Marathon des Sables money    | 2011-12-31
And so… as 2011 comes to an end, I am faced with a large bill. Within the week, I have to pay up another £2,100 for my golden ticket into the Marathon...




Marathon des Sables money

And so… as 2011 comes to an end, I am faced with a large bill.

Within the week, I have to pay up another £2,100 for my golden ticket into the Marathon des Sables - though let us not forget that incorporated into my £3,600 is my “compulsory corpse repatriation fee”.

Of slight concern is my running compadre Doogie. It would be, I don’t know, mildly vexing if Doogie decided to pull out at this late stage in the proceedings. I’m sure that running through Sahara by myself might have its charms - but I’d rather be doing it with Doogie. (Though charm is not a word that I would normally associate with my running-mate.)

So I tried to call him up this morning. This is only the fifth day in succession that I’ve tried to make contact.

Yet again, I get hold of his answer phone.

Two hours later, he calls back.

“Hi mate,” he says. “Can’t talk now. I’m in the car.”

“Well - happy New Year, buddy!”

“Yeah, same to you, mate,” he says. “God I feel fat.”

“Sooo… Been doing much training?”

“Training?” This ghastly cackle of laughter down the phone. “It’s Christmas!”

“Ok,” I said. Only slightly concerned. “But you’re still on for this race that we’re supposed to be doing in three months?”

“Oh that thing!” he says. A sound of wonderment in his voice. A small child who has seen Santa for the first time. “Guess so - sort of. Sounds like it might be fun.”

“Dougie! Are you actually doing this thing or not?”

“Heyyyyy!” he says. “Just going through a tunnel. Back atcha!”

Me and my word…    | 2011-12-30
Four years ago, I contributed a word to a book. That’s right - one single word. I couldn’t remember contributing this one word. And I certainly couldn...




Me and my word…

Four years ago, I contributed a word to a book. That’s right - one single word.

I couldn’t remember contributing this one word.

And I certainly couldn’t remember that special one word that I gave to the author.

But this week, Christopher Baker got in touch to say that his new novel - One From Many - has just come out.

He says it worked out okay for him. Sort of. Christopher had hoped that 10,000 people would each be giving him a word, and that from these words he’d then form a rough template for his book.

As it happened, many contributors were put off by the fact that Christopher was charging them £1 each.

Not me though!

I and some 64 other people contributed one word to the book - and now rather than just getting our single word incorporated into the wodge of copy, we’ve now each got…  A WHOLE CHAPTER TO OURSELVES!

Fame! Glory! A place amongst the immortals!

Anyway - I downloaded Christopher’s book. I was intrigued to find out what word from 2007 that I’d given him.

Would it be something suitably perky? Would it even be English?

Or would it be… a made-up word.

I quickly found the chapter. It not only included a name-check for me, but also a definition of my word.

Here is the definition: 




“Proper Noun

1. Member of the band of singer Mari


But what, oh what, was the word???

Any guesses?

Reckon you’ve even heard of it??

My one word was……….


Scenario - Chapter 7    | 2011-12-29
It has been pointed out to me that Scenario needed some pepping up. Consider it pepped. Scenario, Chapter 7 “I love you,” the letter read. “I miss yo...




Scenario - Chapter 7

It has been pointed out to me that Scenario needed some pepping up. Consider it pepped.

Scenario, Chapter 7

“I love you,” the letter read. “I miss you. So much.”

God - this guy did drone on a bit! What a bleeding heart! Quite frankly: Campion wasn’t surprised she’d dumped this hair-oiled whinger! Kim just seemed to revel in blowsy self-pity.

So - she leafed through a few more letters from Kim. Yawnola! And then guess what she found? A whole heap of other letters from her boyfriends past, and these ones… well let’s just say that they were decidedly more intimate than Kim’s endless hand-wringing and decidedly more interesting. Not for these other swains a chaste kiss on the lips - No Sirreee! No - some of these bucks, Charlie for instance, had whisked Campion off to the nearest B&B the very first chance he got. (Though was that classy, Campion debated with herself? Perhaps a five-star hotel might have been more stylish.)

But anyway - the point is that Campion soon realised that though she may well have been married, she’d had scores of chaps knocking on her door and wishing to squire her around Edinburgh. And not that his kisses hadn’t been great, but frankly Kim was a boring whiner; and, all things considered, probably dead by now anway.

Then she had another thought. Because what Campion had realised is that all these guys, all this stuff that had happened to her in the past, well it was all just so much ANCIENT HISTORY. And perhaps this senile dementia that she’d been developing - well perhaps it had been a bit of a blessing. Admittedly she couldn’t remember any of her family - leastways not her children - but she also couldn’t remember a thing about these past loves. And frankly - who cared? It was gone! In the past! What did it matter?

And that’s when Campion made the connection. We’re sharks. We constantly have to keep moving forward and if we ain’t moving forward - well then we die. And does a shark start pining for some lost meal that it didn’t eat a month ago? Nooo! Sharky doesn’t care, because sharky has moved on. Does a shark start piping his eye because he’s been spurned by some sharklet beauty? Not the last time I heard. And does Mrs Shark start getting all maudlin because she hasn’t seen her kids for a while? I DON’T THINK SO - BECAUSE SHARKY HAS MOVED ON!

And so had Campion.

She scooped up all the papers, stuffed them back under the floor-boards, and shuffled back to her bed.

Then, to set things moving on, she called up The Times and placed an advert in the next day’s personal columns. It went thusly: “One-time beauty would like to fall in love all over again. If you don’t object to a nonagenarian’s kisses, then… I won’t object to showering you with my vast fortune !”

There was a chance, Campion realised, that by the next morning she might have forgotten her amazing shark insights.

So she got a black marker pen and scrawled a note to herself on the back of her hand.

“I am a shark!” she wrote, “And sharky never looks back!”

Scenario - Chapter 6    | 2012-12-28
If you’ve just come across this story - we’re now on Chapter …6 Chapter 6 Kim clapped his hand to his head. What an IDIOT! What a navel-gazing moron!...




Scenario - Chapter 6

If you’ve just come across this story - we’re now on Chapter …6

Chapter 6

Kim clapped his hand to his head. What an IDIOT! What a navel-gazing moron! What a half-witted mutant!

Why - why? - on earth was he getting so hooked up on Campion when there were scores, nay, hundreds, of lost loves out there who he could be checking out? And although Campion had definitely been a hottie when she’d been in her prime… well, let’s not beat about the bush - it was odds against that Campion, at the age of 90, was still in her prime. Kim rubbed at his false teeth. They wandered about his mouth.

I mean of course there was a CHANCE that Campion was still looking just great at 90 - but only if she’d died at least 40 years ago and had booked herself in for an appointment with a truly expert taxidermist.

But Kim might as well face facts: Campion was probably just as much of a minger as he was. And he looked at himself in the mirror. God! She couldn’t be THAT hideous?? Could she??

Besides - she’d probably lost her marbles years ago. Yeah - he could always console himself with that, and other such sour grapey thoughts.

Anyway, the point is dear reader that within a matter of minutes Kim had started to draw up a list of every woman that he’d ever fancied on earth. And I can tell you that it was quite a long list - well, stands to reason. If a guy’s lived to be a 100, then in all probability there are going to be a lot of women he’s had a crush on. You know what I mean? Flash in the pan stuff; a brief spurt of flame and lust and then all is smoke and smell (and scorched kitchen curtains).

So: Underneath the title, “Every woman who I have ever fancied”, Kim started to draw up his list. It was a long one. A very long one. And by the time he got onto the 20th page ofullscap, he was beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Yes, they were all there. Sarah with her stout legs; and Ingvild, even though she was a bit mad; and Ruth, even though she was… how to put this politely… prudish; and, of course, Chrissie (Oh, how could he have forgotten Chrissie??); and then there was Magda, with whom he’d also shared a kiss; and… and on it went.

So old Kim had nearly got to the end of this long, extensive and exhaustive list, when he suddenly - suddenly! - had a new lease of life.

You see, for a long time now, he’d always considered his daughters’ friends to be out of bounds. He’d never looked at ‘em. Not once. And of course that was an eminently sensible thing to do when he’d been in his 50s and they’d been in their twenties.

However. However… well although 30 years was quite a large age gap… the fact is that when you’re a 100 and the hottie in question is just 70… well the age gap isn’t quite so big. Well - they’ve got so much in common. They’re both pensioners, for a kicker. And they could mumble on about their pensions and their arthritis and their funeral plans - and other such things that centenarians reminisce about with their septuagenarian paramours.

Anyway - the point is this: after an hour of hard-writing, Kim had drawn up a list of 952 women who he had at one stage fancied in his life. (And, remember now, dear reader, that was only the hotties he was listing - if he’d also included the women who he’d just medium sorta fancied, then he’d have been running well into the thousands.)

Next: how to get in touch with them. Well he could have wasted a whole load of time on the internet, but seeing as he was 100, and seeing as he was loaded, he called up his old private detective buddy, Secret Steve (who did actually exist, by the way, and used to work for Kim when he was on The Sun. But that’s another story.)

“Yes?” said Secret Steve.

“It’s me,” said Kim.

“Who’s me?”

“It’s Kim. Happy Christmas.”

“Kim? Kim?” Audible scratching of head. “Oh!!! Kim! I thought you were dead!”

“No I’m not dead!” said Kim. Pettishly. “I’ve got a job for you. A big job.”

“But it’s Christmas Day!”

“I’m paying top dollar.”

“All right then. What do you want?”

Kim looked at his list. It was quite a big one. I mean 952 women? Would he really be able to see the whole lot of them? Maybe it could do with a little pruning.

“Let me get back to you in ten minutes,” said Kim.

Ten minutes later, Kim had pruned his list down to a top 50. Some pruning. Now - these women weren’t just the hotties. These were the foxes. The ones who would make your eyes pop out on stalks. Admittedly, he hadn’t met even a tenth of them… but when you’re 100, it’s best to aim high. (Though sometimes it works the other way too - that, dear reader, is the rather contrary nature of being aged.)

And so, little by little, he started to dictate the details of all these women who he’d fancied over the years. The phone-call went on for some time.

“Is that it?” said Steve.

“Yes,” said Kim. And then - just for the hell of it, he said. “Actually. I’ve got one for you. Campion’s her name. Campion Sweet. Must be about 90, by now. Came from Edinburgh way. Or maybe it was London. Haven’t seen her in 50 years.”

“Okay,” said Secret Steve. “Campion Sweet it is. So tell me - why are you contacting all these women?”

“I don’t know,” said Kim. “But I’ve just got this slight hankering to find out… to find out if they still fancy me.”

“But you’re a hundred!” said Secret Steve.

“That is very true,” said Kim. “But I also happen to be loaded.”

“They’re going to love you!” said Secret Steve.

“Precisely my thoughts.”

To be continued…

Scenario - Chapter 5    | 2011-12-27
If you have just come across this blog, then you are most welcome! You have joined us in the midst of a Christmas story. If you would like to start a...




Scenario - Chapter 5

If you have just come across this blog, then you are most welcome! You have joined us in the midst of a Christmas story. If you would like to start at the beginning, then scroll back to December 23. But for now, we are on:

Chapter 5

The age-old woman waited until all the relatives and all the hangers-on had departed the bedroom. It was early afternoon and they were going off for their Christmas lunch.

Campion climbed out of the bed and, picking up her blackthorn walking stick, went through to her dressing room - or her “boudoir” as somebody had once used to describe it. Though actually, she never sulked there. What she liked to do was sit in the armchair and gaze out of the window at the rolling open countryside. And as she stared, and as she dreamed undreamable dreams of a man who could not be kissed and could not be touched, she would brush her her silken hair.

She had not been in the dressing room for some time. The reason was that, for many years now, she had forgotten what was in there. Not just clothes, but - much more importantly: memories.

Campion knelt on the floor and flicked up the carpet. It was from India, swathed with animals.

This was the part that she was not quite sure about. She knew that there was something under the carpet. But she did not know precisely what.

Campion examined the floor-boards, her fingers tracing over the dark oak. When she looked more closely, she saw what it was that she’d been hoping to find. There was a small notch in the wood. She pushed it down slightly and the end flicked up. The plank of wood was only a couple of feet long - and hidden beneath it was a small space between the floor-boards. She placed the board on the carpet and delved into the cavity under the floor.

It did not take her long to find the jewellery box. It was handsome, made of red leather, and covered in dust. It had not been touched in years. Was this really where she’d kept her jewels?

But from the shaking of her hands, Campion had already half-guessed what was inside.

Still kneeling on the floor, she clicked the clasp. Opened the top. And there they were. Just as she had hoped.

The letters. Kim’s letters from half a lifetime ago.

She held them up to her cheek and inhaled their scent. Was there… could there be… a scent of this sprite who still stalked her heart?

Campion’s hands were shaking so much that she could barely tug the letters from their envelopes. For the truth was this: she had thought, hoped, believed that all of these letters had been long destroyed. She had read them, every one of them - over and over again. And then, with all the steely resolve that she had once used to possess, she would heave an unfathomable sigh and she would delete them. Every one of them was excised - from her head, at least, if not her heart.

And now… and now here they all were. It was like coming across a cluster of old friends who she had thought were long dead. And as she read through the the letters, they conjured up exactly the same images and emotions that they had created all those years ago. Tears, love, laughter and this overwhelming sense of sadness at what might have been.

She laughed again as she wiped away the tears. Who would have thought?? Who would have thought that, far from being deleted, these letters had merely been put into cold-storage - quietly biding their time until the day when she could act upon them?

One of Kim’s specialities had been what he used to call: the Scenario.

He would go off on these extraordinary flights of fancy, dreaming up the most far-fetched endings for how things might perhaps turn out between them. And - of course - all these scenarios were so utterly ludicrous, outrageous, that none of them had ever come true.

They were like little fairy-tales. But still… she remembered how she’d liked them.

She came across one letter. And although she could not remember it, she could feel this visceral tingle, as if knowing already of the chord that it had once struck within her.

And it wasn’t for the memory, and it wasn’t for her lost love, and she didn’t know why she was crying but suddenly she was in floods of tears for this man, this strange, bizarre creature who she had once so nearly allowed into her life.

But rather than just tell you about it, dear reader, I will show it to you. For this was the scenario that Kim once wrote to his Campion:

“A party. A birthday party in the late summer. And Campion has been both looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measure. It’s the birthday of a very good friend - Estelle is her name. And Campion knows that quite a few people are going to be there. And amongst the guests there is almost certainly going to be this guy. This guy who she first met about six years. Did she really love him? Even now, all these months afterwards, it seems like this dark dream. She can remember kisses; and drinking red wine; and lying on top of him once on a sofa in red ruby room. But… it was complicated. And life was simpler, easier, if they didn’t write, didn’t call, never once saw each other. And so she would swing, too and fro, this way and that - because of course… do we necessarily want life to be simpler and easier? Or do we want to grab, seize, everything that life has to offer?

So these were just some of the different things going through her mind as she dressed for the party. And what should she wear? A dress, a beautiful dress - blow him clean out of the water? Or maybe jeans and a  jacket? She dreamily applied her mascara, staring at herself in the mirror - did she even want to go to this party any way, because the guy was going to be there, and she may have kidded herself for the past six months that she was sooo totally over it - but the very fact that her stomach was churning, churning, meant that she was soooo totally not over it.

Easier, simpler, not to go.

But how could she not go? She has to go! She has to see this guy! Christ - this sickening churning in the stomach, and she’d believed that she was done with it all. And now she feels like this and she hasn’t even seen him yet!

So she goes, jeans, silk top, tight jacket. She looks lovely. And the moment she walks through the front door, she can feel the air being sucked from her lungs - because she knows that somewhere, somewhere in this house, is lurking: The Guy. Now he may or may not be The One. But he’s certainly the only guy on the planet who makes her feel this queasy.

At first she plays it cool. She gets a drink, a Pimms, and she goes into the main room. As she kisses the birthday girl and hands over her present, she scans the room. He’s not there.

After 15 minutes, she disengages. She goes down to the kitchen. Could he be there? But he’s not there either. She goes out to the garden. It’s cool outside, but there are a few people chatting. She has a glimpse of a man at the back - it could be him. Her heart is now drilling in her chest. She walks over to see him, she puts a smile on her face - but actually she is absolutely melting inside. Campion walks round a bush - to find a guy talking to a woman. The guy is a little like The Guy, but it is not him - and suddenly she feels this ineffable disappointment, and she realises that, more than anything else in the world, she wants to kiss The Guy.

She goes back into the house. She has cased every room. He is not there. And now the whole thing feels like this damp squib, and although people are talking to her, she has no idea what they are saying. Where is he? Will he even come?

And then… and then… Campion is getting herself another drink, when a hand slips round her waist and she can feel warm breath on her neck and a kiss on her cheek.

It’s the guy.

“Hi,” he says.

She smiles and you would not believe this but she is all but blinking back the tears she is so thrilled to see him.

“Hi,” she says.

She has been over this scene so many times - and now here she is in the moment and she can think of nothing to say.

They gaze at each other, so happy. Immediately there is that connection. She longs to kiss him.

But instead, he puts his finger to his lips, takes her hand. “Follow me”. In a trance she leaves the house and they go out to the far end of the garden. With this mesmerising man holding her hand, she would walk to the ends of the earth. She wonders what he’s going to do. But she trusts him.

They walk behind the bush at the far end. Will he kiss her? She hopes he will. But no - he pulls out a knife from his pocket. A wickedly sharp knife, the like of which she has never seen before.

“Put your arm round my waist,” he says. Then with a flick he seems to slice through the very air itself. She can see a slash of shimmering sunlight. He steps through and she follows him. And… the garden has gone. The house has gone. They’re in a public gardens. It might be Edinburgh. But the whole place is different…

“Come with me,” he says. And gradually, very gradually, she realises that they are walking through the New Town – but it is nothing like the New Town that she knows.

He takes her to a house, an opulent house. “This is our home,” he says. And inside, there is the most lavish bedroom and a fire is roaring in the hearth. He turns to her, holds her. “I love you now more than I have ever loved you.” For the first time in eight months he kisses her. She feels faint.

The love-making is just as deliriously intoxicating as she ever dreamed it would be. But after a day, two days, she asks him - “shouldn’t we be getting back?” He smiles. He kisses her - and he tells her that there is no hurry at all. For every YEAR in this ethereal new world, it is just but one single minute back home…


At the party, Estelle is  concerned. She’s trying to get all the guests together for the cake cutting. But where’s Campion? Where’s Kim? They disappeared half-an-hour ago!

The guests are all assembled outside, are about to start singing happy birthday, when, from the bottom of the garden, a couple emerge holding hands. They are dressed rather strangely - and they are not young. Does the woman… does the woman have a passing resemblance to Campion Sweet? Her skin is still lovely, but she has a trace of grey in her hair. And as for the guy… a bit like Kim, but actually more like his father. And then from behind this couple emerge seven other people, four young women and three young men - all obviously brothers and sisters.

Estelle does a double take at this old couple. She stares at their hands. They both wear matching wedding rings, made of thin white gold. The couple stand there in front of the guests, they smile and then they turn and kiss each other – still as much in love as they were when they first kissed 31 years ago.”

 To be continued… (perhaps tomorrow)

Scenario - Chapter 4    | 2011-12-26
If you are new to my short little Christmas story, it begins on December 23… for we are now on: Chapter 4 And so, watched by his indignant family, th...




Scenario - Chapter 4

If you are new to my short little Christmas story, it begins on December 23… for we are now on:

Chapter 4

And so, watched by his indignant family, the old man refused to die and instead got out of bed and shuffled over to his office.

He hadn’t been into his office for… well he couldn’t rightly remember, but anyway, it was a long time, and as he opened the door, Kim looked behind him. His entire family - extended, in-laws and hangers-on - was watching him, completely open-mouthed with amazement. Well - Kim understood. Must be mildly vexing having to waste your Christmas schlepping over to America to see the grand old man of the family die - only to find that he’d perked up and had no intention of dying any time soon. Ho-hum. It would at least give them something to talk about over the turkey.

Kim slipped on his sheepskin slippers and his dog-haired dressing-gown and eased himself into his chair. It was funny - he couldn’t remember the last time he’d sat here, but what he COULD remember was a lot of grunting and a lot of wheezing and that the whole experience had been immensely painful. But this - here, now - well it just felt like… sitting down at a desk. And generally, these things do not come that easily to 100-year-old men.

He drummed his fingers impatiently as he waited for his computer to warm up - and now it was Kim’s turn to look in amazement. Drum his fingers? He looked at them, positively rattling as they tapped at the table. Now THAT… that he had not seen in a long time either. Once upon a time… maybe 40 years ago… but now? Drumming his fingers like some agitated teenager? They look almost agile!

So - anyway, what with admiring his fingers and his general lack of pain when he sat down, Kim had all but forgotten the subject in hand - which was, of course, Campion. That extraordinary woman who, well, he shrugged… the dear old Americans had a phrase for it: Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.

He tapped in his password - well at least he was all still there up top, even if his body wasn’t what it once had been - and clicked onto Google search. And now, he hoped, it would merely be a simple matter of Googling Campion and in under one minute he would have all her contact details and then… he sniffed and looked up at the ceiling, wondering just precisely what the plan was going to be when he actually managed to track her down… but anyway… sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof… or, as his dearly departed wife Elise would have put it: we’ll jump that damn bridge when we come to it.

Campion. He luxuriated in the name. What a name! And - this was the nailer - she had a surname that was every bit as beautiful as her first name. Campion Sweet.

He tapped the words “Campion Sweet” into Google, clicked for Search, and waited for all of two seconds.

He looked. He scanned. He grimaced.

There were certainly a lot of websites advertising Campion flowers. But as for this woman, this lost love… there was nothing. Nothing!

And then he clapped his hand to his forehead. Dohhhh! Of course there was nothing! Because Campion Sweet was only about the most secretive woman he’d ever met - so why, oh why, would anything have changed about her in the last 50 years? No pictures. No websites. Nothing.

He tried one of the newspaper search-engines that he’d used to use - Highbeam. And again… he drew a blank.

Kim pulled at his hair. It stank. Could do with a wash. Okayyy, he thought to himself. I’ve got to more clever about this…

There was a sound from the door. He looked up. His grand-daughter was there… his favourite grand-daughter, actually. Her name was Ruth. “Oh, er, hi, grand-dad - would you like to join us for some Christmas, errr, turkey?”

He smiled. “Sure,” he said. “Coming soon. Be another 30 minutes.” He waved as she closed the door.

Where was he? Oh yes - he had to be more clever. So… Well he knew that Campion had two children. Unusual names, both of them. The elder one, the girl - she… she was Wilma? Wilhelmina? Mina? No - it wasn’t quite like that, but it was close.

And he had it: Willa.

And the boy… The boy was a Shakespeare character - definitely. Which one though? Have to be a romance… a romantic tragedy… Was it Romeo? His buddy Mercutio? Nope, not him either. Tybalt!

Christ what a pair! Willa and Tybalt Sweet!

Well - if he didn’t get a hit on Google with those two, then it was time to give up and go home.

He plugged the new names into Google, and… Nothing! He couldn’t believe it! Were Campion’s kids every bit as secretive as their mum? Had they joined the Mormons?

Okayyy… time to have another little think. Not that Kim was down-hearted. He’d only been looking for Campion for all of five minutes, and it had been 50 years… so there’d still be plenty of other avenues to explore.

But for the moment… what did Kim actually intend to do if he ever met up with Campion? Apart - of course - from contacting the Guinness Book of Records to see if they could chalk up an entry for the oldest codgers ever to get married.

And that was another thing… I mean Kim was pretty spry, at least for a centenarian, but he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to consummate the marriage. If they ever got married. If she was still even alive. If she still even fancied him. Or remembered him. And maybe - well he did have to face up to this fact too - there was also the possibility that time might not have been altogether so kind to Campion either. Like when he’d known her, 50 years ago, she’d have given Helen of Troy a run for her money. But, you know, Kim did have to face it that - maybe, perhaps - her looks at 90-years-old might not be quite what they’d used to be…

Hmmm… Maybe it would be better if he just left it. Just left those sleeping dogs to die. Because maybe they’d been destined never to be together in this life…

But what about the next one?

Well that all rather depended on whether you thought you were going to get another shot. Kim, agnostic bordering on atheist, leaned towards the one-shot view of life. But Campion, as far as he remembered, had been a Christian. So perhaps… if she’d been a really good Christian… she’d be on her way to heaven. And if she were in heaven, then he might well have to be there too - because if he wasn’t there, then it was going to be hell for her. Obviously.

Well… it was a view.

Kim wondered if there were any other possibilities. Maybe their spirits would turn to dust and they’d spiral together through the cosmos. Lovely, exquisite notion. Fat lot of good it was going to do him now though…

And then… he sensed his old juices flowing. Because he could sense: a scenario. A fresh new take on what might, just possibly, happen…

Kim paused to wipe his eyes. He’d used to think that this thing with Campion was like sea-sickness. But it wasn’t. It was like food-poisoning. And already, after only thinking about her for 30 minutes, all those debilitating signs were coming back. Queasiness. Sweats. And just the knowledge that the only cure was Campion’s presence and Campion’s touch.

Not possible! Surely not! He was 100 - a 100-year-old widower! He couldn’t still - STILL - be in love with her after all these years? Could he? He’d thought he was so over it, that all that stuff was just ancient history. But from the heart-burn and the way his fingers were shaking and his heart was beating, he realised that Campion was still buried as deep in his heart as she had ever been…

To be continued (tomorrow, we hope)…

Scenario - Chapter 3    | 2011-12-25
If you’re new to this blog, you’ve just arrived in the middle of a short story - though it may possibly turn into a novella, depending on how the mus...




Scenario - Chapter 3

If you’re new to this blog, you’ve just arrived in the middle of a short story - though it may possibly turn into a novella, depending on how the muse fares. Anyway - if you want to start at the beginning, then scroll back to December 23. And… Happy Christmas!

Scenario - Chapter 3

Kim. That was his name. She remembered it now. And she had liked him.

Campion surveyed the cluster of people who were still sitting at the end of her bed. She wished they’d just go away. This was the first time that she’d been lucid for - well, she couldn’t remember. And having all these people waiting for her to die wasn’t helping matters very much.

For a long time now, it had been as if her thoughts, her memories, had been cloaked with cottonwool.

And now, for the first time, it was coming back to her. Not all coming back to her. But a smidgeon. Though she had a sense… she had a sense of this vast weight of thoughts and feelings and memories just waiting to push through. Like a dam. And that first memory, of that kiss with Kim in the street, had been like this little spurt of water through the dam, and if she probed it, eased it, then that hole could grow until it might just possibly turn into a fissure; and then… a dam-burst!

Well - possibly. But actually, since the kiss was the first memory that she’d been able to recall in years, then Campion was really rather revelling in it. There’d been a guy! A guy called Kim. And he had kissed her in a street that certainly had not been anywhere near Stevenage!

For a moment she glanced down at the ring-finger of her left hand. She wore a wedding ring - silvery, thick. But funnily enough, she couldn’t remember anything about her husband. Couldn’t remember the kids - these kids that were doubtless in front of her now - and couldn’t remember the man she’d been married to for how ever many years. Maybe her husband was there too.

She surveyed the people grouped round her bed. Well… all she could think was that if one of these men WAS her husband, then she must have snapped herself up a real toy-boy.

So in all probability… that meant she was a widow. Or maybe her husband was in some other hospital and was just as gaga as she was. But anyway… why on earth was she bothering with all those possibles and these imponderables, when there was this one real, tangible nugget that she wanted to investigate.

Yes - this guy, Kim. He was tall, she remembered that. He had hair - oh very well done. She chuckled to herself. She remembered his eyes. Dark eyes into which she could have gazed for weeks on end; eyes that made her melt with desire. And a voice. She couldn’t recall the voice exactly, but she knew that she loved to hear him speak - and sometimes, when he was speaking, she would completely lose track of what he was saying, just for the sheer mesmerizing fact that she was with him and looking at him and listening to him.

Was it possible… was it possible that Kim was her husband? She sensed that it was unlikely.

Couldn’t these people just go away? What were that couple doing, whispering away in the corner? If she was going to die, she was going to die - but could they kindly leave her in peace? Or, as it happened, not quite peace. For she could sense this bat-squeak of noise come from her chambers of remembrance. She closed her eyes, allowed herself to drift wherever the current would take her… and into her vision swirled a memory of a room. A large room, with high, high ceilings and tall windows - and the colour of the room was red. Ruby red. Was it an office? Maybe it was her office - but maybe it wasn’t - but that was all so immaterial since she couldn’t even remember if she’d had a job, but the important thing anyway was the room. She could a picture a desk, some tables; and a sofa. A brown, stuffed leather sofa like you’d see in a gentleman’s club, and as soon as she saw that sofa, a prickle of goose-bumps went up her spine. Oh yes: that sofa had history.

Kim had come into the room - had come into the room with her. It was a summer’s day and she could feel the heat pulsing through the windows and the breath was so tight in her throat that she could hardly speak.

She was longing for him to kiss her. Aching for him to kiss her - and he did not. She did not know what he was thinking or feeling. He was just chatting about anything and everything except for the one thing which was uppermost in her mind: will you please, please, please kiss me.

Campion had a sense of the passing of time. For now she’s back in this red ruby room - had she ever seen such a crimson? - and this time they’re sitting at a desk, either side of the desk and drinking red wine from silver goblets. They sit either side of the desk, they gaze at each other longingly, and they talk the meaningless gush that lovers talk about when all they want to do is kiss each other - and then Kim suddenly got up, sat down next to her and kissed her.

And she remembered how she swung this way and that - the one moment longing to be kissed, the next feeling ashamed at being touched by this man… yes, she had it now… this man who was not her husband. And now that she thought of it, she could see the ring on his ring-finger, which meant that he also was married.

It had been intolerable. Aching to be kissed and yet for ever pushing him away, like some maiden aunt defending her ancient honour.

And then - was it Kim, or was it her? One of them had made a suggestion. “Why don’t we kiss for an hour?” she’d said. “We’ll see if we can just work it out of the system.”

Kim had pondered, as if weighing up some matter of consequence. “Well it’s going to be tough,” he’d said. “But I’m game if you are.”

And so… for one golden hour she had given herself up to Kim’s kisses in the red room with no curtains. At first she had sat next to him, knee to knee. But then… how could anything that have felt so right, be so wrong?… she had sat on his lap, his hands clasped about her waist and his kisses hot upon her lips and her cheeks.

And yet still she swung, this way and that. What about loving, honouring and obeying till death us do apart? Sometimes, she would break off, forcibly restrain herself. She would sip some more red wine. She would shake herself down. What WAS she thinking of? Kissing this crazy man? She should she back home, or doing whatever spousal duties were expected of her - and these certainly did not consist of kissing Kim.

And now he’d moved. He was sitting on the sofa, watching her. “Come and join me,” he’d said. And… and after he’d said something like that, she turned to mush, she joined him on the sofa and the next thing they’re kissing again and she’s lying -  LYING on top of him - and she can’t believe that she, Campion, is even actually doing this, but she is, and she’s loving it. His hands worm their way down her back. Could she… should she… Should they make love right there? Right then? God she’s only dreamed about this moment for years. And of course part of her wants to do just that; and that shrill spinster is still shrieking, “Get ye back to your husband” - and there’s another part of her that does indeed want to make love, but not here, not in the ruby red room but in a secluded hotel with cotton sheets and an entire night ahead of them.

She remembers how, as she lies on top of Kim, her hair falls down, cocooning them in this curtain of black silk. And his kisses. So soft. So beautiful.

He looks at her. He kisses her. Eyes just a few inches away. “I love you,” he says.

She can’t believe it. She barely knows this man - Kim. “No you don’t,” she says automatically.

“Yes I do,” he says. “I love you.”

And he kisses her again and it is possible, perhaps, that that kiss was even more remarkable than that first kiss on the cobbled streets - because this man, this odd, unbelievable fantasy man has said that he has loved her; and of all the many bizarre scenarios that she could have concocted for her life, THAT has to be one of the most extraordinary of the whole lot.

“Say that again,” she says.

“I love you,” he says. “Very much.”

She closes her eyes and rests her cheek next to his throat. Her ear is next to his lips. “And again.” She can hear his throat vibrate through her cheek.

“I love you.”


“I love you, I love you, I love you.”

She purred and for one single moment allowed herself to dream that… that this thing that they had could, perhaps, might, just possibly, come to something.

Tybalt turned to Willa.

“What about the Christmas dinner?” he asked. “Are we just going to forget about it?”

“No - let’s eat,” said Willa. She got up, scratching at her brother’s head. He was well over 60, but still sooo cute. “I think she’ll be fine without us for a while.”

“You know, there’s something different about her,” said Tybalt. “Something in the eyes. You can sense it.”

“And maybe you’re just starving.”

Tybalt got up. “I mean it,” he said. “She’s changed.”

“Maybe it’s that endless story of hers about true love’s kiss.”

He laughed, following Willa out of the room. “Well it worked for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty - Cinderella. Why not mum?”

To be continued tomorrow…

Scenario - Chapter 2    | 2011-12-24
This is the second little chapter of an ongoing love story that I have a mind to write - Scenario. So if you want to start at the beginning, best scr...




Scenario - Chapter 2

This is the second little chapter of an ongoing love story that I have a mind to write - Scenario. So if you want to start at the beginning, best scroll down first!

 Chapter 2

An old man lies in his bed - and he may or may not be 100, but he certainly looks it. Liver-spots, wrinkles upon wrinkles and little tufts of white hair that sprout from his head. But there is something about his eyes. They still have this spark which occasionally can flash - like a light-house in the night: all is darkness, and then, for just a few seconds, you get this dazzling beam which can scorch straight to your heart.

    He’s already had breakfast and he’s now bracing himself for the mob to arrive. The children. The grandchildren. Even the great-grandchildren. And then there are in-laws as well, like vultures as they circle him for what might be left of his fortune.

   But then… they all think he’s going to die. He wonders if he will. Well of course he’s going to die - he knows that better than anyone. He’s just wondering if he’s going to die quite as imminently as his family thinks he’s going to die.

  Because inside - he’s not feeling too bad. He can still eat. He can still drink red wine. Sometimes he’ll even play bridge in the afternoon. Yes - his marbles are still all there, though unfortunately his friends are not. They’re all dead. He’s made new friends. He’s a gregarious man. But his oldest friends, his schoolfriends, they are long gone.

  He sips some Espresso. God - does he really have to put up with his family today? Why can’t they all just go away for maybe the next month. Because it’s all right seeing them once a week but everything that needs to be said has already been said.

  Besides he’s got better things to do.


  What he does not want, when he comes to his death-bed, is to have any regrets. And that may be five years, ten years hence. Well at least a month away, the way he’s feeling.

  So… he looks back on his long life. And, well, when you’re that old… you’ve done a lot of stuff. Plenty of bad things in there. Plenty of mean things. With some erstwhile colleagues - all dead, the lot of them, all dead - it is true that he swore at them more than he should; and shafted some of them (metaphorically, that is); and maybe he could have spent more time with his children. And maybe the trip on the Trans-Siberian had not been such a good idea after all. But…

  All things considered, he didn’t regret any of that stuff. Not one single bit. No… and, for the first time that day, he started to get that queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. At first, when it had started, he actually thought he’d got cancer of some other foul disease. It wasn’t though. But it was terminal.

  No - he did have one regret. And that was the one big miss that he’d had in his life. You don’t regret doing something and then messing it up. That’s fine. That’s what life is about, going from to cock up to cock up with no loss of enthusiasm.

  No - what it is that you regret on your death-bed are the things that you didn’t do. The opportunities that you did not seize. Well - not even that, because not seizing an opportunity is galling, but is not necessarily disastrous.

  He snickered to himself: he must look completely mad, stuck in his bed giggling to himself.

  He knew full well about regret - he’d only been weighing it up for - what? - the last 50-odd years. Yada, yada, yada - and again he smiled to himself.

  Yes, he did have one very big regret, and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to grow inside him.

  For a while, years back, there had been a time when he had been completely unable to get this woman out of his head.

Besotted was not even close to it. She was like this terrible, debilitating sea-sickness. It did not matter what he was doing - whether he was driving, eating, working or reading, always, always, within a matter of minutes, he would again be thinking of her.

  Of late, things had got slightly better. Slightly. Sometimes he could go a whole hour now without thinking of her.

  And her name… her name was Campion. He’d never heard of the flower before he’d met her. But very quickly he had come to love them: small, wild, and in many colours, from pink to red to the most delicate white. In some parts of England they called it the Thunder Flower - and that was pretty damn appropriate because the moment that he first saw her, it had been the thunderbolt.

  The old man sighed. Yep. Campion. That was the biggest miss and the biggest regret of his life - and why, oh why, hadn’t he just grabbed it? Grabbed her and gone. But as it was tradition and principle and parochial middle-class values and, yes, fear of the unknown, had all stopped him, stopped them, and he’d bollocksed it Big time. Big, big time. What a disaster. What. A. Disaster.

  He remembered their first kiss. Now that was some kiss.

  Now - to put these things into perspective - he had longed to kiss this woman for some years. Five. Long, Years. She was, without doubt, the most beautiful woman that he had ever, ever seen.

  And normally, left to his own devices, he would have gone for it. He was not a man to stand on ceremony. But the circumstances had never been right. You know - all that tradition and scruples and yada yada yada, and who the hell cares about that sort of stuff when you’re a hundred?

  Anyway - so, one night, along a cobbled street, in all but darkness, they had been walking alone. And, now that he thought of it, it was the first time in five years that they had ever been alone together. All the time there had been chaperones, chaperone after chaperone, as if they both of them had known precisely what was going to happen if they’d ever been alone together.

  So he stopped on the cobbled street. He pulled her towards him. And without a word, he kissed her. It was good. She was stunned. Completely speechless.

  And a moment later, she had kissed him back.

  And to his - and indeed her - total astonishment, they realised in a matter of minutes that, these past five years, they had both been yearning for each other - and had masked their feelings beneath a stout exterior of the most robust indifference.

  But what a kiss. What a kisser. She was the perfect mix of the erotic and the sensuous.

  Even the best ever?

  Not a shadow of a doubt in his mind. She was the best ever, bar none, bar nobody.

  But what a miss.

  And he wondered, still idly musing to himself: was it to late? And again he giggled to himself. They’d have him sectioned if he didn’t look out! One hundred-years-old was not a great time to be embarking on a love affair. But why the hell not? What was he waiting for? If he did nothing at all, then in three months hence, he really would be on his death-bed and unable to do a damn thing about it. But for the moment - well… why not? The kids would probably be pissed off. The in-laws would most certainly be pissed off. Could he have cared less?

  Sprightly, and with surprising agility, he leapt out of his bed. He was going to track her down. That’s what he was going to do. Yes - he was going to track Campion down and he was going to kiss her - full on those sweet, blooming lips, and devil take the hindmost…

To be continued…

Simon Cowell: The Sex Factor - we have lift off.    | 2011-11-29
It’s surprising. Or perhaps not actually that surprising. I’ve done quite a lot of speeches - and I STILL can’t stop jigging around. I am told that I...




Simon Cowell: The Sex Factor - we have lift off.

It’s surprising. Or perhaps not actually that surprising. I’ve done quite a lot of speeches - and I STILL can’t stop jigging around. I am told that I will never be a successful politician until I can learn to stand still.

This is from the launch of Simon Cowell: The Sex Factor. There are some not bad jokes in it, actually - largely from my friend Tim “Mad Dog” Maguire.


On vaseline and other desert matters    | 2011-11-24
Vaseline: essential for all chubster long-distance runners who tend to find that buttocks and various other body parts start to chafe after about 15 ...




On vaseline and other desert matters

Vaseline: essential for all chubster long-distance runners who tend to find that buttocks and various other body parts start to chafe after about 15 miles. Nipples are especially vulnerable. At first you don’t notice much, just a light tingle - and then suddenly it really kicks in. It’s even more exciting when you get back home. That shower… Oweee! It’s like pouring acid over your essentials.

However - in the desert, things get a little more complicated. Because although the vaseline is still brilliant at lubricating, it also manages to adhere very well to thinks like, say, sand. So the rule is that if you put vaseline on, then you’ve got to be pretty sure that you’re sand-proof. Otherwise… otherwise your most sensitive parts will be sand-blasted out of existence.

Meanwhile: other exciting things about deserts that you may not know. I keep getting asked how I’m going to train for the heat. Am I going to be running round Edinburgh dressed like the Michelin man? Will I be pumping iron in the steam-room? Borrowing the university sauna for my sprint-training?

In fact… training for the heat is going to be an absolute doddle. Couldn’t be easier. Long hot baths - that’s all it needs. A book. A bottle of wine. Two hours in a piping hot bath. Now that… that is the kind of Marathon des Sables training that appeals to me.

Further news on the Doogie. He has pledged that, whatever happens, he’s going to stick with me. Doesn’t matter if I’m on my knees crawling through the desert, the Doogie will still be there, kicking me, chiding me and generally making himself useful.

Team Titanic is now officially down to two players after Chicken McMicking was told not to be such an idiot by his doctor. Well fair enough - but he’d have saved himself a grand if he’d just asked for my opinion. I’ve known the Chicken was an idiot for YEARS.

The Goat That Ran    | 2011-11-22
The Druid Challenge: one of the more extraordinary experiences of my life which left the organisers ever so slightly disappointed; and which saw me ve...




The Goat That Ran

The Druid Challenge: one of the more extraordinary experiences of my life which left the organisers ever so slightly disappointed; and which saw me veer from wild elation through to up-chucking two litres of vomit outside Swindon Station. The race is an 84-miler, effectively three marathons in three days. I had some tendonitis, but not wanting to let my race-buddy Doogie Lawson down, I decided to walk the first two days. Walking 29 miles in November is medium tough-going. Even if you’re really striding out, you’re not going to be doing much more than three mph. Day one, I was third last. The last two hours were spent walking alone in the dark through these rather creepy woods. Day two: I’m still third last. This time I was even slower - nine hours to walk 27 miles. And I had to put up with a lot of baiting from the Doogie. Day three: I’d got fed up with Doogie’s annoying chirpiness. I was fed up with my boots and blisters. And I was basically bored to the back teeth with going so slowly. So I binned my boots and put on my running shoes. On Day Three, there were three different start times. Leaving at 7am were the goats: that was me. An hour later were the likes of Doogie. “I’ll be coming to get ya!” he crowed. And at 9am, a full two hours after the goats, were the elite runners. People like Nathan, who can run 28 miles in just over three hours. They’re fast. So, 7am, Sunday morning, a bit misty, and I start off with the rest of the goats. Not feeling too bad actually - just jogging along real slow. I decided to stick with my physio’s suggestion - running five minutes, walking for one. Sip some water.  Admire the sunrise. Start running again. And it pretty soon dawns on me that I’m not doing too badly. All these other goats had actually been running for the previous two days - whereas thanks to walking the first 58-odd miles, I was still in pretty good fettle. After a mile, I had a good stretch. “Doing all right?” calls a young woman. “I’m doing just fine!” I said. A few minutes later, I’d caught up with her and explained my game-plan. “Sounds good,” she said. “Stick with it!” Ten minutes later, I’m still plodding along, gulping down my first pain-relievers. And I’ve spied number 111. He’s the front-runner. We had a brief chat as I came up to him - and then I broke him on a hill. I can’t believe it! It may only be for a short while, but for the moment, I am the front runner in The Druid. And it’s true that I’m only doing 11-minute miles. And it’s true that Nathan and the rest would be beating me out of sight if they’d started at the same time as me - but nevertheless, I see it a little like a golf handicap. So I’m entitled to every minute advantage I can get. The first check-in was after eight miles. They clapped me as I came in. This does not happen often. In fact, I can’t remember ever being applauded in to a check-in. Top up my water platypus. Eat a jelly-baby. And just as number 111 hoves into view, I dart off; didn’t want to let him get his spirits up. And on I go. Turning into a lovely day - a majestic day. I’m taking especial care over the Ridgeway’s signs. You get nil points for making a wrong turn. I sip my water. Take electrolytes. And meanwhile I’m doing some calculations in my head. So far I’ve travelled about 11 miles. And meanwhile Nathan and the rest of the elite runners have just started their race. So the question is - will I be able to beat Nathan to the finish line? Well it all kinda depends. Will Nathan be a bit knackered after his previous two marathons? Will I be able to keep up my 11-minutes miles? And maybe there was some bastard leaving with the middle-rankers who’s still got a really good marathon time in him… But who the hell cares? For the moment, I’m the front-runner! I’m the guy with 200 runners licking at my heels! It’s me who’s the path-finder, tramping over virgin paths rather than having to eat up everybody else’s mud. I chomp down more electrolytes. Glug my water. And, just for old time’s sake, I take some more Ibuprofen. Don’t know if my tendon is twingeing or not, but I’m chugging down those pain-relievers. There may be any number of reasons why I get beaten by Nathan, but pulling up because of a dodgy Achilles is not going to be one of them. The third check-point. That’s 23 miles in. I’ve taken about four hours to get there. Five miles to go to the finish. But where oh where is Nathan? Where is the rest of the pack? “Do you where the others are?” asks the chirpy check-in guy. “Ain’t got a clue!” I said, tramping off on the Ridgeway. So… five miles to go. I’ve now had six Ibuprofen in four hours - slightly more than the regulation six in 24 hours. I’ve also wolfed down all of my six gels and I’m on Doogie’s disgusting Kendal mintcake. Just towards the end of the Ridgeway near Swindon, there’s an epic sweep of green sward that rises up ahead of you. Quite a long gruelling hill - and you can bet your bottom dollar that every five minutes, I’m looking back. Where is Nathan? What’s he doing? I know he’s out there, but I just can’t see him. But I certainly know that if he sees me, he’ll be coming after me like a whippet. Him and his seven-minute miles. Pahhh! Two miles to go - on a long boring stretch of road. I’m now looking over my shoulder every two minutes. I want to be first in. But I’m also thinking, “If Nathan can beat me with a two-hour start, then good luck to him!” I devise a plan. If I see Nathan, then I’ll chuck my six-kilo pack into the ditch and I’ll sprint - hell for leather. Wouldn’t that just be an epic finish? “Not got long now,” says a couple as they walk on by. I crest a hill. No Nathan in sight. A left turn and then I’m padding into some conference hotel.

A car slows down. “Give you a lift, mate?” asks the driver. Tee-hee. It’s one of the race organisers.

And then… the unbelievable actually happens. There are the organisers. There are the punters. There’s a whole gaggle of people at the finish line applauding this stupid goat who has somehow made it first over the finish line. It was… strange. Unusual. Unbelievable! They’re actually wanting to shake my hand.

My moment in the sun lasted for all of 15 minutes before Nathan, Nathan Montague, lolloped in. What a charmer. He was pretty cool about the whole thing - but then he runs 100 miles a week and probably wins every single event that he enters.

Two hours later, having had my gloat with Doogie, I was so queasy that I had to be kicked out of the team minivan to throw up outside Swindon station.

Unfortunately, there’s only one photo of my, ahemmm, remarkable achievement. Not me breasting the line, but instead me in the company of Neil organiser.

“Oooh,” said my wife Margot. “Don’t think much of his body language.”

“I think he’s just a bit awestruck,” I said.

“Naaah,” said Doogie. “The correct adjective for Neil is disappointed. He didn’t want a goat to be first over the line - he wanted one of the tigers!”

The Druid…    | 2011-11-08
Training for the Marathon des Sables isn’t just about slogging it out at the gym. It’s also about The Fun Stuff. And I can tell you they don’t get mu...




The Druid…

Training for the Marathon des Sables isn’t just about slogging it out at the gym. It’s also about The Fun Stuff.

And I can tell you they don’t get much more fun than The Druid - 86 miles on the Ridgeway.

Coming up this weekend, actually.

Three marathons in three days.

I’d been planning on running the race.

Unfortunately, I’ve developed mild tendonitis.

“What are the chances of running this thing?” I asked Donald the physio.

“In your dreams.”

“What about if I walk it?”

“Yeah - you could probably walk it,” says Donald. “Gonna take a long time, buddy.”

Three years ago, Team Titanic started off with five members. We’re now down to about two. That’d be Me and Doug. (There is also the Chicken, but the Chicken can’t even make it round Sainsbury’s.)

Showing all the spirit you’d expect of a Marathon des Sables  team-mate, Doug has helpfully told me I’m my own.

It also looks like it might be a little wet this weekend.

So… three days of tramping through rural Oxfordshire in the rain.

From dawn to well past dusk.

By myself.

“It’ll be character-building,” said Doug. “Though personally, I don’t think you’re up to it.”

The Marathon des Sables    | 2011-11-03
I am currently in training for the Marathon des Sables. The team started off with five men, but we’re now down to two-and-a-half; the man who goes by...




The Marathon des Sables

I am currently in training for the Marathon des Sables. The team started off with five men, but we’re now down to two-and-a-half; the man who goes by the name of Chicken McMicking is looking very flaky indeed.

But we do have a good team name. A great team name. It sums up not just the sheer grandeur and majesty of the event, but also, I guess, how we think it’s all going to turn out.

Our team name is also pertinent because the race happens to coincide with a most stupendous centenary. The longest day of the run - the 50-miler - will be on April 14, 2012.

So therefore, it gives me great pleasure to announce that I will be running with… Team Titanic. Iceberg dead ahead!