Elderly Children

The other day I laughed like I haven’t done in months…and it wasn’t from a well-crafted and intelligent political barb either, or an amusing satirical comment on Western society’s culture – or anything else that demands some level of brain activity to “get” – noit was a lot more simple and pure than all of that, but not any less meaningful. Well, maybe a little…

Anyway it was undoubtedly something silly; and it came about by me walking into a classroom, and coming across a rather strange sight – a small hunched character who couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. It was one of those moments where it takes a few seconds to take it all in and process…

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You see this kid had pushed his shoulders up, and his head down – basically eliminating his whole neck…making him look vaguely reminiscent of  both Frankenstein’s monster and a penguin with a spinal problem at the same time. To keep the shoulders in shape he was forced to waddle as he walked to maintain composure…and felt it was necessary to emit a few R2-D2 style “BOOP-BAP-BEEP”s every now and again, which (thanks to his missing front teeth) had an eerie and creepy sound to them…this was all probably necessary though,  just to remind people he was still there circling the table.

I also noted that he would occasionally outstretch his right hand slightly as if reaching for an imaginary walking stick which he had sadly misplaced…which led me to believe this was perhaps an older Frankenstein’s monster penguin model. But that was of course an assumption I am still yet to verify. Either way I felt in my heart of hearts that if I had some spare teeth lying around I wouldn’t hesitate to offer them to this bizarre yet amusing creature, he was just trying to live dammit – and seemed like a pretty nice guy.

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There was just something about the whole spectacle which made me burst out laughing, and as he inevitably began to giggle too the shoulders began to droop slowly but surely…and the beeps turned into baaps, and the baaps quickly turned into “ba-ha-ha-ha”s. Before I knew it we were both in hysterics with laughter, and so the rest of the kids in the class took the baton: copying the same character, busily circling the table with their now neckless bodies.

Such little weirdos, seriously!

But it made me think though…where do we lose this? And when…and WHY?! Because I know I still behave like this – but I’m seen largely as stupid, childish, or immature (there are other words but it’s a family show). However I do feel like if we were all a little more like this, just having fun and amusing both ourselves and each other…then life would be that little bit more enjoyable. In other words if the elderly had as much of a laugh imitating children as these kids had imitating the elderly then this world would be a lot less dreary.

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All I know is I’m writing a mental note to do the Frankenstein’s monster penguin shuffle at age 93. Don’t let me forget…okay? Even if I scream at you to get off my lawn and begin a rant about “kids these days”…make me do it.

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Simple Tips for Novel Planning (Video Request)

I’m currently working on a new novel…rather excited about it actually – I promise I’m going to come through with this one (motivation through “wooooo, you can do it!” calls would be greatly appreciated!) so it is rather bizarre that I got a wee video request asking for tips on planning out novels…

If you have any advice for myself or other writers then remember – sharing is caring! Would love to hear what has worked, and what hasn’t worked for you! 

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Wake up, and Smell the Coffee

When I was in the USA, I lived in the midtown area of Atlanta…which was lovely! I was told this was the “gay area” by someone in hushed tones, but honestly I didn’t see the problem – all I saw were friendly strangers who liked to give compliments, and some great brunch establishments! How could anyone hate that?! Certainly always put a smile on my face!

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But anyway, this was a little far to travel for some friends who lived outside of the city, so I would hop on the MARTA train and meet them half-way at Bankhead Station…then we’d drive out to some random diner, restaurant, or coffee shop for a catch up on the latest shenanigans…

One of these times stands out, and has been turning over, and over, and over in my head recently – I’m sure it won’t take a genius to work out why…

On this occasion, four of us pulled into a quiet roadside place, and piled into one of the cushioned booths to get warm. A chirpy waiter came over immediately to take our orders…we were all pretty exhausted, so there was only one obvious choice for most! “Black coffee, please!” “Black coffee for me too!” “Yeah, black coffee – thanks.” 

He nodded and smiled, as he jotted it all down – before turning to me.

“Errrmmm…” I murmured, a little unsure as I stared at the menu. “Can I have white coffee please? I don’t really like it black.”

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There was a silence. A horrible, agonising silence. 

Everyone had their eyes fixed on me, I instantly turned the brightest of reds – as if a volcano had erupted in my face, and was attempting to force its way out through my ears…I had no clue as to what crime I had committed, but I was sorry all the same. I looked desperately at the faces of my friends, hoping one of them would throw me a life-line…all they threw me were looks of complete, and utter disbelief.

“Is that supposed to like…be funny? Because its not.” cautioned the waiter,

“Erm, no…not at all – you don’t…you don…you don’t have white coffee? I mean…wha?!”

The waiter looked across to my friends, as if to say; “who is this no-good piece of shit, and why do you even hang around with him at all? Can we shoot him in the head, once my shift finishes?” I wished that I hadn’t been so choosy, I could have just said “black coffee for me too!” and all of this mysterious awkwardness could have been avoided. I wriggled, and writhed in my seat – the leather sticking to my sweaty backside, as I prayed for the ground to swallow me up whole. I gave it one last try…

“Sorry…I want a WHITE COFFEE, PLEASE!” More stares, now there were some who were shaking their head – as if I had gone too far with a bad joke…this was past the point of humiliation, doubly so as I didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on! “Black coffee…you put milk in, and it’s white coffee. What…you don’t have milk in a coffee shop?!”

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“Ohhhhhhhh!” everyone chimed together, which instantly broke the awkward deadlock of silence. But I was still completely dumb-founded, my head bobbing from person to person hoping for an explanation. They laughed (a lot), but eventually told me I had incurred a rather regrettable mistake – and that it was probably best to not repeat it again, even if it is an everyday phrase in England. Ask for a coffee with milk, or a latte…or…anything but a fucking WHITE COFFEE! Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice! Jheez!

After all this they dropped me off at the station, and I was just looking forward to getting to bed – so I could forget about how shitty a person I was without even knowing. And I was in luck! The train was right there! Everything was coming up John, after all!

Not quite…ten minutes later, and I was still sat there – the train hadn’t moved an inch. I put my phone away, after all it was all full of white coffee jokes from the friends I had just left. I glanced to my left, and did a double take as I caught sight of some commotion in the opposite carriage…I moved for a better view, maybe this was the reason that…oh Jesus…fucking hell… 

There was a black man, lying there lifeless – with a puddle of blood around him. There were policeman murmuring into their radios, and a paramedic still desperately trying in vain to save the poor man…with blood all the way from his hands, to his elbows. I couldn’t make out much more than that.

I held my head in my hands, tears began to swell, as I began to struggle to breathe. I looked up at everyone else in my train carriage, I watched for their reactions which were basically just to glance over shrug, and go back to their phones, their books, their whatever else. “Babe, some guy’s dead. So I’ll be late.” I heard someone announce in a bored tone.

So wait…a man dies in a bloody fashion, and no one bats an eyelid? But I mistakenly use the wrong phrase when talking about a cup of coffee, and everyone loses their minds? Something’s wrong there, surely.

You see…I didn’t link the two like this till recently, they were just separate events in my head. But the two are unequivocally intertwined, I see that now.

We can’t just stress, and worry about words…and being “politically correct” or appearing to be a person of true compassion. REAL equality comes about with REAL action. Not just talking the talk. All of the horrendous news stories we have seen laid bare recently, SHOULD be sparking something inside of you…and that something shouldn’t be disdain for well meaning people like Benedict Cumberbatch…but more horror for corrupt, or racist individuals.

Please, don’t just look away – wake up, and smell the coffee – BE the change. 

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Bustin’ a Nut

Forgive me for venting, but don’t you think nuts get unfairly branded negatively just about everywhere you turn? I’m not sure who decided on the marketing decision to use nuts as a frame of reference for just about everything that isn’t wonderful in the world…but whoever it was has totally ruined the good nut name for generations since, and I for one think it’s not right.

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This is how much it upsets me (approximately).

Everywhere a nut dares to venture in the world it has to face horrendous stereotypes…typecast automatically before anyone can even get to know it. That’s largely because the n word has been stretched and contorted out of all reality, and transformed into something that it doesn’t resemble at all…here are just a few unfortunate but all too real examples:

That guy licking his dog’s leash looks like a nutter – let’s cross the road.”

– when detailing a possibly mentally ill man, and his infatuation with an inanimate object.

He thought he had came back from the dead to spread Noah’s message. He was completely off his nut.”

– when gossiping about a friend’s recent revelatory adventure whilst in the throes of an opiate high.

Urgh, this disgusting salad has a nutty taste…let’s go get a burger instead.”

– when blaming nuts for the overall dissatisfaction you have with your grossly unfulfilling healthy choice.

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Aragon is absolutely sick of it.

But you see it shouldn’t be this way, and we can be the change. After all nuts can be your friend, if you would only look past all of the false tall tales and into your heart. They can be great sources of protein, and from my personal experience are great listeners. They’re also rich in antioxidants, and have a number of other uses; such as something to throw off people who get too close to your picnic, a last alternative to have with beer if the world runs out of salty/cheesy snacks, and a whole host of chat up lines – such as “you remind me of a walnut, because you have a brain and I want to eat it.”

With all these plus points it’s an absolute insult that they remain slandered at every opportunity…so what are you waiting for? Get out there and reclaim nuts for all of their positive traits! Don’t let a few bad apples ruin it for the rest of them…

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For the record she loves nuts.

…and if you really have to hate on a certain group, make it apples. They don’t keep the doctor away at all – just ask Snow White. 

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Saunas, and Snowballs

I’m not such a confident guy, which may shock you to hear. Or perhaps not if you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos, considered how I may come off around normal people – and then put two and two together. If that means you, then well done – you cracked the DaJohnvi Code! Congratulations!

Apologies but there’s no formal prize as such – my budget is tight – but feel free to create your own certificate on Microsoft Paint, and then put it up on your fridge for everyone to see. I recommend using a nice font so people know it’s real and not just some bogus accolade made up on some rambling article in the darkest depths of the internet. They’re the worst, and I doubt anyone will want to see it in a job interview…I mean you never know…but in this case – yeah actually, we know.

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What am I even talking about?! Oh yeah…so confidence, yeah – it’s a little low but I’m getting better. However I must say I’m certainly nowhere near the narcissistic extrovert level I feel is necessary to  prosper in the world these days. I’m definitely not the type to jump out of a plane (unless it’s on fire and there’s a giant marshmallow at the bottom), or tease sharks with promises of cocktail sausages by running through their homes on a spontaneous skinny dipping spree, or…well, come to think of it I wouldn’t even mention it if the waiter gave me the wrong order at a restaurant. I’d just sit there and knuckle down like a prison lifer…shoveling the wretched artichoke and beetroot paella down my throat, pretending everything is fine and that the cheese smothered chicken with extra bacon didn’t sound good at all.

I’d probably even leave a tip and a nice review on their website.

So when I was in Finland a couple of years ago, it was in essence my own personal nightmare to hear of their tradition regarding saunas – which is basically to be completely nude, (or as I like to call it “making close-friends with gravity”) and then to flee out into the arctic expanse and throw your reddened steamy body into a pile of snow. You then run back to the sauna, and repeat, repeat, repeat until you either get bored or die of frostbite.

Some may call this stupidity, the actions of a madman, that only a raving lunatic would act in such a way…and yes I would be prone to agree. But I also think it takes a special brand of confidence to delve into such an act willy-nilly; and I also think it is rather self-evident that you need true metaphorical balls to put your actual balls in such obvious danger. And I’m afraid to note I don’t have those – the metaphorical ones I mean.

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“But it’s the culture…you should at least try it once, just to be polite!” Or at least that’s what everyone suddenly turns and says to you when you attempt to quietly back out of such a thing. Which leaves you with only two options sadly; to take part in the hideous event after all, or to strangle those who are kicking up such a fuss and hope no one will ever find you in your igloo safe-house bunker.

So EVENTUALLY I’m in the sauna, OBVIOUSLY. Looking at my feet as it’s the least threatening portion of nudity on display; breathing in and out – whilst wondering if its okay to be filling my lungs with the greasy sweat vapor of such a large group of strangers. I mean won’t it make my breath smell like an armpit? And another person’s armpit at that…surely that can’t be good…right? And wait, will I have to use deodorant as mouthwash from now on?! So many vital questions, and yet no one to ask…

But my important thoughts are interrupted when a rather dangly man stands up and gestures to me as if to say “it’s time”. He’s middle aged…forty something, rather short and with an admirable beer belly – I wouldn’t have known it by looking at him, but the man was a pro at the whole procedure. You see, the stairs were freezing in comparison to the dense heat of the sauna, but he wasted absolutely no time complaining and zipped up with lightning speed…meanwhile I followed after him, attempting to forget the flashes of bum hole hair I had just witnessed against my will.

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He jammed open the heavy door to the icy tundra…as a shiver ran all through my body – it wasn’t exactly surprising to experience how uncomfortable it was to be fully naked in the arctic circle, where it is regularly -50ish…but it did make me wonder even more why this cultural practice was even a thing at all. “5, 4…” he began without warning, whilst readying himself for his jump and encouraging me to do the same, “…3, 2…” I could see the eagerness in his eyes, but I could also feel the unwillingness of any part of myself to go through such extreme pain…“1, GOAAAAHHH!” 

He leaped, I didn’t. Instead I stood there glued to the spot, staring down at this balding starfish, and his wide gaping butt crack. His head turned to look for me, holding an expression tarnished by my betrayal. I put this to the back of my mind, and darted back down the stairs…slipping in my hurry and slamming my nude body rather clumsily across solid unforgiving concrete. Which yeah, served me right I suppose. 

And although I ended up with a bruised left buttock, and that fella didn’t ever really talk to me properly again after my Judas moment…as far as I know I can still have children at some point which I feel would have been under a lot of scrutiny had I went ahead with Operation Ice Testes-test. So you know what? I feel pretty confident I made the right decision, and that’s good enough for me.

But for what it’s worth, sorry Csaba! I’ll do it next time…promise!

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KIDS ARE WEIRDOS!

A spot of unfortunate toilet trouble ended up in me coming to one pretty solid conclusion…that kids are weird, and there’s no two ways around it! I mean what would you have done in this situation I found myself in…

Every day is another lesson in straight up strangeness. I swear. 

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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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!

The Mission from God.

I have been dwelling on my early teenage years recently – it’s funny because at that point in your life, it could be argued there is not too much greater thought going on! It’s very “I want this!’ and “I hate this!”, possibly with a sprinkle of “this is shit!” But something is happening, you are blossoming into whatever you will be in later life…it’s not clear then, but it is obvious when you look back and connect the dots…I look back and I see, a shy spotty kid, with goofy teeth and braces…whose biggest concern was whether some moron at school would rhyme my surname Taggart, with faggot.

The usual teenage insecurity and self-consciousness I had then, was buried deep down never to be looked at – never to be examined for fear someone might think I was weak. It is only now that I have started being able to channel that into my writing to create humour. It’s about fucking time! Now I am thankful for every situation, good or bad – because there is always a story, always something positive that can be drawn, even in the darkest of times. And that’s a lovely thing.

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Continue reading “The Mission from God.”