean to; I love them dearly, but sometimes they infuriate me.  A friend (well more of a friend of a friend) with three kids told me – and with a totally straight face – she has no use for her recycling bin because she hasn’t got anything to put in it.  I couldn’t believe it, I took her to a darkened corner at the party we were attending and spent fifteen minutes explaining just how badly she was damaging the planet with her ignorance.  I told her if she didn’t make the tiny amount of effort it takes to separate her rubbish then there might not be a world for her beloved children to live in.  I explained in words of two syllables or less that her refusal to take glass to the bottle bank was making the world a worse place for both of us.  Eventually she convinced me she understood and made a solemn promise to start using her recycling bin.  I told her I’d nip to the loo and on my return tell her why the compost bin the council had just delivered to everyone in town is so exciting.  For some reason when I came back she was nowhere to be found, I imagine she’d gone home to start sorting through her kitchen bin or something.  She also stopped responding to my posts on her profile page, but with three kids she’s most likely too busy for social networking.

I don’t want you to get the impression I’ve become some sort of tree hugging hessian wearing hippy, but there are some truths about this planet everyone needs to know.  Ignorance is mankind’s greatest enemy, and looking the other way is the fastest route to a fall.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big trouble and little chairs.

By Andrew Laws

I need to tell you about last night.  Because you’re an old friend I want to give you the facts before they mutate through degrees of separation and paint a picture of what I’ve done that’s as unfavourable as it is inaccurate.  I’m going to have to speak very softly though, partly because my wife and daughter are in the next room plotting my punishment, but mainly because I’ve got a pounding headache.

This morning I woke up needing the toilet, now of course there’s nothing unusual about that in itself; gentlemen as old as we are always wake up at least once in the night and need to tinkle the ivories.  What makes this morning noteworthy are the circumstances - When I felt the urge and (thank god) woke up and opened my eyes I was bewildered by what I saw.  It was a bit like that feeling you get when you’re on holiday and wake up in the middle of the night, when your eyes work faster than your memory and for a few seconds you have no idea where you are.

Actually this morning was only a little bit like that because even after glancing around the room for five or ten minutes I still had no idea where I was.  I knew right away that I was lying on a settee but it didn’t look like I was in my lounge, or in any lounge I’d ever been before.  In front of me was a very industrial looking coffee table covering in old chipped mugs, each one appeared to be advertising a brand, either that or each one had come free with something at some point over the last twenty years.

I sat up to get a better look at my darkened surroundings and as soon as I reached about a 45o angle it became clear to me that trying to sit up was a mistake.  I could only assume that while I was sleeping someone had given me a lobotomy using gardening tools, and said person had then proceeded to steal all the moisture from my mouth and eyeballs.  I fumbled in my pockets for my glasses and panicked when I couldn’t find them.  Eventually I remembered that I’d had laser eye surgery years ago, and realised the reason I couldn’t see properly was that nothing in the room around me would stay still long enough for me to focus on it.  I squinted in painful concentration as filing cabinets, pigeon holes and the random collection of knackered armchairs and settees swirled around the room.

Instinctually I covered my eyes with my hand to help me concentrate, also I felt like my eyes would fall out if I didn’t hold them in.  As I held in my pulsing eyeballs I tried desperately hard to figure out where I was, but even peeking through my fingers at the spinning scene before me didn’t jog my memory; I just knew I was in a room I’d never seen before, but it did smell oddly familiar.

At the third or forth attempt I managed to stand up and stay stood, and with one hand in front of me (and one covering my groin in case I walked into something that would be unkind to my testicles) I fumbled my way out of the room.  I was bursting for the toilet by now, and as luck would have it I managed to follow my nose just a few yards to what appeared to be a communal toilet.  You don’t need all the details of what followed but there was something decidedly odd about the urinal I found to service my needs.  The moonlight was quite bright (certainly bright enough to hurt my eyes) and I know that objects I’m familiar with seem different under the eerie glow of moonlight, but I swear this urinal was a lot smaller than those I’m used to.  It also appeared to be a great deal lower than those I’m used to.  I didn’t ponder it for too long though – I was concentrating on keeping my shoes dry.  After washing my hands in a sink that was so small it was making me feel a bit delirious I wandered down a long corridor that seemed oddly familiar to me.  It was a curiously warming and reassuring feeling, a bit like the feeling I get when you and I go on one of our old boy’s holidays; each time we reach the same cottage that we always hire and after Will and Phil have turned up I always feel a little bit like I’ve come home.

My fumbling fingers found a light switch, and after I’d stopped recoiling from the burning glare of the nearest fluorescent light my stomach lurched.  This corridor was now looking very familiar indeed, but that wasn’t what made my stomach turn, that horrid feeling was brought on by a guttural belch that tasted of cheap red wine and greasy food.  I had to sit down before I fell down so made for the door nearest to me in search of a chair.

I bowled into a darkened room and almost immediately cracked my shins on a chair.  Reaching down for the chair in the half light I couldn’t find it, and it wasn’t until I reached lower that I found the chair and guided myself down onto it.  What happened next didn’t help my fragile state at all – I can best describe the sensation as the same feeling you get when you go to sit down and some bugger swipes your chair at the last minute.  I didn’t hit the floor but I didn’t land far above it.  This chair was tiny, it was so small that my knees were up by my shoulders, which was handy as it meant I could cling onto them for comfort (the table next to me was no good for leaning on, it was far too small).

You know me, I’m not a man to hide my feelings and in the wee small hours of this morning I very nearly cried, but I was too scared to let the tears come!  As far as I was concerned the wine that I had obviously drunk far too much of the night before must have been spiked or poisoned in some way – my sense of perspective was wrecked, I felt like a giant, like a giant hungover Gulliver.

All I wanted was to be at home, so I wrestled my mobile phone out of my pocket and found out the bloody thing was switched off.  I switched it on and within seconds it rang in my hand; it was a voicemail message from the wife and she certainly put a flea in my ear I can tell you!  She wanted to know what time my ‘damn reunion’ would finish.  Of course!  I was at Easton primary school!  I meant to tell you about my school reunion when we went to the pub last Thursday but as you and I didn’t meet till high school I didn’t think it would interest you.

So now I knew where I was, but how was I going to get home?  Why on earth had I decided to sleep in what I now knew was the staff lounge?  Of course I didn’t know where I was when I’d woken up; when I was at primary school I was a good little boy - certainly not the hell raiser who you got to know at high school - so I’d never seen the inside of the mystical lair where the teachers hid from the children and from where discipline was dispensed.

The memory of the night before was revealed to me at this point.  I’d been invited onto the stage in the assembly hall, and after giving the assembled the benefit of my wisdom I somehow managed to tank off the front of the stage, and got more reacquainted with the ex-students in the front row than I had planned to.  They say that talking over all times with old friends can make you feel young again, and the barrelling laughter from the room when I tipped off the stage certainly proved that their humour had regressed by about fifty years.  I reckon that’s why I made as much of the refreshments table as I did.  It was a totally reasonable thing to do if you ask me, but my wife and daughter didn’t ask me and don’t appear to agree.

Feeling a little restored I left the classroom and headed for the school entrance hall (and freedom), but the excitement wasn’t over yet.  As I walked up the long corridor I got such a fright that my heart damn near shot up from my chest and out the top of my (still sore) skull like a rocket.  As I looked up from my shuffling feet I saw the outline of a man emerging from the shadows at the far end of the corridor.  I froze, he froze and memories of the day a tramp broke into the school and slept the night came rushing back to me.  For what seemed like a season we both stood stock still, sizing each other up like two desperadoes in a Wild West duel.  The shadowy figure tentatively called my name, and would you believe it the man in front of me was none other than the boy who sat next to me for most of my years at Easton primary school!

You might not believe me when I tell you this, but the poor sod had fallen off the front of the stage just a few minutes after I did, so the evening before he had kept me company and commiserated with me via the ancient medium of fermented grape juice.

My old mate told me that he’d tried the doors and we were bloody well locked in.  I told him it was no trouble and called my wife.  Well at least I meant to call my wife, but in the excitement I managed to call my daughter instead.  I guess I was still a little drunk because when my darling daughter answered my call all I could do was mumble incoherently, and then the battery on my phone ran out before she had a chance to respond!

Long story short my poor daughter was so spooked she called the police, who called my wife, who added a few rude words to my name when the police asked her to confirm it.  About an hour later the police turned up at the school with a very bleary and irritable caretaker and set us free.

Another reunion has already been booked for next year and I’m looking forward to it immensely.  Both my wife and my daughter seem quite interested too, they’ve already told me they’ll be coming with me!