The Rocking Chair Theory

Sometimes you see something and it sparks a whole chain of thought almost immediately…often it’s in things you don’t expect, and from places you wouldn’t have guessed – but despite this it feels central to your life in some way…as if it has always been a part of you, even if you hadn’t realized it before. I mean…if it wasn’t, why would you suddenly feel so strongly about it?

Safe Life

Anyway, that’s how I felt today when I stumbled across this photograph and caption on the Humans of New York Facebook page…

And no, settle down…it wasn’t because I saw the bit about STDs. It was just because I realized that despite also being quite a cautious person I am forever attempting to push myself free from those “hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t” shackles so that I can hopefully live a life well lived, rather than a one full of safe regret instead…

Mind I’m not calling this fella a square because he hasn’t ever had a battle with chlamydia…there’s every cause for congratulations in that respect – however it did sadden me that his words have such a final tone to them…even though I imagine his life is far from over…I mean, there’s still plenty of time for him to volunteer in Africa, develop a drinking problem, become addicted to crystal meth, and/or blow his  life savings on cocaine fueled hookers. So why the negativity? Stop wasting time, and get on with it! 

Seriously though…people often say things like: “that’s something to tell the grandchildren!” when they do something out of the ordinary, or have an experience that is half-way interesting…and I suppose it’s this miserable fear of sitting in a rocking chair at 80 years old with nothing interesting to say that motivates me to push on and fill my life’s tapestry with weird and wonderful stuff! You only get one life to live, and all that lark…right? And I don’t want my most thrilling tale to be something about how milk and eggs used to be a lot cheaper, “back in my day…” as I slurp on soup, and fill a plastic bag with pee…

With that said being a cautious person is not entirely a bad thing, and you certainly shouldn’t relinquish control completely, that could prove to be disastrous! In fact, it actually reminds me of a situation a few years back where I found myself cornered in a Sunderland bar in the early hours of the morning – you see a possibly (definitely) psychotic football hooligan had taken an interest in me and wouldn’t let me go…he was too engrossed in his life story, which included a penchant for stabbing police officers in the neck with broken plastic pens during riots – and a claim that he will never stop doing heroin because it is “too fucking great to stop”. And whilst I must concede his sounded like a very interesting life to live – this is perhaps not my suggestion with this rambled post.

I would in actual fact suggest a person can still live a wonderful life even without stabbings, and heroin. I know, a controversial view – but I’m somewhat of a radical I guess! 

All it takes is simply loosening your grip on the “what ifs?” every so often…letting your guard down to different experiences, and occasionally pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. After all it is here where true rocking chair memories are made…

So why not get started today?

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Adult Movies and Angry Stares

I think as an eternally awkward and embarrassed individual certain scenarios are made doubly worse and triply…trebly…erm – errrr…three times as dramatic as they should be. Phew, that was an ordeal in itself! 

But I have somewhat come to terms with this fact and now consider myself to be a somewhat fully functioning nervous wreck, as opposed to a few years ago where I was a full time rocking chair enthusiast…

Sponge Crazy GIF

That doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly a cool cucumber, reminiscent of Jude Law in his prime (before his hair receded and he started looking like a half peeled potato). You see, I don’t particularly have a strut, and my smile to strangers is still weirdly forced – but I no longer poo my pants at the prospect of talking to someone working in a supermarket. Which is sort of like a victory…in my own strange way…well, it saves money on new clothes anyways – which is practically the same thing.

But on a recent flight I found myself resorting to old habits…as the nerve-racked Mr. Hyde-side of my being crept uneasily back into my life, stammering and sweating with every embarrassed step. You see I was on a long-haul flight just a couple of days ago, and was the reddened meat of a Chinese grandmother sandwich…we had nodded, and smiled to each other – and had even exchanged some muddled pleasantries before growing suitably bored and reaching for our respective sets of headphones. (The internationally known sign for “don’t talk to me please.”)

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I began to look through the selection of films, hoping to catch sight of a new-ish one I’d missed the first time around. There were a few that stood out; a serious looking one with James Franco and Jonah Hill, a thriller with Jake Gyllenhaal, and…the newest Spongebob Squarepants movie – all promised to offer some entertainment, and an opportunity to put a dent in the horrendous thirteen hour flight time. I then decided that I would keep these three in reserve, and would only start to watch them when life suddenly didn’t feel like living…until then I would watch some funnily bad films, whilst I still have the energy to put up with them. Strange logic, but made sense at the time. 

So on went a low budget movie picture about a serial killer…can’t recall the name but after ten minutes some poor lady was being strung up in ropes as she screamed and begged for mercy – it was brutal. Unfortunately this opinion hadn’t escaped the grandma buns on either side…who were now staring at me as if I was the crazy killer myself…I mean, the scene had me uncomfortable, but the looks had made it unbearable: as if they were saying “ahhh, so this is the sick shit you’re into then, huh? I wish I had never smiled and said hello now…I retract them both from our shared history books.” 

Kanye Judging GIF

Anyway, the humiliation and embarrassment took over and so off it went – it was a terrible movie in the first place so nothing lost, right? Instead I searched for something else to fill the silence and put on a rather unsuspecting drama of some sort…which opened with a gratuitous sex scene – naturally. But surprise-surprise they weren’t fond of that either, and both began to swivel their heads, and tut louder than I had ever heard anyone tut. “Hmmm-mmm, oh” they began to murmur…but any fool could have worked out what they were really trying to say…

“So this is the sick shit you’re into, is it? That’s the check list for any movie you watch; violence, gore, and overly dramatic and cringeworthy sex scenes? Can’t you just watch fucking Toy Story like a normal human?! You make me sick – and after all we’ve been through as well…urgh.”

So I zapped off that as well; I had got the message loud and clear. There was something nice about staring at the blank black screen after the whole palava – there was to be no judgement, which felt good. I then pulled out the book I’m currently reading (W.H. Davies’: ‘The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp) and flicked through its pages until the grandma bread on either side of me slipped away into unconsciousness…about three minutes later thankfully. 

Grandma GIF

I was then free to watch whatever I wanted. So on went the classic: ‘Killer Penis Hostage Bastard’. It was a fun watch, I’d recommend it to anyone! Apart from my new grandmother friends of course. But shhhhh, they don’t need to know about that!

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Escaping a Braying

A friend of mine recently created a lovely little video of my hometown, Sunderland. It’s the place we both grew up in, and the place we know as “home” no matter where we are in the world. The clip mainly follows through the countryside and coastal areas of the city- rather than the inner-city terraces that I grew up in – but I found it charming all the same, and it soon had me reminiscing of my past life there, and the many friends and memories I still deeply treasure to this day…

Feels GIF

Mind, that’s not to say that life there is always smooth sailing! And I think this story from the childhood archives should prove that! But you know what? You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, and the good with the bad – and always, always make sure you laugh at the negatives later…

I’m going to stop my rambling and just get on with it, so without further adieu, here it is; ‘Escaping a Braying’:

          Every Wednesday without fail was “Mamoo and Grandar” day. So on days off we’d be there from morning to night, but if it was school term time then we’d have to wait for the bell to go…and it was only then that we could make our way to their home, and their sofa. You’d desperately want to be the first one there to get a proper seat, and dibs on the stuff we weren’t normally allowed; the stuff that rots your teeth and makes you fat – the stuff that other kids had in their lunchboxes every day – you see that’s the kind of stuff that was in Grandar’s biscuit tin. 

It was our little haven, just a few rooms that offered so much. You could have sugar in your tea as long as you kept it a secret, and if there wasn’t anything on the television Grandar would always have old cowboy films he was keen to show us…we could take or leave them usually, but he added a whole new dimension; giving running comedic commentary, and repeating the dramatic lines in even more dramatic voices…“DYAAAA FEEL LUCK-EE, WELL DOOYA – PUNK?!” He was, and still is – the funniest man alive, so sometimes I’d laugh so much at his little routines that I’d spill things on the floor – but it was never a big deal: “these things happen” they’d say. And Buster would probably eat it right up anyway.

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Eventually my Mother or Father would pick us up, and then we’d moan and ask to stay longer – so sometimes they’d sit to have a cup of tea and ask them how’s it going, but sometimes they wouldn’t. As we drove away we’d turn back and Mamoo would be waving us goodbye,  and she’d keep waving and waving until we couldn’t see her anymore. Mamoo is what we called my grandma, although we didn’t ever call her grandma unless we were talking to other people outside of the family…friends at school and others like that who would demand an explanation…it was just more bother than it was worth, so many why why whys and it always came across as weird for some reason. But to my siblings and I, she was undoubtedly Mamoo. Which is pronounced “Ma-maw” by the way…a baby’s mis-pronunciation that stuck forever.

 I remember one of the Mamoo and Grandar days more clearly than any other. I was walking over there, and was already late – probably detention for something that didn’t even really matter; laughing with friends, talking in class, not doing homework – something stupid,  that somehow  translates to a heinous crime at school. I was so late that all the other kids had cleared out from the streets and were nowhere to be seen; I was happy about this as I had to pass by another school to get to Mamoo and Grandar’s house and they didn’t take too kindly to St. Aidan’s lads, or Bent Aidan’s as they fondly referred to us as thanks to our all-male make up. Problem was there was no hiding my allegiance to this suspected homosexual club as the uniform marked me out…in black, white, and the gold stripes of my tie.

Anyway, I was late so hopefully nothing would happen this time arou-

“YA FUKEN BENDER!! OI…OI…OI, YA FUKEN BENDERR! OI!”

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Spoke too soon. There were three or four voices behind me, but I didn’t turn to look – all I knew was that they were advancing quickly, but some way away yet. “HEW! HEWWW! SCUSE ME?!” One of them suddenly remembered his manners, but I guessed that it wouldn’t change the possibility of him booting me in the face with his Rockport boots. “OI YA FUKEN BENDERR MAN!!” It was the same voice, but with a significant change in tactic. I hurried my pace, but didn’t want to run…if I ran it would be like attacks on those nature documentaries with the lions and the gazelles, running would encourage more running, and I was no runner. So I just moved a little faster, but tried to move my arms at a normal sort of speed so as not to arouse suspicion…perhaps it wouldn’t look so obvious and I’d be out of sight in no time! Or maybe if I got around a corner, then I could sprint, and just zigzag zigzag zigzag the streets in the hope of losing them? Well yeah, maybe. Maybe.

“ARNLY WANNA TALK TOOYA YA GAY FUKEN LIDL CUNT!”

I wasn’t so much in the mood for conversation, I just wanted to get to Mamoo and Grandar’s house – it was puddings in the corner day, and there’d probably be ice cream. I reached the end of the road and turned right…and started fleeing just the way I had planned – they didn’t seem to give chase, or if they did the adrenaline of sheer fear powered me beyond measure. I looped back around, and headed on a different route. When I’d caught my breath I took some time to reflect on how I could have probably taken them, and how I shouldn’t have ran – I mean, so what if they were older? I should have whipped out some karate moves, and used makeshift weapons out of things I could find around me…a brick as a hammer, a FOR SALE sign as a spear…I’d send them flying through windows – they’re lucky really, I let them off lightly. Next time they won’t be so lu-

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“WHYAYEE! LOOK HUU IT IS!! FUKEN GAY BASTAARD!” 

Shit. They were only a few feet in front of me. I span on the spot and belted away as quickly as humanely possible despite being knackered as it is. A glass bottle spun past my head and shattered on the jagged pavement – as a strong odour of cheap vodka temporarily filled the air. One of them grabbed at my shoulders with grasping heavy hands, but I shrugged free and darted across the road, not sure of where I was heading. But they were faster. I felt a heavy club to the head, not sure what – and then a boot up my behind. I pushed away in every direction, and one lost balance…falling to the floor in a pile, with a dumb expression stretched across his face. This surprised the pack temporarily, and spared me a few precious seconds…

I was still some way from Mamoo and Grandar’s. There was no way I could run all the way back without them catching up and slamming my head off a lamp post several times, or whatever took their fancy this particular day. So I made a split-second decision, to use this space for an impromptu theatrical performance…I really hoped they would enjoy the show and would refrain from heckling…

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I opened a stranger’s gate, and walked up a stranger’s pathway through a stranger’s garden, and then knocked at a stranger’s door. I heard the lads follow me, and caught a reflection in the front room’s window…they looked unsure as to what was going on. I rapped faster at the door and began Scene 1: “Maaaaammm! Maaaaam!” I knocked again, harder this time – “Daaaad! Daaaad!” Open the door man, I’ve forgot my key!” The lads were stood in the middle of the pathway with a shared puzzled look glazed over their faces. I moved to the window and tapped it while looking around the stranger’s house, it was pretty nice and well decorated – I wasn’t sure what I’d do when I met the actress playing my Mam, or the actor playing my Dad…but this was true improv, and I was out of options. “Maaaaaam, Daaaad! Can you open the door?” I shouted through the letterbox this time…catching a whiff of a scented candle as I peered in…

I felt a small rock hit my back. “FUKEN GAY BASTARD MAN, YA LUK-EE. Awer man…let’s go…” I guess he was the leader and had made a collective decision for the group.  Thank God. I carried on with my little one man play until I was sure they were out of sight…then I double checked the area before continuing on my way to Mamoo and Grandar’s house…

Puddings in the corner were waiting in the microwave, and they’d left me some gravy too. Later we had caramel Rocky bars, but I’d missed out on the ice cream. “Why were you so late?” they mused as the television flickered…

Lies GIF

“Detention” I muttered, as I stood up to fetch another cup of tea with two secret sugars.

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!