Thursday, Doughnut, Thief

My 10 year old son, Stan, has Aspergers.

It is interesting.

Dad, can we play Thursday, Doughnut, Thief?

Not heard of that one. How do we play?

Well its like scissors paper stone but instead it’s Thursday, Doughnut, Thief. I invented it. Thursday beats doughnut.

M’kay why does Thursday beat Doughnut?

Because the doughnut shop is closed on Thursdays, of course. And Thief beats Thursday because that’s the day they can rob the doughnut shop.

Of course. And doughnut beats thief because policemen like doughnuts?

Yes! Dad, you’re a genius.

So we play a little. My 8 year old daughter wants to join in  but it is only a game for two. I suggest that maybe we can take turns and the winner of the next game between me and Stan can play Georgia. Stan gives this a little thought.

Mmm. Why does Georgia get to be the prize?

Oh Stan. Of course Georgia gets to be the prize. She is a great prize. Anyone would want a Georgia. I turn to her now and suggest we should hold a raffle and she can be the star prize, in fact. She has a bit of a think too.

OK dad. We can have a raffle and I can be the prize, but only if you promise to have the winning ticket.

This is, of course, priceless. Perfect. Life-affirming. Heart-warming. It is also, for me, heartbreaking but I save the tears for later, when she cannot see.

Stan’s turn now.

When we finish playing this game, can we play Hubba Hubba Tennis please?

Yes, OK. We haven’t played that in a while.

Crisis of Confidence

It takes some chutzpah to write as I do.

It takes a recklessness to write poetry.

It takes gumption to attach my real photo.

And every day I pause momentarily before hitting the “Post on Facebook” button.

That pause is borne of many things. It’s complicated.

But mostly it is because I am afraid.

But I hit it anyway.








Missing Words Round

English is missing a few words.

A lot of them are to do with family relationships. Your brothers and sisters are your siblings, but your nephews and nieces are your…um. We don’t have a word for that.

I’m still friendly with my eldest brother’s ex-wife. I sometimes describe her as my ex-sister-in-law, but people tend to assume I must be referring to an ex-wife’s sister, when the two things are very, very different.

There are a lot of things we don’t have words for.

I did a bit of a google hunt and came up with some more.

In Brazil the word “Cafune” means “the act of running your fingers through your loved one’s hair”.

We don’t have a word for that.

In the Tsonga language the word “Rhwe” is the act of falling asleep on the floor drunk and naked. Most people I know would really benefit from having an English equivalent. Really.

Most languages have a word for the day after tomorrow. In German it is “Ubermorgen”. In English there is a word but it has fallen out of use. Overmorrow. I’ll see you overmorrow.

In the film “Sideways” there was a joke that the protagonist had written a memoir called “The Day After Yesterday”. The girl he was trying to impress, said “err…Today. You mean today, right?”.

Sometimes we just forget the words we had.


Today I just don’t have the words.



…then someone had the crazy idea we should all leapfrog the postbox.

One of those old fashioned British red ones. A decent height. A challenge. The first fella is over, the rest of us boys in a ragged queue while the girls stand off to one side, watching our foolery.

Now…I’m the last one to worry about making a tit of myself but there’s something amiss. I need to nail this. One of those girls….

It’s the turn of the guy in front of me. My old friend. He has height on his side but the grace of a self-sealing gas tank. He’s off,  arcs up into air, our collective breath held as he teeters precariously atop. He’s not getting over it is he? His hand stuck awkwardly. He keels sideways in slow-mo and crashes to the pavement.

We start laughing but cut short. He ain’t getting up. He’s holding his arm. He’s kinda screaming. We rush over and sure, there’s something wrong. Someone dials an ambulance and we cluster round uncertainly. Soon enough he’s getting helped up into the back of the van by the paramedic and I’m sitting with him. He’s my friend, it’s my job to go. But just before the doors close she’s there too. That girl…

“Hey. I’ll come too in case you need a hand with anything”. I bite my lip.

The emergency room isn’t that full. It’s Saturday lunchtime and there’s just a smattering of other damn fool students like us. He’s in waiting for his X-ray and we’re killing time out in the waiting area. I sit. There’s a dozen more chairs to choose from but she parks right next to me.

“I bet you’re glad your mate fell off”.

I straighten up startled and look at her. She’s looking me straight in the eye.

“I bet you’re relieved. You didn’t have to risk making a fool of yourself jumping back there, did you?”

She crosses her legs provocatively. My skin shivers.


It’s a quarter to midnight. My mate is in bed. Plaster cast. Multiple fracture. I pass him a glass of water and a handful of painkillers. I was meant to be kipping on his couch tonight but…

“Steve, I reckon the best thing for you is a decent night’s sleep. I don’t want to disturb you…so hey I’ll go look up one of your friends and crash there. It’s OK it’s no hassle honestly I don’t mind”.

He raises an eyebrow and grunts.

I’m winding through the corridors and up the stairwells and there’s a part of me feeling guilty as hell, but I’m there, I’m at the door… I pause briefly then give it three sharp raps with my knuckles.

“Come in, its open”.

I push the door wide and she’s in bed. I close it behind me.

“Hi there. Sorry to call on you so late but…I have a letter to post and… I was wondering if you had any first class stamps”.

Oh Jesus. Stamps? Really, Paul? Is that really the best you could do?

There’s a pause. There’s a choice in the air.

“Sure I have stamps. There’s some in my purse. Here, let me get one for you”.

She peels out of bed and saunters slowly over to her bag. She is naked. And beautiful. My knees sag. She could have asked me to pass it to her. She didn’t. She rummages, turns to me… “Ah sorry. I was sure I had some in there but it seems I was…mistaken.”

She’s right in front of me now. My face collapses in a helpless grin. And she smiles.




Dancers at the end of time

It’s 1993. It’s nearly Christmas, they have the tree up on the ward already and Adam’s IV drip stand has some red tinsel draped on it. A nurse is fussing about with his tubes. Pneumonia, this time. There’s me, a couple of transvestites and a guy with a leather jacket and trimmed moustache stood around the bottom of the bed. “It’s family only” the nurse says. We all give her a quick nod. She opens her mouth to speak; hesitates;  and closes it again. She nods back brusquely and busies herself at the next bed.

We catch the Lee and Jimmy Sunday Show at the Vauxhall Tavern and raise our glasses as they belt out Neil Diamond tributes and torch song classics. It’s still lunchtime and I’m already half-cut, propped up against the stage at the front, voice hoarse from too many enthusiastic choruses. They finish on “Sweet Caroline” to rapturous applause (just like they do every week) and at 2pm we all stagger across the road to the Market Tavern, a dimlit sleazy club above a Shopping Centre. Nobody’s going home yet. We queue up, leave our coats, buy our poppers and throw ourselves on the dancefloor. Outside the sun’s still shining but you wouldn’t know it in here. The speakers crackle out our favourite French version of “I will survive” and Gloria never had it so good. Lee’s come over too, ditched the wig and high heels for his leathers and is dancing with me. He’s not been so well lately; but screw that. We’re here to dance. We aren’t going to stop. When this place shuts we’ll move on across London, the clubs and smoky piano bars and we’ll drink and dance and dance and drink ’til we can’t stand up and then dance some damn more like there’s no tomorrow.

Richard is in charge of the Christmas pudding. I’m in charge of the tequilas. Not a wise combination. He lurches into the living room wearing a blonde wig and a feather Boa and showers a giant tube of Smarties in the air. There’s Tim and Mark and Jon and Alex, Glenn and Pierre. Just the eight of us this year. Enough Smarties for everyone and we laugh like drains. We’ve forgotten the pudding, have another round of vodkas and we’re dancing round the room again like loons, just like last year, just like he would have wanted. None of us know when the party will wind up; least of all me. But until then – we are going to dance.



Position Vacant

Last week I was sitting in a bar with my dearest friend. We had been to a poetry evening. The poems were the usual mixed bag of quality that seemed to get better the more we drank. He said “You should get up, you’re better than this lot”. But I haven’t brought anything with me. “Well just use your phone and read a blog post”. But that’s not poetry. “Ach. They’ll never notice the difference.”

Later, as we drift through the usual conversational excuses just to be sitting with each other we somehow end up at my unattached status and him saying…

…when you start internet dating again…

Objection, m’lud. I object to “when”. I do a good line in mock outrage, but he knows me too well so I get a Paddington Bear stare and he continues…

…when you start again you should keep it short. Don’t spend ten pages trying to explain yourself. Just be blunt and say what you want.

Well, that may have some merit. I have been known to write comedic hypothetical world’s worst dating profiles (and even at times been tempted to post them), like

“Height: 5 foot 2

 Weight: Ample

 Hair: Bald

 Favourite Position: Sitting Down”

But no, the gauntlet has been tossed down and what, hypothetically, might such a profile say. It’s trickier than you think.

“Wanted. Direct woman. Don’t pussyfoot around my intellect or let me get away with stuff. Argue me under the table then haul me to bed.

P.S. I may not like you on first meeting so don’t be put off”