The Specs’N’Rugs 2017 Album Top 5

It’s the time of year when the annual lists are compiled, be it best song, best album, best book, best film. You name it, there will be a ‘Top 5’ of it. So, rather than be left behind, I’m going to join in the fun with my Top 5 albums of the year.

As You WereIn fifth place, because after one play, I can only manage to listen to two tracks more than once, it’s Liam Gallagher with ‘As You Were’. The stand out tracks for me are ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Wall Of Glass’. The rest are just meh.


Kicking Up The DustIn fourth place, the latest release by Cast. ‘Kicking Up The Dust’ was a long time in waiting – I made my purchase via the Pledgemusic website sometime last year – but worth the wait when it arrived at the end of April. I received a signed copy (as did every purchaser) and it’s had regular play ever since. Stand out tracks for me are ‘Do That’, ‘Paper Chains’ and ‘Baby Blue Eyes’.


Crack UpIn third place, purely due to the need to listen carefully, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen carefully, is the long awaited Fleet Foxes third album, ‘Crack Up’. Six years after the release of it’s predecessor, this album is a step forward in musicality, songcraft and song titles that are difficult to remember! My favourite tracks are ‘Naiads, Cassadies’, ‘Third of May/Odaigahara’ and ‘Fools Errand’.


Who Built The MoonIn second place, with it’s boombastic sound, is ‘Who Built The Moon?’ by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Only released at the end of November, it has come close to the top spot in my countdown, but not quite achieving the pinnacle. Which is not to say that this lacks anything – in another year, it would be at the top – on the contrary, tracks like ‘Holy Mountain’, ‘Fort Knox’ and ‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ are absolutely amazing played obscenely loud.


Pure Comedy 2And the best album of 2017 as far as I’m concerned, is by far and away ‘Pure Comedy’ by Father John Misty. Seriously, how amazing is this album? Melodically and lyrically streets ahead of anything not in my top five, I seriously struggle to pick out favourites, but in order to continue the pattern of this post, I’ll try to. ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, ‘Ballad Of The Dying Man’ and probably ‘The Memo’ are just three of the albums outstanding tracks. And to top it all off, I saw him perform these songs live in November. Oh yes I did!!




Dave’s Christmas Carol – part 2

If you have been waiting anxiously for the conclusion of this festive Dave story, wait no longer…

Dave went to bed, thinking the only three spirits he would be interested in were Gin, Whiskey and Vodka, and being woken up at One o’clock in the morning was not his idea of Christmas preparation. Nonetheless, he went to bed after double checking the cupboard under the stairs was locked. He pushed the sofa back against it, to be safe.

Sure enough, as the church bell chimed once for the hour, Dave’s bedroom was flooded with light. He sat up with a start and found himself confronted with a hovering apparition of a young girl. He looked around to see if Yvette Fielding was going to jump out with her Ghost Hunting crew, or maybe Bill Murray would shoot it with a proton beam. Slightly disappointed when neither happened, Dave asked the ghost girl what she wanted with him. She was here to show him Christmases past, apparently. She held out her hand and hesitantly, Dave reached out to touch it. Before he knew what was going on, the room around him swirled and disappeared. He was soon in a strange place. He asked the ghost where he was. She looked at him a bit weird, before telling him this was his past. Dave shook his head and told her he’d never seen this place before. The ghost looked at him again. She asked him if he was Ebenezer Scrooge, of 15 Pinewood Road. Dave shook his head. He informed her that he was Dave, of 15 Pinewood Crescent. The ghost girl reached into her floating form and pulled out a ghostly looking notepad. She cursed and apologised profusely for disturbing him. She held her hand out again and Dave took hold of it, and then all of a sudden he was back in his bedroom. She apologised again, before vanishing in a flash of white light. Dave shook his head in disbelief and went back to sleep.

Just as Dave was drifting into a deep sleep, the church bell chimed twice. He opened one eye, then the other. He heard a jolly laughing coming from his walk-in wardrobe. Now Dave knew that Santa Claus didn’t exist, so he thought he was either hallucinating vividly, or someone was playing a killer prank on him. He sat up and crept over to the wardrobe door. He opened it slowly, and was gobsmacked to see his wardrobe inhabited by a tall guy in a robe and a crown on his head. This one introduced himself as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The ghost held his hand out and Dave hesitated, because he hadn’t held a man’s hand since he held his dad’s hand as a child. After much cajoling by the ghost, he took the hand offered and then they were out in a snow covered street. Again Dave wasn’t really sure where he was going with this, but he went along with it. He got to see the jolly chap from Mr Scrooge’s office with his family and friends, then off they went to Bob Cratchit’s house. Dave saw his family, in particular his young son, Tiny Tim, who was struggling with an ailment. The Ghost of Christmas present watched Dave’s detached, expressionless face, and then took him to one side. He queried Dave as to why the plight of his most trusted and loyal employee was having no effect on him. This is when Dave had to admit he wasn’t Ebenezer Scrooge, and didn’t really have a vested interest in Bob Cratchit’s welfare, or that of his family. The Ghost of Christmas Present rolled his eyes and disappeared cursing Dave for wasting his time. Dave was left stood in the street outside the house of a stranger.

Dave reached into his pocket and pulled out his… mobile phone, because this is a story about salvation, not public indecency, and tried opening up the Google Maps app. Thanks to the rubbish H+ signal, it was taking ages, and so he didn’t see the huge swirling fog approach. Before he knew it, he was enveloped and couldn’t see more than a few yards in front of him. With a gulp, he put the phone away and turned around, only to come face to face with a tall, hooded, figure. Dave asked him if he was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and the figure nodded. Dave then asked if he was expecting Ebenezer Scrooge, to which the figure nodded again. Dave calmly informed the figure that he was not Mr Scrooge. The figure shrugged it’s shoulders and lifted it’s hands to the hood. Dave held his breath as the hood was pushed backwards. He opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was none other than Simon Cowell. He took a cigarette from the pocket of his cloak, and put it in his mouth, lighting it with a gold lighter. Dave wondered if he shouldn’t be seeking out Ebenezer Scrooge, but Simon Cowell shook his head and told Dave that it was Three o’clock in the sodding morning, and he was buggered if he was traipsing across town. Besides, he said, he was paid for the hour, so it made no difference to him. Dave felt a bit sorry for this Mr Scrooge, but before he could take it up with the Simon Cowell ghost, he was back in his own room again. Being completely knackered, he fell asleep almost immediately.

It was Christmas Day when Dave awoke, and he felt really bad for this Mr Scrooge. If he was as doomed as all these spirits had alluded, then God help the poor old bastard. Feeling a little bit affected by the evening’s proceedings himself, Dave rang Donna and wished her a Merry Christmas, and also spoke to Annabel. Then, he got dressed and went out into the world to find Ebenezer Scrooge and see if he had experienced the epiphany he was meant to. He found his way to 15 Pinewood Road and knocked on the door. A window opened above his head, and snow dusted his head and shoulders. Dave looked up to see Mr Scrooge glaring at him from on high. Dave smiled nervously, thinking to himself that this was not the look of a man who should be full of joy for having been saved from a miserable life after death. Then, without warning, Mr Scrooge smiled and laughed. He told Dave that he would indeed be accepting his quote, and also wanted additional Directors and Officers cover. More than that, he would be happy to recommend Dave to his customers. With a smile on his face, Dave was about to leave for home when Mr Scrooge invited him to dinner at Bob Cratchit’s house. Dave nodded his thanks and together, they sang and danced through the town to the home of Mr Scrooge’s loyal employee. They knocked on the door, and waited patiently. Minutes passed. Mr Scrooge knocked again. More minutes passed. Then a cough behind them made the two men turn around. A kindly old lady was stood at the end of the drive. She kindly informed them that the Cratchits had won the lottery and gone to DisneyWorld for Christmas.

Seeing Ebenezer Scrooge’s crestfallen look, Dave invited him back to his house for dinner instead.

The two men got royally shit-faced on brandy and wine, and then fell asleep before the Queen’s Speech came on.

Dave’s Christmas Carol – Part 1

As it’s Christmas, I felt it was time to dust off Dave and add a twist of Dickens. Here, then, is the first part of Dave’s Christmas Carol. 

Dave was all alone in the world. It was his own fault, he just couldn’t stand people. And if people were all being honest, they couldn’t stand him either.

He had grown old alone. It all started when he got his job as an Insurance Broker. It was a huge leap from just being an employee – now he was an Employer, with people under him. Now he had to spend more time either at the office, or going to see customers for new quotes and to renew policies, and all the while, building relationships so that he could get new quotes in the future. He was meeting all sorts of people and this had the knock on effect of reducing the time he could spend with Donna and Annabel. He started missing parent’s evenings, school plays, then forgetting anniversaries and birthdays. He even missed Donna’s fathers’ funeral because he was at the local Insurance Institute dinner trying to extend his circle of contacts.

Finally, after one missed birthday too many, Donna had enough and left with Annabel to stay with her mother. Weeks turned into months, and before long, they had been gone for five years and Dave had completely lost them. On the plus side, his Insurance Brokerage was becoming the biggest and best in the area, winning awards for all sorts of things. Those awards slowly replaced the pictures of his family on his mantelpiece (of course he took them home, they were his awards, after all).

Now, a wrinkled old codger, Dave sat in his office looking over quotes for an Accountants firm called Scrooge & Marley – a funny name for a company he thought to himself – who he was quoting for. He knew he’d have to be good because Mr Scrooge was a well-known tightwad, and so Dave would have to be cheap if he was going to win the business. It was Christmas Eve, and Dave finished putting the quotes together and put them into a folder. He put his coat, scarf and gloves on as he’d also heard that Mr Scrooge was stingy with the heating in his office. It was a crisp, clear day, so Dave decided to walk across town to enjoy the weather, and not because he had foolishly forgot to put petrol in his car.

He arrived at Scrooge’s office and knocked on the door. Then he realised that there was no point knocking, and so he pushed the door open and went inside. The office was so cold, Dave felt his nipples harden beneath three layers of clothing, and his breath formed clouds in the air. He rubbed his gloved hands together to keep warm. He looked around for Mr Scrooge, and his eyes fell on a man sat shivering at a desk with his teeth chattering. Dave saw a name plate on the desk in front of him that read ‘Bob Cratchit’. Another very odd name, Dave thought to himself. Unperturbed, Dave enquired after Mr Scrooge. With a great effort, Bob Cratchit raised his arm to point to a door behind him. He slowly stood up and shuffled over to open the door.

Dave followed him and found himself in a darkened room, with the only light coming from one of those rubbish lights that look like candles, but run on batteries. Dave kept his coat, scarf and gloves on and took a seat in front of Mr Scrooge’s desk. Just in front of him, Dave saw a jar of humbugs. Mr Scrooge offered him one, and Dave accepted gratefully, whilst marvelling at the man’s impressive mutton chop sideburns. Bob Cratchit left the room and closed the door behind him. Dave attempted some light-hearted repartee to open his pitch, but on seeing Mr Scrooge’s stony expression, dispensed with the small talk and got down to the nitty gritty of the appointment. He presented the quote, outlining all the relevant warranties and endorsements, before revealing the premium. Mr Scrooge looked at him blankly. Dave began to feel a little hesitant, wondering if he had forgotten anything. Finally, Mr Scrooge thanked him for his time, but he would not be making a decision today, as he was waiting for another quote to come in. Dave nodded understandingly, and left his business card on the desk before leaving. On the way out, he smiled at Bob, who was in conversation with someone who seemed quite jolly and friendly. Dave went out into the cold, and somehow felt warmer. He unwrapped his scarf, and walked back to the office to close up. He’d given his three employees the afternoon off, as well as Christmas Day and Boxing Day because he had to. He locked the office and cursing himself for having to leave the car behind, began to walk across town to his house.

Arriving home, he fumbled in his coat pocket for his house keys, and was just about to put the key in the lock, when the door knocker seemed to transform into the face of a haunted old man. The air was filled with a blood-curdling moan, and Dave stepped backwards, falling over a stone plant pot. He looked around, but there was nobody around. He looked at his front door, but all he could see was the ordinary door knocker. Shaking his head, he went inside and closed the door behind him.

He made himself some tea – a bowl of carrot and coriander soup and a crusty roll – and sat in front of the television watching an old Morecambe and Wise Christmas special. He was just mopping up the last of the soup with his roll when the television suddenly shut off, and the real fire effect gas fire went cold. Dave looked around in confusion. He’d remembered to pay the bills, he was sure. Then, the door to the cupboard under the stairs began to slowly open. Dave cowered in the chair, because he knew what lurked in cupboards under stairs – eleven year old boy wizards, or Indians. Thankfully, it was a ghostly old man with the face he had seen on his door knocker. Dave rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The ghost man introduced himself as Robert Marley, his partner. Dave was a bit confused, as he had never had a business partner, but he kept schtum because he had always been brought up to respect people older than him, and this ghost was definitely older than him. Anyway, this Robert Marley began to tell him how he needed to change his ways, or he would be doomed to a miserable death. As he spoke, chains appeared and wrapped themselves around the poor old ghostly Mr Marley. Dave was completely at a loss, but let him waffle on about how he was supposedly forging his own chains with his curmudgeonly ways, and Dave was going to be visited by three spirits who would show him the error of his ways and put him on the straight and narrow. Finally, the old ghost seemed to have run out of things to say, so he took his chains and wandered back into the cupboard. When he was certain the old ghost was gone, Dave rushed over and turned the key to lock the cupboard door. Then, as if by magic, the television came back on, and the fire sprung back to life. Dave screamed loudly when he realised Morecambe and Wise had finished, and now there was a ‘Best of X Factor’ compilation show on.

To be concluded…

Halloween Thriller – Part 2

Are you ready for the ending???

The carpet which had been a subtle beige was now soaked red. On the floor by her feet, Andy lay face down. Embedded in the back of his head was a very large axe. The door to the room was wide open. A tray with cups and sachets of coffee lay discarded in the doorway. Scarlett stepped over Andy’s prostrate figure, and looked at his face for any sign of life. She saw his face contorted in pain, his eyes wide open in horror. Sobbing and hyperventilating, she paced the room, panicking and not knowing what to do. She paced to the window. The fog was now so dense, she couldn’t even see the cars in the car park. The lights merely lit up the white fog, making it seem even thicker and foreboding. She waited for someone to come and see what the screaming was about, but nobody came. Then, without warning, the door slammed shut and the room went black. Scarlett span round, but before her eyes could adjust to the darkness, she felt something grab her arm and twist it behind her back. She screamed out loud, before a shadowy hand appeared and clamped over her mouth. She could feel a heavy breath on her neck. A smell of stale tobacco wafted across her face, and she gagged involuntarily.

“Hush now,” a gravelly voice hissed in her ear. “I’d hate to have to kill twice in one night.” Scarlett whimpered, nodding her head. She felt another hand on her shoulder. Her skin crawled as she felt the cold, hardness of the hand track her shoulder and then round to her breast. She could hardly breathe with the hand on her mouth and the sickening tobacco smell in her nostrils. She wanted to scream and run, but was frozen by fear.

Suddenly, a car alarm sounded outside. Scarlett felt the hand on her mouth relax ever so slightly, and she sank her teeth in. There was a loud yell in her ear, and she felt the grip loosen. She lurched forward and ran towards the thin sliver of light that signalled the door and the corridor beyond. She tripped over Andy’s prone body in the darkness, and as she put her arm out to break her fall, she felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. She screamed in agony and panic. Behind her she heard the gravelly voice calling her all the names under the sun, threatening her with certain death. She reached out with her hand and touched metal. She felt in the darkness and her hand rested on wood. The axe. With all her might, she yanked it free of poor Andy’s skull and swung in the darkness. She heard a cackle of laughter, before a clunk silenced the sound. Rather than wait for the consequences, Scarlett dropped the axe and turned to reach for the door handle. She yanked at it and the door swung open, illuminating the small area by the door. The carpet was soaked dark red with Andy’s blood, and Scarlett could see bone poking through a gash in her left forearm. Fighting off the urge to vomit, she lurched down the corridor screaming, and banging on doors with her good arm. Eventually, a door opened and a sleepy old couple stood in the doorway. They looked at her in confusion. There she stood dressed for sex, but covered in blood, and her face stained with mascara. She begged for help, casting desperate glances back at the open doorway of room 13.

“Please help me,” she screamed.

“Do you know what time it is?” The woman mumbled grumpily. Scarlett looked at her in disbelief. “It’s half past ten,” the woman finished. “Hardly the time for running around hotels dressed like that.”

“My boyfriend has been murdered, and there’s someone in my room,” she babbled. “You have to help me, please.”

The old man, who had been silent until now, suddenly seemed to wake up.

“Don’t worry, love.” He soothed. “You come on in. Sheila, lend the lass your dressing gown.” He let Scarlett past him and into their room. “Right, I’ll just put my glasses on, and then we’ll see what all the to-do is.” Scarlett nodded and shivered as Sheila appeared with a flanneled lilac dressing gown and wrapped it round her. The old chap was about to go when Sheila called him back.

“Be careful, Gordon,” she warned him. Then she handed him an umbrella. “Take this, dear. Just in case.”

Gordon nodded and took the umbrella from his wife. He silently stole down the corridor to where the door was gaping open. Scarlett watched him disappear out of view, and felt a wave of dread wash over her. She waited for something to happen, but nothing did. After a while, Gordon returned, his slippers stained red from the bloody carpet.

“Well, there’s no one there now, love.” He announced. “Well, apart from the fella with his head caved in.”

Scarlett looked at him in disbelief. She ran past him and along the corridor back the room. The light was on and the full horror of the situation lay before her. Beyond Andy’s body, the carpet was soaked dark red with blood. Then she could see her own red footprints leading to the window, which was now wide open, the cold air of the night flooding in. Even though she was wearing the dressing gown, she felt her nipples harden, and she wrapped her arms around herself. She could see larger blobs of blood on the carpet, trodden in by bigger feet wearing shoes. She looked around the room to check there was nobody else there. The axe lay on the floor by the bed, the blade caked with blood and hair. Scarlett looked at herself in the mirror and then her arm. She threw up right there, on the carpet. Gordon and Sheila stood in the doorway, looking at her with a look half of pity, and half of fear and confusion. She looked at them begging for them to believe her. She knew what it looked like – a dead man, an axe, and a blood covered girl with no other explanation.

Gordon stood aside as another man entered the room.

“What the fucking hell happened here?” He said, before catching sight of Andy and repressing his own urge to throw up.

“A bit of a kerfuffle, I’d say,” Gordon summed up.

“We’d better call the police, I reckon,” the hotel employee said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Scarlett looked at him in panic. The urge to pee took over and she excused herself to the bathroom. She took her bag off the seat and lifted it up so she could sit down. As she peed, she tried to formulate a plan. She looked at her bag and saw her car keys resting on the top. Once finished, she snatched the keys with her good hand and then opened the bathroom door. Gordon and Sheila had now been joined by more onlookers. She took one last look at Andy, and pushed past the crowd and ran away down the corridor. She ran straight past the security guard coming up the stairs and straight out of the front door, the borrowed dressing gown now open, displaying her blood covered body and underwear as she ran. She stopped in the car park, disorientated by the thick fog and the pain in her arm. She span round looking for a clue to where her car was. She looked up at where the room was and saw the Security Guard looking out of the open window. He yelled something at her, but she couldn’t hear him, she stepped further into the fog, the outline of the hotel disappearing in the murk. She walked in the fog, her car keys in her hand. She kept pressing the key fob, hoping to see the reassuring flash of her car lights. Finally, she hit the jackpot and saw the familiar flash. Then she heard the unmistakeable sound of heavy footsteps, and a dark shadow fell across her. Her path to her car was blocked. She should have run away. But fear was now replaced with anger. She ran towards her car, and the shadow, and she ran straight into something sturdy. However, her speed worked in her favour and she merely span past and to her car. As she fumbled to open the boot, she heard a chuckle behind her.

“Nowhere to run,” the familiar gravelly voice intoned. Scarlett heard the crunch of shoe sole on cold tarmac. She finally managed to open the boot and reach in. The footsteps were right behind her now, and she felt a hand grab her by the hair. As she was pulled backwards, her hand touched wood. Her hand gripped the handle of her baseball bat and as she was flung to the ground, she let out a defiant yell and swung the bat one-handed with her good arm. She missed the shadowy figure by some margin and landed hard on the tarmac, on top of her broken arm. She screamed in agony and pure fear. The bat clanked onto the ground, landing a few inches from her. The white fog went dark as the light was blotted out by the figure towering over her. He laughed. She felt a hand yank her hair and pull her to her knees.

“Time to say good night,” the gravelly voice hissed in her ear.

Just as Scarlett expected everything to go black, she heard a different voice yelling in the distance. Then, further in the distance, the unmistakeable sound of a siren pierced the night, and the fog was illuminated with a familiar blue hue. She sensed the figure behind her stop in his tracks, his grip on her hair loosening. She dived forward and picked up the discarded baseball bat. As the sound of screeching brakes and shrill sirens filled the air, Scarlett took a deep breath, and swung the bat with all her might at the shadowy figure. With a dull thud, the bat connected and red blood arced through the blue tinged fog. Scarlett felt the nails tugging on flesh, and yanked hard to free the bat. She saw the figure turn round and face her. She screamed and raised the bat above her head, bringing it down into where the face would have been. The shadowy figure let out a blood-curdling scream and slumped down to the cold tarmac. Scarlett stood over the dark figure and spat on him. Then she raised the bat and brought it down again and again, until she felt someone grab her by the waist and pull her away, still swinging. She let the bat drop and went limp, the adrenaline finally leaving her body as she was dragged away. She felt the pain in her arm surge through her body and the last thing she saw before she blacked out was a concerned male face and the familiar high-visibility jacket of a Policeman.

When Scarlett slowly opened her eyes, she heard the familiar cry of her mother’s voice. Then she was being hugged so tightly, she could hardly breathe. She coughed, her throat and mouth completely dry. She tried to move her left arm, but felt the familiar restriction of a plaster cast and sling. She felt disorientated and tried work out where she was. She craned her neck and saw the familiar sight of a hospital ward. She saw Dom sat by her bedside, a stern look on his face. Her mother let go and allowed Scarlett to sit up. The curtains were drawn around the bed, and she could see feet coming and going in the ward around her. She had so many questions that needed answers. She tried to speak, but nothing came out. She tried again, but her mouth was so dry, her lips so cracked, that it hurt. Scarlett tried to recall the events that led her here, and it was only when she saw the bloodstained dressing gown flung over the back of another chair that a wave of fear and sadness overwhelmed her. She began to sob uncontrollably. Tears flowed down her cheeks. She barely felt her mother and brother embrace her and hold her. She closed her eyes again, and all she could see was Andy’s contorted face, and the sight of blood arcing through the air.

Halloween Thriller – Part 1

Scarlett checked her blind spot and pulled off. She knew she had to make good time before it got dark as there was dense fog forecasted. She waved her hand in the general direction of where her mother stood in the lounge window, a concerned look on her face as she watched her only daughter drive off to meet a stranger she met on the internet.

They had already had the conversation about staying safe, and the lecture about meeting strangers off the internet, most of which Scarlett had tuned out while she wondered which underwear to take – white to symbolise the virginity of their relationship, or black to symbolise her slutty side? – and so she couldn’t actually remember what her mum had said, except for the same old tired cliché –

“It wasn’t like this when I met your father. No, he had to ask me out in person,” she opined. “Then he had to get the approval of my dad – a hard man to please was your Granddad.”

Scarlett yawned, purely coincidentally, but it just served to antagonise her mum.

“You may well yawn, but there was nowhere near as many rapes and murders back then. You knew who you were dealing with before you got anywhere sleeping with them.”

“I bet there was, mum,” Scarlett countered. “But because of the way things were back then, you just didn’t hear about it if it didn’t make the news.” With a feeling of victory, she stood up from the kitchen table, took her empty coffee cup to the sink and rinsed it out under the tap. She stared fixedly out through the kitchen window and watched Stella, their little Staffordshire Bull Terrier squat for a wee on the lawn. She sensed her mum behind her and after a moment of tension, she relaxed as she felt a hand rest on her shoulder.

“I’m just worried about my only daughter,” her mum sighed. Scarlett turned the tap off, rested the mug on the drainer and turned round to face her mum. Without a word she held her arms out and the two women hugged it out.

Now, as Scarlett drove away from home, she felt nothing but excitement. She’d never met Andy in person, but they had spoken on the phone plenty, sent many messages – both conversational and sexy – and she felt that she knew him well enough to see what he was like in person. Because of the distance between them and the busy schedule they both seemed to have, organising this meeting had taken some perseverance. And now, here she was, driving nearly one hundred miles to a hotel in the Cotswolds, while Andy was coming a fair distance from Liverpool. He had insisted on a neutral location and was paying for the hotel himself, which Scarlett was most impressed with. The majority of blokes she’d chatted to on the web only wanted to see her tits and meet for a fuck in the woods, which is why she’d decided to look further afield for the man of her dreams. Whether Andy was that man, she didn’t yet know, but he hadn’t yet sent her an unsolicited dick pic, which was refreshing. As she approached the motorway, she happened to glance at the fuel gauge and saw there was half a tank left, more than enough to reach her destination. She was well prepared for any eventuality motoring-wise, thanks to her big brother, Dominic. He was the protective male figure she’d never experienced due to her father’s death just six months after she was born. Dominic was the one who had threatened to castrate Bobby Jones when he groped her at the school disco, he was also the one who picked her up in town when her friend Sharon had puked in a taxi, causing them to be chucked out at two in the morning after a night out. Thanks to Dom, the boot contained a torch with spare batteries, a large warm blanket, and a baseball bat with nails embedded in it. She had assured him she wouldn’t need the latter, but he had forcefully insisted.

As she headed along the motorway, the stereo turned up loud while she sang along to the Spice Girls greatest hits – part of her childhood she had never let go despite all outward appearances – Scarlett looked forward to finally being face to face with Andy. His Liverpool accent sent her wild, it wasn’t the harsh high-pitched Scouse accent, more the soft gentle John Lennon-esque accent. Something different to the slow, lumbering West Country accent she was used to hearing every day. She made a conscious effort to keep the telltale burr out of her voice, for fear of sounding thick and country-bumpkin-like, and had been mortified one day when Andy had picked it up. He told her it was cute, and didn’t make her sound thick, but Scarlett hated it.

The traffic started to build up as the Friday night rush hour took effect. Rather than clear road ahead, Scarlett was boxed in on all sides by cars, trucks and lorries all desperate to get to wherever they were going. She found herself stuck behind a big lorry and tried to edge out into the middle lane, but nobody would yield the space to let her in. Her indicator blinked furiously, as Scarlett peered through her wing mirror for a gap to squeeze into. The sun was now fading away behind the cloud, and all around, cars were putting their lights on to illuminate the murkiness. She wasn’t the most confident driver, and this was going to be the furthest she had ever driven alone, and so she began to get a little agitated. She gave up trying to jostle for position and sat in the slow lane, following the lorry at an agonising pace. To try and take her mind off the situation, she tried ringing Andy to see how he was getting along with his journey. The Spice Girls were muted and the car filled with the sound of a dialling tone. It rang and rang. No answer. Then she heard Andy’s voice loud and clear, asking her to leave a message and he’d get back to her. Scarlett felt disappointed and rather than leave a message, she ended the call and sighed.

It was dark by the time she arrived at the hotel. She sat in her car in the car park, right beneath a lamp post. Her immediate surroundings were illuminated, and she could see the fog begin to roll in. She looked around for signs of Andy. She couldn’t remember what car he said he drove, so every time a set of car lights slowed down as if to turn into the car park, Scarlett’s heartbeat increased, along with her hopes, only to slow again as the lights moved off. Eventually, after what felt like hours, a pair of headlights pulled on to the car park and a car pulled up next to her. Scarlett turned, casually, and her face lit up as she saw Andy smiling and waving at her. His hair was slicked back off his face, his beard recently trimmed – at Scarlett’s request – and his glasses perched on his nose. He turned off his engine and opened his car door. Scarlett took a deep breath, checked herself in the rear view mirror, and opened her door. They stood bathed in the light and regarded each other with contained excitement. Andy stepped forward and Scarlett found herself in his arms, his warmth enveloping her, his chest rising and falling with each breath. Scarlett looked up into his eyes, those brown eyes of his, and smiled. Andy craned his neck and kissed her cheek. He looked a little nervous.

“Here we are,” he whispered. That accent of his sending her a little weak at the knees. Luckily, he was holding her tightly.

“Here we are,” she agreed. “It’s been a long time in the making.”

“Indeed it has,” Andy nodded. He looked like he wanted to say more, but was holding back.

“Shall we stand out here all night, or shall we go and check in?” Scarlett laughed. Andy immediately relaxed and chuckled. He nodded and let go of her. The cold air of the night was now able to get to her, and she felt a shiver. She wrapped her cardigan around herself and opened the boot of her car. She saw the baseball bat and grinned to herself, before picking up the overnight bag and lifting it out of the boot and slamming it shut. She half turned and nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw Andy stood behind her, a holdall slung over his shoulder. Together they walked over to the main entrance, Andy beside her, but half a step behind. Just as they were about to go through the door, Andy slowed his pace and stopped. He looked around the car park, a puzzled look on his face. Scarlett stopped, one hand on the door ready to push. She looked at Andy.

“You okay? Not having second thoughts are you?”

“Huh?” Andy grunted distracted.

“You’ve stopped.”

“No, no. I’m fine. I just thought I saw someone standing over by the shelter.” Andy nodded his head in the direction of what looked like a bus shelter, but was most likely for the smokers amongst the staff and guests. Scarlett took at step towards Andy and followed his gaze. There was nobody there that she could make out. Although she noticed a tiny glow on the floor, like a freshly dropped cigarette. Andy shrugged and edged past her and opened the door. He held it open for Scarlett to walk through, and she made sure he got a good look down her top as she did. Andy led them to the reception and they got booked in. Andy took the room key and Scarlett followed him along the corridors and up the stairs to their room. They stood outside room 13. Andy smirked.

“Are you superstitious?”

“Not particularly, are you?” Scarlett grinned. Andy shook his head and opened the door, standing aside to let her past. She stepped into the room and dropped her bag. The room had a large bed, a four poster affair with an oak frame. There was a large window, with long heavy curtains, a big oak wardrobe, and an oak dressing table. Oak was definitely the theme here. Scarlett ran and leapt onto the bed. She kicked off her boots and lay there, giving Andy her best ‘come hither’ look. Andy placed his holdall on the chair by the dressing table, and bent down to untie his black leather shoes. He eased his feet out, his eyes locked on Scarlett as he did, then nudged his shoes under the table. Laying on the bed, Scarlett beckoned him over with her finger and a sultry stare. Andy sauntered over and lay on the bed next to her.

“Aren’t you going to come closer?” she smiled. Andy nodded and wriggled closer, his body pressed up against her, his arm resting on her waist.

“That’s better,” she soothed him. She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. She could taste a hint of mint on his breath, and his beard gently rubbed on her chin. As they kissed, Scarlett reached for the buttons on Andy’s shirt and began nimbly to undo them one by one. Andy read the signs and tried to peel off her cardigan. To help him out, Scarlett sat up, bringing him up with her, and they were soon down to her bra and his bare chest. Andy had definitely lost his inhibitions now, his eyes filled with lust and longing. Scarlett disengaged and sat back. She licked her lips, and smiled seductively. Andy was about to lean forward to kiss her again, but she put her hand up.

“Let me slip into something a little more comfortable,” she winked. Andy nodded. Scarlett slid off the bed and walked over to her bag. She bent over seductively, and turned round to see Andy staring at her with barely controlled lust. She smiled at him and picked up the bag, then headed into the bathroom. She turned on the light and closed the door behind her. She placed her bag on the toilet seat and looked at herself in the mirror. She was on fire, metaphorically speaking. She turned to her bag and undid the zip, pulling out the black underwear she had decided on for the occasion. As she undid her bra and pulled it off, there was a knock at the door. Andy called out that he would get it, and Scarlett continued to get ready to blow his mind. She heard the door open and then a soft thud, probably the door closing again. She looked at herself in the mirror again, her vivid red hair cascading in waves over her shoulders and resting on her breasts. The black negligee barely cupped the underneath of her breasts, giving her cleavage a boost that it probably didn’t need. She re-applied her lipstick and then, with a deep breath, called out.

“Ready or not, here I come!” She opened the bathroom door with a flourish and then screamed.


Donald & Michael

Donald sat in his office, the point of his tie resting in his crotch. His mother had always told him that the longer your tie, the more manly you were. All those sad losers at school that had made fun of him were just peddling fake information. When he came home crying, his mother had wiped the tears from his cheeks and patted his head. This had gone on for his entire school life, but he had just laughed off the jibes.

Now, as a grown man at the top of career, nobody made fun of his tie. He turned to his computer screen and began the lengthy process of reading his emails after returning from a golfing weekend. He scanned the subject titles for anything that indicated something even remotely interesting. He got bored very quickly, so he picked up his phone and told his secretary to bring him coffee. While he waited, he went back to the emails, but his attention span was still shorter than his finger nails. After what felt like ages, the door opened and his secretary came in with his coffee in his favourite mug – the one with the American flag on it. He stood up and placed his hand on his heart, much to the surprise of his secretary.

“Sir?” she queried.

“I’m showing respect for the flag. The flag and the country. The flag, the country, and the war veterans who fought and died for the flag.”

“But I didn’t know you were American?”

“Oh, yeah I am. Totally American. Born and bred in New York.”

“But your company biography says you were born in Guildford.”

“FAKE NEWS!” Donald yelled, causing his secretary to jump and spill coffee into the tray. “That is fake news.”

“But you wrote the biography yourself,” she said, dabbing spilt coffee with napkins.

“That’ll do,” Donald snapped, taking the cup of coffee from the tray and setting it down on a coaster. He shooed his secretary out of the room.

He was just finishing his coffee when his door opened. He looked up to see his deputy, Michael poke his head through.

“Hey, can I come in?”

Donald smiled and nodded. He liked Michael. He was friendly, warm, and did exactly as he was told. He had done a good job when he hired Michael.

“So, Donald,” Michael started before he stopped suddenly and stood bolt upright, his hand on his heart and began singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ with gusto. Donald stood up and mirrored Michael, looking at him like a proud parent looks at a child that has done something well. After he finished, Michael relaxed and approached Donald’s desk.

“That’s a great mug, boss,” he congratulated Donald.

“Thanks, Michael,” Donald grinned smugly. “Can I get you a drink?”

“I’m good, boss, thanks,” Michael shook his head.

“What can I do for you?” Donald sat down, and motioned for Michael to take the seat opposite. Michael swept forward and sat down, resting his right ankle on his left knee, exposing his rather jazzy American flag socks. Donald stood up and began singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, Michael jumped up and they both sang together.

Donald’s secretary came in with an armful of papers, placed them on the corner of Donald’s desk and left the room, shaking her head in bemusement.

Singing over, the two men sat down again and Michael explained to Donald that the Finance Director had been making some off-colour remarks about him in the country club. Donald was incensed.

“What did the son of a bitch say about me?”

“Well,” Michael hesitated. “allegedly, he was heard calling you a dumbass moron.”

“That two-faced, four eyed jerk. You can’t be a dumbass and a moron.”

“Absolutely, boss.” Michael nodded.

“Well, I’ll show him!” Donald hissed. “When is our next board meeting?”

“Friday, sir.”

“Right, you get an IQ test, and we’ll do that on Friday. And I’ll show that son of a bitch who’s a moron.”

“You got it.”

“And then we can hit that golf course Friday afternoon and he’ll be put right in his place.”

Michael stood up and shook Donald’s hand. Once Michael had left, Donald sat down and started searching the internet for IQ questions and answers.

At lunchtime, Donald and Michael met up and went to Subway. As they headed into the shop, Donald noticed the NFL logo on a poster. He stopped suddenly, and Michael accidentally bumped into him, pushing Donald forward and pressing him against the glass door, frightening a small girl who was sat with her parents inside, innocently eating a sandwich.

“What’s up boss?” Michael stood back.

“That NFL logo. Some of those guys won’t stand for our anthem. Really gets me wound up.” Donald ranted.

“Yeah, they certainly got no respect.”

“Well, I’m not going to eat in a place that supports the NFL.” Donald decided. “Let’s find somewhere else.”

“Actually, boss, I’m kind of hungry.” Michael pleaded.

“Well, you can go in then. But promise me you’ll leave before you get your sandwich?” Donald asked him.

“Sure thing. You got it!” Michael nodded. Donald smiled and watched Michael go through the door, then he went into the Pret A Manger next door. He was impressed when Michael showed up, a few minutes later, looking hungry. Donald gave him one of his own sandwiches and watched as Michael stuffed it in his mouth whole, then struggled to chew and swallow with a mouth full of salmon and cucumber sandwich.

Donald spent the rest of the afternoon looking up IQ tests on the internet and planning the downfall of the Finance Director. He was interrupted occasionally by phone calls, and eventually lost his temper and yelled at his secretary to hold all his calls for the rest of the day. Then on a trip to the toilet, he accidentally caught the end of his tie in his trouser zip without knowing. He really didn’t like it when he could hear people laughing at him behind his back, even more so when he didn’t know why they were laughing.

The Saturday Shuffle – Week 11

Another Saturday means another shuffle extravaganza is upon us. Thanks to the magic of technology, I’m actually busy doing something else right now, but here are the five tracks my phone shuffle threw up this week (not literally, of course)…

  1. Grown Ocean – The Fleet Foxes. Another of my favourite bands, the Fleet Foxes are just brilliant. This is the last track from their second album, ‘Helplessness Blues’, and it’s a treat.
  2. The World Tonight – Paul McCartney. Remember when it was the cool thing to mock Mr McCartney for ‘selling out’? Well, the Beatles Anthology thing came along and the next year, we got his ‘Flaming Pie’ album full of groovy tracks like this.
  3. Simple – Nick Harper. More of the magnificent Mr Harper. This is a simple song about simple stuff. It’s a little over-produced (I’m a sucker for his live act), but still a great song.
  4. Across The Universe – The Beatles. Carrying on with yet another brilliant song, this is one of John Lennon’s spiritual tracks written during the Rishikesh stay when they were all seeking a meaning to everything. There is a sub-standard cover version currently doing the rounds on a Samsung advert.
  5. Return To Sender – Elvis Presley. Remember the days when you had to write a letter to people in order to tell them things? Well, this is a song about writing to that special someone, only for the damned letters to come back to you, unopened. Call it unrequited love, or maybe just a crap postman…

And that is the end of that. With the start of the football season now upon us, this is the last shuffle for the time being – my Saturday afternoons will be filled with avoiding football…