The Sky is on Fire

7:45 AM. I’m slumbering like a wild hybernating bear when all of a sudden my subconscious ears hear the words “woah, look at that sunrise!” cascading up the stairs and into my room from below. My mother found it bewildering, so there’s a strong chance that I would too.

DSC00130 Inspired by her words, I sprung out of bed, grabbed the camera sleeping at the end of my unit, flung open the window and caught the sun dancing with the silouette of the trees.

DSC00126 The sky is on fire, people!



Returning Home With the Wrong Jacket – PART TWO

Stepping into old man Gordon’s house was like entering into a temple of zealous relief. Protected from the maelstrom of rain and wind that battered the creaky walls of his house, I wheeled around for a few seconds before sitting down on a sofa that seemed to absorb the bottom half of my body, and all of my problems. Gordon pranced around for a few minutes, meandering in and out of rooms doing things I couldn’t even imagine. My brain was fried, and I could barely string a sentence together. Gordon’s living room seemed like the only important room in the house, with every other doorway barricaded with heaps of unwashed clothes, vinyl records and other undefinable clutter. It dawned on me that this exact room was where Gordon had spent most of his days – a sleeping bag and an electric blanket lay sprawled out over the other sofa and a mountain of greasy plates and cutlery sat stacked on a small wooden table adjacent to his make-do bed. The only other noticeable items in the room were the old-school TV in the corner, a stained mirror on the wall and a cabinet full of crockery that hadn’t been used in decades. All of these items seemed to freeze in time as I sat stoned and motionless on the sofa, awaiting the perfect moment to beckon Gordon’s armoury of drugs.

‘Do you not have a bed upstairs Gordon?’, I asked, confused about Gordon’s absurd sleeping arrangements. Gordon’s head sank slightly. ‘Aye ehhh, I don’t sleep upstairs anymore, too many bad memories’. Feeling slightly shameful that I’d asked, I nodded my head briefly and proceeded to pose the question that surrounded the real reason I was there. ‘Got any pollen, Gordon?’ Without a word, Gordon whirled away into the kitchen and returned with a chipped bowl full of crumbled up pollen. ‘Thanks Gordon, I really appreciate it, honestly’, I said, trying my best to justify my unexpected presence. ‘No problem at all like, really, it’s no problem at all’, Gordon replied with a noticeable sincerity in his tone, making me feel slightly less paranoid than before. Gordon pleasantly handed me a pipe and I began to load up it’s ashy chamber with pollen. ‘Do you use that old record player over in the corner there much?’, I asked. ‘Ehhhh aye, every night’. Without another word, Gordon took a few large steps over to the record player, pressed and twisted a few buttons and nozzles, and sat down on the opposite sofa to the magnetic sound of David Gilmour’s electric guitar.

My head still spinning, I felt a blanket of nausea creep over me as I pressed the pipe up to my lips and ignited the end with a lighter. Taking more drugs while you’re high is generally a terrible idea; you seem to lose touch with your senses and drinking and smoking becomes harmless in your own mind. You could be sitting there smoking cigarette after cigarette, joint after joint, one per minute, and you wouldn’t feel the effects until long after. As the pollen buried in the pipe’s chamber began to glow a deep muddy orange, I began to inhale the thick husky pollen through the thin brass tunnel of the pipe. Usually I’d only draw smoke from a pipe for less than two seconds, but the formidable effects of the drugs I’d had earlier rendered the senses in my mouth and throat useless and I drew on for more than seven seconds, stuffing my capacious lungs with drugs to the max. An amusing dizziness cascaded down through my body as I shakily passed the pipe over to the hands of Gordon for his turn on the draw.

It wasn’t long before the room was plunged into a thicket of silver smoke and the conversation between Gordon and I descended into an animalisitc notion of trash-talk, every sentence stumbling out of our mouths and blasting off all four walls of the room before finally hitting home. The harmonious sound of Pink Floyd glided dreamily through the background of our indechiperable antics as I slowly faded away from the reality of Gordon’s lethargic chatter and slipped into a magnificent trance conducted by the incredible symphonies echoing through the room.

This is a farce. A total fucking farce. Is there anybody in there? 

My thoughts rapidly began to circulate around a few wild conspiring theories before my head sank slowly into the smooth fabric of the abyss of Gordon’s sofa. I fell asleep, totally isolated from the whispers and threats of the outside world.

I awoke only a few times throughout the night to the abrupt sound of Gordon’s brutish snoring, the loudest I’d ever heard in my entire life. His lungs and vocal cords at full throttle, his heavy breathing would gradually emancipate into an unnatural wheezing similar to that of someone frenetically sawing dark, heavy timber. I would look over to the sofa where Gordon slumbered every time I awoke and would see nothing of him except the pathetic tuft of grey hair that stuck out the top of his sleeping bag, glowing in the shine of the street lamp outside his house. At times I was convinced he wasn’t there, but once the snoring began again, I wouldn’t question his presence. The wind and rain relentlessly thrashed against the window throughout the night but it seemed somewhat feeble in comparison to the noises Gordon was producing.

A crack of light attacking the gap in Gordon’s blinds awoke me at ten o’clock in the morning. It seemed early, Gordon still wrapped up like a burrito in his cocoon of endless sheets and blankets. Apprehensive about waking him, I rose from the sofa and crept over to the door, thriving to avoid the crunchy debris scattered unpredictably across the rough carpet of the room. I pulled down delicately on the rusty handle of the front door, one millimetre a second, audaciously trying to avoid disturbing the sleeping beast. Just before the door was ready to slide away from it’s stubborn frame, Gordon’s croaky voice frighteningly emerged from the room I thought I’d seen and heard enough of for the last 24 hours.

‘That you off, Frankie?’

‘Yeah, need to get home before my parents start wondering where I am!’, I proclaimed, trying my best to sound calm and unworried by his sudden awakening.

‘Ok, ehhh, do you want a jacket?’

‘Yes, yes I would, thanks Gordon.’

I flung on the large Russian jacket that Gordon had bestowed upon me and left without another whisper.

I’m Fairly Sure My Best Friend is a Killer – PART FOUR

Jimmy initiated his final move, hounding the panic-stricken man in the face with an unrestrainable succession of lethal blows to the face. The man could only do as much as let out a silent gasp of pain and fear as any sound that dared to attempt to make it way out of the man’s mouth was only battered straight back in again by the frantic strikes to the face by Jimmy. Bemused viewers jeered and roared at the immense scene of destruction and torment that was flashing before their eyes while the the bearded man’s friends readied themselves for intervention.

All of this happened in the space of around thirty seconds, with the bearded man’s friends stepping into the fight just before Jimmy was able to gauge his eyes out. A large, bear-like gentleman with stale red hair and an Adidas tracksuit bolted across the scene of the fight and trucked Jimmy square in the face with a clumsy heavy right fist to the back of Jimmy’s head. The drugs and alcohol devoured by him earlier seemed to soak up most of the impact and pain as Jimmy appeared remarkably not phased by the momentous blow he’d just eaten to the back of his frazzled head. Needless to say, the punch delivered by the bear-like character did enough to barge Jimmy up and away from the bearded man who was struggling to inhale a breathe at this point, never mind walk. Astonished by what I had just seen, I strutted over to Jimmy, who looked adamant that it wasn’t over, and asked him if he’s alright. Evading my question, he triumphed his abuse towards the bearded man. I told you I would f#cking do you! I warned you all, fuckin’ c#nts!, he sneered. The bearded man, desperate for retribution in another round of ‘let’s see if I can lose my eyesight this time’, taunts Jimmy with the same childish phrase;

‘Faggot! Faaaaagot! You’re a faggot!’. The man was clearly lost in a bottomless pit of pain, dizziness and drunkeness but everyone in the car park at that moment still looked incredibly sober in comparison to Jimmy, who barely even knew his own name.

Jimmy, who knew he’d gotten the better of the bearded man, now did something that I can only show great respect for. It was this very action that restored my withering faith in him.

He walked away. He didn’t run, speak or even create eye contact with the gang, he just walked away in the direction of the bar entrance, saying nothing as he did. Slightly confused to why he was headed towards the entrance of the bar that had closed at least ten minutes ago, I followed him.

One of the bartenders stood eagerly at the door perplexed by the rumours of a fight he’d likely just been told about. Jimmy, who had lost all touch with reality at this point, ignored the shower of abuse that was pouring over the roof from the other side of the building, and quite simply, asked the bartender (to whom he worked with) for a bottle. The bartender casually replied stating that the bar was closed and that he could no longer sell alcohol. A look of total discombobulation swept over Jimmy’s face as if he’d just been asked to dissect the meaning of the Universe.

‘You’ve had far too much to drink anyway, Jimmy’, the bartender consolidated.

Jimmy then said possibly the most self-destructing thing a man could ever say to a person who shared the same workplace as him.

‘It’s not for the alcohol! I need a bottle so I can kill every last one of those pricks ’round the corner there!,’ he exclaimed, essentially signing his own resignation form.

The bartender naturally laughed, the casual look of the bartender mysteriously looking as if he could relate to the situation Jimmy found himself in, as if he’d been in identical situations time and time again. A hideous tumour of anxiety was growing in Jimmy’s brain, haunted by the bearded man and his friends around the corner. The drugs and alcohol controlling Jimmy’s mind and body then decided to dismantle Jimmy’s job security prospects even further by bluntly asking the bartender for something even more grave than the bottle.

‘Go into the kitchen and get me a blade’, Jimmy directed, as if it was a common question asked on a daily basis.

‘A blade!?’, screeched the bar tender, taken completely off guard by the severity of Jimmy’s question. Jimmy scowled at him furiously and then began ravenously searching through his own pockets. The bar tender discretely closed the bar entrance doors, locking them comprehensively on while he did.

And  there we were, back to square one of the night – standing directionless in the freezing cold of the night under a phantom of dark grey clouds.

We began to walk away into the night, bombarded with the childlike abuse from the bearded man as we did. The man’s friends, who knew it was over having seen him beaten to a pulp on the floor of the car park, tryed their best to contain him. He continue to ring the words “Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!” through the hollow streets of the night but Jimmy, surprisingly enough, wasn’t in the least bit vexed by the man’s taunts and continued marching away from the building without a hiss. We blundered shoulder to shoulder along the pavement for five minutes before Jimmy eventually cut the silence.

‘I was ready for it’, he musked.

‘Ready for what?’, I asked.

‘I had my thumbs ready! I was seconds away from pushing my thumbs into his eyes! I could easily have blinded him!’

‘Oh yeah, right’, I said with a convincing sincerity in my voice.

I made it a temporary policy that night just to agree with everything Jimmy said in order make the journey back to my house seem like a walk to the post office rather than a hike up Everest as much as possible.

‘I just wish I had my blade on me, I would have shanked every last one of the little c#nts!’, he exclaimed.

‘I know Jimmy, I know you would’ve’, I said.

I took nothing but pleasure from the entire scene of the fight. From the verbal abuse to the physical chaos, the entire thing was a free show of horror and excitement that was like nothing I’d ever experience before in my entire life. I know, it’s a terrible thing to say given the fact that Jimmy could easily have killed someone given he had been armed with the appropriate tools. It was an eye-opening experience that gave me a deep insight into a world that I’d never seen or heard of before.

Jimmy’s rare honourable side meagerly began to shine through to me as  as we continued to trudge down the icy pavement, Jimmy persistently apologising for what he’d forced to watch. I appreciated that, but at the same time my thoughts could only tell me to thank him for the gift of an experience that he’d created for me; a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.

But it wasn’t over, for we came across a long set of stone stairs leading up to a hillside forest a couple of minutes later, to which Jimmy flew up frantically without a whisper and disappeared into the darkness. I reluctantly began ascend to the top to greet him slouched at the top with his drowsy eyes focused absolutely on the base of the ancient steps.

‘What on Earth are you doing!?’, I quizzed.

‘Shut up! We’re waiting for those wee c#nts o walk past so I can burst everywhere single one of them!’, he insisted, in a calamitous tone. ‘Just you wait, I’m going to smash every single one of those dirty little scumbags’, he continued with significant grit in his tone.’

I tried many times to tell him that the bearded man and his friends whom he’d fought earlier had left the bar in the complete opposite direction to us, but Jimmy was having none of it. We sat there silent, time dragging on for more than fifteen minutes before Jimmy’s fried brain realised that I was correct in what I had said, and was not “just trying to suck the fun out the situation”, as Jimmy had so crudely put it.

Our odyssey through the silver of the night continued for another five minutes, Jimmy wreaking of alcohol and damp car park. The night was over, but the experience had just begun. In hindsight, Jimmy made a lot of tragically poor choices that night, but any form of consequences for his actions were non-existent. By some miracle, he kept his job and in his next appearance in my presence he appeared with only minute bruises exclusive to his lower back. The only retribution he faced was waking up early afternoon the next day to a blistering hangover. As for the bearded man and his friends, I haven’t heard Jimmy mention them since the incident.

Jimmy is likely a negative influence on me and anyone he has and will ever meet throughout his life, having already exposed me to drugs and violence after only knowing me for a couple of months. But what he has given me is worth more than most other friends could ever offer me; a lifetime experience. A life experience that will grip my conscience until the day of my final breathe, one that will guide me through significant paths of my life until I eventually witness something even more striking. Although I’m fairly sure Jimmy is a killer, I will stick by him as his best friend for as long as the nights are black and my blood runs red. I am his apprentice, and he is my best friend.

How to Get Banned from Your Neighbours House

For a nineteen year old male teenager, being banned from your own local pub is probably the worst thing that can happen. I wish my goldfish had died instead. This is genuinely how I feel. ‘The Tavern’ was a big part of my life. Four nights a week after work I would scramble to the bus stop, hop on a bus, bolt to my house, throw on a shirt and any kind of cheap Christmas gift standard aftershave, and then bomb it to the tavern (all three metres next door).

Major tragedy inbound: Due to my best friend deciding to carry what he called, the ‘dankest stinky stink green’ (weed) he had ever obtained, into the pub, and then roll it inside the tiny bathroom located directly behind the bar, we both faced a permanent ban stating that we could never step through the glorious black pine doors into The Tavern ever again. Just like that, my social life was obliterated into a million small pieces and thrown to the dogs.

The Tavern was a delightful wee pub located right next door to my house – that’s right, my own neighbours have banned me from their house. Everyone in the Tavern knew everyone, it was a very diverse family of learned drinkers. The jukebox was cheap (free Mon-Tues) and the banter was as sweet as the cider. The owners even had a small dog named ‘Stella’ that would pleasantly weave in and out the vintage furniture greeting all the regulars to a belly-rub invitation and a lick on the foot. Honestly, this pub is (was) the best thing since Gangnam Style.

I later found out what type of marijuana my friend was carrying, and it turned out to be the premium ‘tangerine dream’. Research told me that this dry and crispy weed is one of the most pungent type available on the market which likely explains why the bartender scouted the toilets instantly after my friend came out. Admittedly however, after smoking the ‘dank stuff’ at a bench in the woods the same night I was banned, it did bring me an abundance of salvation which brought with it a temporary blanket of comfort (or forgetfulness) over the horrific events of the previous hour that would almost certainly hit me like a torpedo in the morning upon my awakening to a killer hangover.

That last sip of Blackthorn cider at The Tavern will stay with me for eternity. Sure, I could just go to my local Asda and buy a large plastic bottle of the stuff for a cheaper price, but the junkie-like, wholesale essence to the taste will never match the ice-cold taste of a pint of cider in the place that existed as a major component of my life for just over a year. Now the closest I’ll ever get to that beautifully varnished wooden bar is through sticking my head into the fireplace and listening eagerly to the classic jokes and fables of some of the more ‘experienced’ drinkers at The Tavern.

It wasn’t even the alcohol that most attracted me to the The Tavern. On a good night I would only be able to skirt around the region of 3-4 pints before falling into a great pit of drunkeness. To be quite honest, I’m more surprised that I didn’t get barred the night I stepped into the dangerous territory of having six pints and broke the bathroom door off it’s hinges. At least I actually had something to do with that, unlike the current reason for my ban – I never possessed the drugs nor did I try to roll them into a joint in the bathroom. But, if you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows, fair enough.

My legacy at The Tavern has now deceased and my social drinking life has entered into frantic turbulence.

‘But Frank, there are plenty of other pubs out there?’, they say. ‘Fuck off’, is what I say.