A Christmas Waiting Story: the Llama’s tale.

I am a llama, currently sat on a hillside, soaking up the warmth from what’s left of the setting winter sun. It’s not unpleasurable. In the neighbouring field a few ragged old sheep graze their days away, oblivious to their impending fate. It must be one of the benefits of being a sheep: you’re permanently oblivious to what’s around the next corner.

Being a llama however requires you to be in a permanent state of alertness. It’s why our necks are so long: we’re always looking for the next opportunity, the next big deal, the next time the farmer wanders in to the neighbouring field to herd together his oblivious sheep so that they can be carted off to the nearest abattoir. If sheep had longer necks and spent more time looking up into space rather than staring down at their feet, they might be a little less oblivious, a bit more alert and more likely to survive the next visit by the machete wielding farmer.

Today’s a case in point. I’m sat here, soaking up the warmth, stretching my neck and Lo and Behold what do we have drop down from the heavens? Only a host of bloody golden guardian angels blowing their trumpets, strumming their zithers and creating a God Almighty din. The sheep – naturally knowing nothing of what is happening – continue to graze amongst the heavenly host, three of whom are gathered around a satnav. They’re clearly lost; they scratch their heads, twizzle their beards and gesticulate at each other in a bit of a temper. One of them snaps his zither in two over the back of one of his compadres. There’s a bit of a guardian angel fracas.

The sheep remain oblivious to all the commotion apart from a couple of the brighter ones who look up and run off, startled at the sight of quarrelling guardian angels wielding acoustic instruments at each other.

Me, I’m sat here in the warmth of the setting winter sun, waiting for the noise to die down. Once they come to their collective angelic senses, I’ll tell them what they want to know.

A Waiting Story: Man Bites Ref, Ref Bites Back.

I’ve been running the touch line for nearly 25 years now, sometimes romantically casting myself as the Witchita Linesman in the Glenn Campbell tradition: always searching, never finding, always hankering after a golden past when football was simpler, purer and more respectful.

Refereeing the beautiful game has to me always been an honest and honorable reputation: shedding doubt, creating certainty, judging fairly and squarely, undeterred by the bigger commercial pressures on the game and the braggadocio of the noisier neighbours whose hourly take home pay far surpasses what my father could only dream of when he was a strapping 25 year old running the lines in the old days of Franco and the Generals. In his day, the referee was simply an integral part of the game: no ref, no game it was simple as that. You could have the players, the kit, the changing rooms, the crowds, the songs and the banter: but without the man in middle, replete with black shirt, shorts and shiny whistle, there was no game. It was started by him, it was ended by him. End of.

But these days it is nowhere near as simple and my father would been dismayed to see the extent that the games arbitrators have been ridiculed by those who should know better. Neither the players (no-one expects anything from them in terms of a balanced assessment of what has or hasn’t occurred in the last 30 seconds on the pitch) nor the managers (who patrol the pitches with the monkeys of their owners on their back constantly picking the fleas and the shit out of their mohair suits) and certainly not the agents (whose pension and future families inheritance depends parasitically on their entourage’s abilities to score, fake scoring or just faking it full stop).

Tonight though was different and I like to think that had he been still alive, he would have nodded approvingly, fully appreciating the pressure I was under.

I was running the line at the second leg of the Supercup tie between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. The Atletico player Tiago was booked by my colleague, Señor Borbalan and subsequently shown the yellow card. This prompts the Atletico manager, Señor Simeone to castigate everyone in sight, pulling his hair out, shouting, screaming, gesticulating, exhorting the crowds to get behind him and his team. Señor Borbalan promptly shows him the red card and sends him to the stands.

He of course is appalled and remonstrates with anyone who cares to listen. Nothing new there. His temper rises to the occasion and in orchestrating the crowd to turn into a baying, illiterate mob behind him, he faces up to me, eyes agog, invective pouring out of his collective mouths like I had just shagged his mothers, and I then turn away from him and he hits me on the back of the head with a couple of slaps. Not fully fledged swipes or punches, just a couple of slaps. Quick fire, one after the other.

I’ve looked back at that moment on the media replay many many times. Sitting in this cell waiting for the ultimate judgement from the authorities makes me wonder what on earth came over me at that point.

I see the surprise look in my eyes, I see his sneering face. I see his glossy moustache glistening in the stadium lights; but I don’t see the hatred that arises through my guts, my heart, my liver; I don’t see the punch I throw straight at his face and the surprised look bloodily spreading down his face; I don’t hear the temporary stunned silence of the crowd as they realise that this Man in Black has had enough and in one mad moment, retaliates with enough venom to sink a whole battalion of intergalacticos. I slap him back: not once, not twice but countless times, a generation of pent up resentment and silence finding a voice.  I, my father and my colleagues have waited long enough. This was the moment when the dam broke.

After that, all is blackness. I see myself on the TV monitor kicking him several times in the stomach at the side of the pitch, but I don’t remember doing it. I see on the screen some officials dragging me off him and pinning me to the ground, but I don’t remember seeing them there. I see myself on the CCTV footage being bundled out of the stadium in the back of a police car; but I don’t remember hearing the wailing sirens or screeching tyres.

The first thing I become conscious of is the newspaper headline the next day: Man Bites Ref: Ref Bites Back. It’s an allusion to the journalistic truism that whilst dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is; and the suggestion that we men in black are nothing more than dogs in the public eye is not surprising although it is tiresome in its predictability.

The next thing I hear is Glenn Campbell’s sweet soulful voice wafting through my prison cell window and I’m reminded of my father and his constant running the lines through thick and thin, through rain and snow and through Franco and all his generals, none of whom had the audacity to slap him around the back of the head when he sent off a manager for misconduct.

And I need you more than want you,
And I want you for all time,
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.

A waiting story: how not to win the Lottery.

We were staring at the TV on Saturday, preparing for an afternoon of shouting at it, urging the forwards to step up, the backs to regroup and the referee to get a life.

We were each in the process of making a £5 wager on the first scorer and the final score. Predicting the right answers meant that one lucky soul stood to win over £5,000 that afternoon. It was a big pub and the permutations of first scorer and final score were endless.

We stared transfixed at the TV screens which were liberally installed on every wall, waiting for the match to begin and hurriedly fumbling in our pockets for the loose change we needed to make our bets.

I rummaged away in my coat pockets , increasingly stressed by the challenge of finding a few spare £1 coins and inadvertently caught sight of another TV screen hidden away on the skirting board in the corner of the pub’s public bar. It was showing something that looked uncannily like a replay of the match we were about to watch.

I made my apologies to my friends and ducked under the table we were sat at to look at the screen harder, There was no denying it: the programme on this screen was 80 minutes ahead of the rest of the pub. And indeed, probably the rest of the world as far as I could make out.

I saw the score of the game and of course the names of all the scorers as the TV show from the future continued to broadcast to its audience of one.

I knew in a flash what I needed to do so pulled myself off the floor and out from underneath the table and joined my compatriots in making their final bets. I could hardly contain myself when I placed my bet for the first scorer and the final score. They all looked at me incredulous when I made my call. Ireland to win 57-9? At Twickenham? They joshed me about it for ages until the game kicked off and within minutes Ireland were ahead.

Their faces continued to pale as the points kept being racked up on the score board and before too long, three of them were out of the bet due to naming the wrong scorer and inaccurately guessing the points tally.

I was onto a certain winner and envisaged having to spend £5000 worth of coin over night. This could have been sterling, BitCoin, Dogecoin or Legoland coin as far as I was concerned: it didn’t matter as long as 5000 of them would soon be lining my pockets.

Unfortunately though, England scored in the final seconds of the game meaning that they beat Ireland 13-10. Clearly, my TV broadcast of the future from underneath the table was more unreliable than I had expected. And instead of winning £5000, I had now lost over £300 in the hedged bets I had been frantically making until I discovered the imposter TV Channel.

So, if you want to win the Lottery and discover a secret TV channel which is giving you the numbers hours in advance of the actual draw, my advice is to ignore it and trust your instinct. Smart TVs have a lot going for them, but beaming in programmes from the future are not their strongest points.

My Zombie Story: living with acute bodily leakage.

The bleeding started with a microscopic razor cut on my chin. A tiny spot which started a trickle down onto my shirt and into the basin. It wasn’t gushing or pulsating or in any way projectile – just steady. Tissues didn’t stop it; steady pressure didn’t stop it; a cold compress didn’t stop it.

After an hour of this ever increasingly frustrating blood trickle, I dropped by the chemists and they supplied me with an aluminium sulphate stick which I applied zealously, eventually coating the whole of my face with a thin white powder as it dried. But the bleeding didn’t stop.

After 3 hours, 4 bloodied shirts and 5 entire boxes of Kleenex, I set off for the doctors, clutching a bath towel to my face. Still no pain at all – just the constant sensation of blood trickling down my chin and into my mouth.

By now I’m thinking, I must have lost a pint of blood at least. Am I feeling faint? No. Sick? No. What’s going on? No idea. No history of late onset haemophilia as far as I know. Perhaps my blood pressure is too high? Maybe. The doctor will tell me. When I see him. Which could be some time as the waiting room is full to bursting with people of all shapes and sizes and all sorts of ailments.

I’m still bleeding profusely as I strike up a conversation with a young woman whose nose has been running for over two weeks. She’s really aggravated by it but can’t identify why it’s happening. We’re joined by a young lad who has a blister which won’t stop seeping either. We joke about being extras in a zombie movie which lightens the mood but doesn’t stop the collective leakages.

We all take our turn to see the doctor who dispenses various prescriptions and as things are wont to do, we agree to meet up in a pub a few weeks later to see how we have got on.

Later that month, we three sufferers of unexplained bodily leakage meet up to swop notes on the state of play of medical appliances which prevent unsightly leakage from all bodily orifices.

The prognoses for our conditions are not encouraging. No-one as yet has yet found a way preventing acute bodily fluid seepage. If however you bleed chronically, there will be something there to help you, whether this be help groups, web sites or television programmes. If it’s really chronic, you might even be able to get into A and E at your local hospital.

But acute leakers beware: we have a long time to wait before our condition is treated with the respect it deserves. We risk becoming figures of fun in the meantime but one day our prayers for a cure for acute bodily disintegration will be answered and we will be able to hold our bloodied chins, mucous noses and weeping blisters up high.

A Waiting Story: Glass, Oakey and Me

I. I was. I. I was working. I was was I working working.
I. I was working was I. I was. Was I?
I was working working as a waiter
As a as a as a waiter in a in a
I was waiting as a worker in a cocktail bar in a
Bar cocktail working waiter was I was. I was. I.

OhforgodsakePhilipgetonwithitorshutthefuckupOhforgodsakePhilipgetonwithitorshutthefuckup

When. Met. I. When met. I. When met I you. You. I met. When. When. When. When.
I you. Picked. You. Up picked you. You. Picked. Up up up met I met I you up picked you met met met
Turned you round you turned into round thing some thing turned round new new new. When. Met. You you you. I.

OhforgodsakePhilipgetonwithitorshutthefuckupOhforgodsakePhilipgetonwithitorshutthefuckup

Don’t. You. Want. Me?

OhforgodsakePhilipgetonwithitorshutthefuckupOhforgodsakePhilipgetonwithitorshutthefuckup

I was waiting.

A Waiting Story: Michael Bublé and me

I’d suspected that Michael Bublé was a robot for a long time. There’s no human being on the planet who could move his hips with such consummate ease; who could smile with such consummate sleaze and who could breeze through a contemporary smooch song with so little effort.

Not that I had any strong feelings for him one way or another: he did what he did, I did what I did. I made no disparaging remarks about his android personality and he made no remarks about mine. But I knew we were both waiting for the day when we would.

I was about to tick off the next customer in the unusually long queue I’d managed to generate when all of a sudden there’s Bublé wafting over from the deep freezer going through his usual supermarket gyrations. Before you know it the whole queue has joined in with the shimmering and the shaking, the swooning and the faking and they’re joined by staff from the delicatessen and the baking departments. I even found myself humming a brief snatch of ‘Sway’ or ‘Swoon’ or ‘Cringe’ or whatever it was he was warbling about this time.

I was livid. How was I meant to tot up, sort out loyalty cards, offer discounts, petrol tokens, vouchers for schools, green shield stamps, sell insurance, sell holidays, sell postage stamps, eat gum, look sullen and ask customers if they want a hand with their packing if the whole bloody queue was slinkily divesting itself of all its decency against the soundtrack of Michael Bublé’s untouchable tones?

By the time he was urging the crowd to sway and dissolve back into the aisles, I’d had enough and reached over the till for the Kraftwerk. “I am the operator of my pocket calculator,” I retorted to my supervisor as she tried forcing me back to my seat. And Bublé’s my number one target.

With that, I leapt over the till, skiddaddled over to the green grocers whilst Bublé continued to pine after his long lost love in the background. He may well have all the appearances of a super smooth crooner from Seattle but he hadn’t reckoned with my terminator determination to rid the planet of artificial intelligence modules with groins the size of lunchboxes but the brains the size of peas.

I banished Bublé to his home planet in the time it took to say five a day and the supermarket readjusted rapidly, continuing to sell its trinkets which contributed to the destruction of the human race without a murmur. Every Little Helps, I thought cheerfully as I mislaid conveyor belt items, dropped coins and watched the supermarket queue lengthen as the afternoon got darker and the shadows of the checkouts stretched out over the forecourt.

A Waiting Story: Phil Oakey and me.

No, Phil you didn’t meet me in a cocktail bar working as a waitress. We bumped into each other in Sefton Park one Sunday lunchtime after I’d been waking the dog from its slumbers by trying to encourage it to jump into the lake and retrieve a large log I had lobbed in minutes earlier.

It wasn’t having any of it though. It just sat at the lakeside, staring off into the mid-distance trying to avoid my eyes. A bit like you Phil.

So, whilst I was doing the barking and yapping in an attempt to enthuse my hound, you just rode by doing a wheelie on that bike of yours, showing off as you are wont to do. Didn’t last long though did it? One look in my direction and you toppled over backwards onto the leaf slush at the edge of the lake.

Why didn’t you just ride on? Instead you tried talking at me, impressing me with your lack of knowledge of the local road system and the short cuts from A to B but which weren’t short cuts at all but just dead ends, leading us no-where but just going around in ever decreasing circles. A bit like you and me, Phil.

A cyclist you might be; a taxi driver you claimed to be; but a song writer? Never, Phil, never in a million years were you ever gonna be a song writer.

But then what do I know? I was just a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you so obviously knew nothing.

Apart from what day of the week it was, where my shoes were stored and which end of my bank account was which. Again, unlike you Phil.

You may well have lived the high life of Sheffield pop god who made it good in the city for a few years, who emigrated to the big desert on the west coast and who had a voice which melted the coldest of hearts and who led me to understand ennui: but you were hopeless when it came to managing my feelings and looking after my dog. Why was that, Phil?

You may well have known about the things that dreams are made of Phil, but more often than not, your dreams became my nightmares; your sound of the crowd became my deafening din and your love action was my cue to pack my bags and hotfoot it out of town.

I didn’t realise you’d miss me so much that you’d pester me to death with those trite song titles and effervescent bass lines just to keep my attention. So enough was enough Phil and today’s the day where I’ve looked hard at the man in the mirror and realised I’ve stopped feeling the fascination.

There – you’ve got me at it too now Phil: quoting your songs back at you whilst you lay on that slab in front of me with that knife sticking out of your chest, slightly quivering in the evening breeze.

But I’ve waited for this moment for years and have at last found peace, free from your perpetually mournful doleful eyes and lopsided haircut which used to scare my mum. No, Phil. I don’t want you any more.

A Waiting Story: the post Lou Reed party.

Started off like the rest of them, with the best of intentions. A few of us would meet around our place, we’d crack open a few bottles, eye up a few lines, hunt out the vinyl, call a few mates and fritter away our hours reminiscing where we were when we first heard Satellite of Love (under the bed covers, Radio Luxembourg) or Waiting for My Man (the Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells). We would trace his life against ours and try to remember what we were doing when Metal Machine Music assaulted our unsuspecting souls.

Soon of course it got out of hand. A row broke out about the real meaning of Perfect Day and insults started to fly. Someone made a series of gags about pop stars addictions to various types of wild sea bird and it wasn’t too long before the LPs were propping up the kitchen table and the liquid pouring out of the bottles became more viscous, along with the insults. It was only a matter of time before someone barged in to tell us to keep the noise down.

The rest of the night was rapidly forgotten, along with a lot of Lou Reed’s music, it has to said. The morning after the night before saw a few sprightly dancers move in and start some aerobic classes amongst the debris and an aspirant Andy Warhol tried daubing his name on the walls of the living room in protest.

But the moment was gone, and with it Lou Reed’s spirit of the anarchic and mundane. We won’t be having another party like that probably ever again.

My Zombie Story: Michael Jackson and me.

I stepped out of the front door, turned the key so the cats couldn’t escape and stepped out on to the pavement down the road when I noticed him.

The white socks gave it away first of all. They skipped steadily ahead of me, leading the way for the shiny patent leather shoes which weren’t too far behind. A skip, a hop and a jump and a quick stock still; then a mini pirouette and they were off up the road again, skipping, skipping, hopping but always skipping.

I put it down to a heavy night on the ale, and dismissed any fancy ideas of early morning lookalikees, second life apparitions or improbable resurrection. I walked on steadily, not looking up from the autumnal gutter of leave slush, Macdonalds wrappers and used condoms.

But in a breathtaking flash, he’d passed on beside me, in the air, throwing his trilby up and striking that victorious pose upon landing. There was no doubting it this time: Michael Jackson was back in the land of the living and he’d come to visit me to tell me everything would be alright.

I shrugged and continued my schlepping to the bus stop. Michael may well have defied death but he hadn’t stopped it raining and he would be unlikely to hold up the bus for me.

Meanwhile his cavorting was becoming a tad irritating. He was now mid- dual carriageway, moon walking for all his worth, white socks gleaming as never before. That little hiccup in the legs, his feet at odd angles, arms akimbo, mad staring look at passers by: he was at his best leaping gracefully from road side to pavement, torso jerkily cavorting in three different directions simultaneously.

There’s no getting away from him I frowned. He’s infectious, that’s what he is as I found myself stepping out in time, joining him in his Thriller routine, grimacing along with the best of the zombies who we’re joining me on their way to work.

There was the usual orderly queue waiting at the bus stop initially but before long, under Michael’s superb direction we were jazz handing like never before, rolling around in the gutter like we were possessed and on his command all leapt up fifteen feet into the air, tearing our clothes from our sodden bodies, blood streaming off our faces but dancing in cahoots with Michael as if our lives depended on it.

He disappeared as he quickly as he had appeared, no more white socks or shiny shoes to be seen anywhere. We all blinked in the sun that suddenly shone out from behind the clouds, looked at each other, disbelievingly. No one at work would believe us either but that didn’t matter. Michael was back in town.