Gone Fishing – a short story

Morning sunshine. Today’s the day! Just keep your cover till you get here, you’ll be fine. See you soon!

I groan at my phone, what a way to start the day. I’m barely outside the house and I’ve already tripped over the doorstep. All that’s there to light my way to the station are the lampposts, with their fuzzy glow. They look as if they’re sound asleep. I should just chuck a stone at them, that’d wake them up.

Earphones plugged into my head, I slug along the street. Maybe if I turn the volume to max it’ll keep me from going back to sleep and wandering into the road. Even in the sleep-deprived state I’m in, this turned out to be a great decision, choosing to live in this part of town. As a first year, the place to be is Cranbrook Avenue, with the uni, quite literally in my case, being in your back garden.

Here, it’s further away from uni, but overall, nicer. No vodka-drenched freshers slouching against your front-door at 2 AM because they couldn’t quite make it four doors down to their own home. No potential collisions between students on bicycles and rough, city-born bus drivers on that narrow road.

My room is upstairs, at the back of the house. It overlooks the armada-like rows of adjoining gardens that belong to our neighbours. Kids play on their swing set, abusing it as kids do, twirling the swings into a tangle and attempting to walk up the slide, while their parents hang the washing on the line. No crappy plastic washstands, with clothes dribbling on the floor, surrounded by a pool of oozing takeaway boxes for these families.

At night time, even when you can’t quite see everything, it still looks nicer than Cranbrook, that’s how good it is. And here I go, off to fucking Scarborough.

Even the grottier parts of town gain a sort of vintage charm as I get closer to the station. The crumpled mix of a Polish supermarket, second-hand electrical appliance shop and a barber’s look rather snug in the pre-dawn light.

The station looms ahead, and with it the tender mumblings of a city half-awake. Cars and buses appear from nowhere in particular, trundling past me. Once I reach the station, I yank my earphones out and I’m greeted with some echoy babble from the tannoy. How do people even understand that thing? Is it there to incoherently bark out train times, or is just there to create a bit of ambience?

The place is full of engines that throb in the air, everywhere you go they change from key to key. Christ, its cold in here. There’s only me and two or three other people here. There’s some young, skinny guy; hairy face, messy hair, chequered shirt, and a caterpillar-coloured rucksack hugging his back. He nearly gallops past me, through the iron gates and bounds onto the platform like the Andrex puppy. My phone jangles in my pocket.

Hey again. If anyone asks, just say you’re filming, like last time. Don’t screw this up, or we’re all buggered.

The phone’s bright screen makes me blink, and it dawns on me that this is really happening. I can’t back out now. I almost run to the platform, where the dark, steely blue of the train comes into full view. Its engines let out a tense hum which pounds in my head. I breathe in the sharp, cold air, mixed with the faint cloggy patches of diesel from the engine. It’s a right stinker. The mix of piercing cold air makes breathing feel sore, yet the thick diesel makes it feel as though the stench becomes lodged up my nostrils.

I splutter all over the platform, tiny drops of phlegm throw themselves down onto the grey ground. My coughs ring out all around the station, soon blending in with the engine’s growls. Swallowing whatever dignity I may have left after my sudden outburst, I swing round to check the timetable. Four minutes to go, best get on board.

Stepping into the metal beast, the engines instantly die down, changing from the ringing rumbles outside to a soft murmur. The brightly lit interior only adds to the darkness outside the windows, I wonder if this is what being inside a coffin is like?

The skinny guy from before has already claimed a seat for himself, one of those four seat sections placed in the middle of the carriage, with a table in between as well. He’s not even using that space for anything. Greedy sod. I make my way to the end of the carriage and pass a fat, balding man in a one-coloured business suit. You can see the stretch marks on his stomach as it envelops the pulled down plastic tray in front of him, like his belly is eating it.

On the tray is a laptop, opened and more awake than I am, and at his side are a collision of different-sized notebooks and folders, all swelling with thickly written papers. I collapse into my seat, instantly feeling drowsier than before. I scrunch myself up as comfortably as possible, and with a whistle, the engine wrenches itself away from the station and into the dawn.

Outside, the sky’s slowly turning blue, while all the buildings zoom past with their black outlines being illuminated. At the far end of the carriage the door yawns open and Mike strides through, his rectangular name-badge gleaming along with his face.

‘Tickets, please!’ his crisp voice cuts through my drowsiness and I jerk to attention. Even though there’s a whole stretch of carriage between us, I can smell his aftershave, potent as ever, like my mum’s whiskey fish stew. He deals with the bald guy first. He jumps when Mike bends down towards him, resulting in a crashing sound and the fluttery flop of a bunch of papers falling to the floor.

‘Tickets please, sir!’

‘Oh for God’s sake, look what’s happened!’

The guy’s bald head bops up and down for a few moments, interjected with grumbles, while Mike waits patiently.

‘Can I see your ticket please sir?’

‘It’s in that bag, oh bugger, my laptop, and I hadn’t saved anything yet!’ he waves a hand toward a brown laptop bag, which Mike dives into. Turning away from the commotion, I relax a little and return to gazing out of the window.

Fewer buildings whizz by than before, as we roll into the countryside. The sun slugs its way upwards, revealing the green fields with speckled cows dotted among them. Out of the window’s corner the outskirts of the city slip further and further away.

‘Morning, Frasier!’

I spin my head round as the aftershave starts to strangle my nose. Mike’s cheery grin bears down on me, now that certainly wakes you up. He’s one of those people who smiles by showing off their teeth. Mike’s mouth is crammed with them, his mouth looks like a bag of mint imperials.

‘Morning.’

My hand scrambles in my pocket for the ticket I bought the day before. He snatches the ticket away from me and, without even looking, feeds it through the little black box that dangles from his neck.
‘Off to do some more filming then?’

‘Yep.’

As he fiddles with my ticket, I can hear the stretch of the rubber straps that hold the box around his gut. They smell vaguely warm too, like he’s had it strapped there for ages. I never see him without it on, for all I know he sleeps with it.

‘Well they’re lucky to have someone who gets up at this time, Will we be seeing you again tonight?’

‘Yeah.’

He thrusts the stamped ticket into my face.

‘Same time I take it? First train in and last train out, you’re the dedicated sort!’

‘I try to be.’

‘Well have fun, kid. See you tonight!’

And with that, Mike bounces on his way, his voice booming to no-one in particular, and soon disappears through the other end of the carriage. I’m surprised I managed to keep my cool, unlike last time. I pretty much erupted when the ticket guy asked for my tickets. He didn’t suspect anything, just looked away like I was a nutter. As the doors close behind him, the train slithers to a halt at Beverley station.

The sun’s finally starting to pour through the thinly-framed windows, several of them dotted along the inner walls of the station. As the carriage doors hiss open, an old woman gets on board, her face wrapped in a scarf like spaghetti around a fork. She heaves her plump frame along the carriage, squatting at a nearby seat.

The bald guy’s still glaring at the hairy guy, whose music seems to be spilling from his headphones and radiating all around the carriage. It’s hardly deafening, what with it being mixed into a cocktail of shuffling passengers and humming engines, but the bald guy appears agitated, as if a bee were swarming around his shiny head.

Firmly facing the window, we start up again, the moving engine now revealing that the name of the station, in plastic blue and white, was the only object adorning the sandy-brown walls. Mike tumbles through the carriage door, the black box poised for action as he bounds along the train collecting tickets. Outside the arched section, the platform slips downward and disappears. The scene changes from thick walls to loose, spiralling shrubbery, which clumsily hides buildings from view.

For about half an hour, this is my view, nothing but unkempt, spiky green that’s littered at the roots with rusty, miscellaneous railway junk. Engine wheels, strips of track, huge chunks of buffer stops that are missing their actual buffers. They’re all horribly wrapped in weeds, whatever life they had now strangled.

Through the greenery, flashes of colour and shape show signs of city life. Cars and vans appear to speed along the roads, their full shapes blocked by sheets of leafs and crooked branches, before changing to buses and lorries. Buildings perform similar acts of magic; shrivelled, boxy corner shops appear to change into drawn-out Sainsbury’s, the orange name spreads along the top like a party banner.

Right, slight change of plan. Mickey’s found that the van got fucking clamped, with all the gear in it! It’s getting sorted now, but once you’re off the train, just keep yourself occupied for a couple of hours.

God’s sake, why did I agree to this? Everyone’s short on money nowadays but I must’ve been fucked in the head to say yes to all this. My phone rattles again.

Go fishing or something. They go fishing in Scarborough don’t they? It’s got the fucking sea next to it, ain’t it?

The greenery begins to fade, as do the buildings, and are replaced by curved hilltops, dotted with short, stubby trees. The smooth gliding of the train isn’t quite enough to overpower that skinny kid’s headphones, which buzz away faintly. Another sound starts to simmer as well. The blonde girl, perhaps? No, she’s got her legs curled up on her seat, reading a magazine. I’ve never seen legs that white before, did she whack on some flour or talcum powder when she got out of the shower this morning?

What about the spaghetti lady? Nope, she’s fast asleep in that scarf. I sit to attention and peer over the rows of seats. Ah, of course, the bald guy. Sounds like he’s growling, he’s got his teeth gnashing away. And the kid’s not even noticed, he’s too busy making his thumbs dance on his phone, twazzock.

Feels like I’m falling slightly into the window, we must be going round a bend. And we are, for the hilltops slide away to reveal the Scarborough coastline, all decked in speckles of light. The scenery changes for the last time to cramped houses, shops and the odd church as we enter the final station.

The tannoy spits out our arrival, making the old lady jump awake. Crawling to a halt, we arise one by one with out belongings. I shuffle off the train, hunched and frowning. This could all go so wrong.

But as I turn the corner with the sliding glass doors in sight, a low voice starts to growl behind me, and echoes all round the station. A door bursts open before me and two security guards come charging towards me. Oh shit, have I been found it? Is it all over before it’s started? I freeze, body clenched.

The security guards dash past me and I spin round – the bald guy has caught up with the skinny kid, grabbing him by the arm and rattling him. The kid looks perplexed, probably because he’s still got his headphones on. The security guards thrust themselves into the mess, trying to break it up. I can feel my body slither into relaxation. Well, I guess I’d best get fishing.

Being an Introverted Little Weirdo

So it’s a Thursday night. University is done, just need to graduate. Until I go home, and in-between my work-in-progress routine of freelance writing, I could be at the cinema or I could be in the pub. Instead, I’m sat at the living room table blogging – being the awkward, quiet introvert I’ve been for most of my life.

I’m writing this after spending the morning in Hull’s history centre, researching my great-granddad who has a business in the city. I chose to bury myself in books. On phoning my mum and telling of my findings, which were none, she rattled ‘why didn’t you ask someone?’ My response was ‘well, I had books.’ ‘You should have asked somebody!’ ‘Why do you think I buried myself in books?’

I think my introverted self can be traced to the lack of communication between my family. That, and being estranged from my dad. – cue opportunity for sob story – Sod right off. I’m not here to receive a pat on the back accompanied by a ‘there there’. I’m here in a feeble attempt to get rid of these thoughts in my head.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Being the type of person I am has gotten me where I am today – degree, writing jobs, writing/directing a film, and doing my best in being an all around creative/mature person. If only I’d get out more. Take a few more risks than I’d normally take. In the past, I’ve often thought that because my dad was never involved in my life that equalled to him not having any impact in my life or on my personality at all.

Nowadays, I think the opposite of that. Him not being a part of me taught me to take more initiative for myself, to be more responsible/independent for myself and myself alone. Additionally, I think this may add to me being an introvert. I definitely keep to myself more than taking the initiative to bond with other people. Not that I don’t have many wonderful friends in my life. There are handfuls of people who I sometimes turn to support, and vice-versa.

But I totally put self worth above all that, in the least selfish way possible. As one of my favourite writers once said – ‘Everyone who proves their self worth to themselves alone are worth more to this world than they can possibly imagine.’ I can’t quite yet tell if being both an introvert and self worth fanatic is a potentially toxic lifestyle or a sign of awesome independence.

I suppose the one thing that petrifies me somewhat is the thought of being so lots within my own self that I just become cut off from other people. I value being alone, and yet crave the company of others, even if it means just having the radio or television on. I also suppose I’m starting ramble beyond coherency. So here’s to being an independent introvert while loving having people around at the same time.

What To Do After You’ve Had An Awesome Dream And Can’t Remember It

When I grow up, I want to be a writer – a writer of adventure stories. So it’s only natural that a lot of my dreams find me stuck in some sort of adventure.

I’m sure this is a situation we’ve all been in – you wake up on a particular morning and you feel a mixture of sadness, annoyance, and yearning to go back to sleep. Not because it’s another day of work or school, but because the night before, you had the most spectacular, most fabulous, most awesome dream you’ve ever had.

You’re sad and annoyed not only because that dream is over, but because you can’t remember it was well as you should. You know it was a fairly long and big dream, yet for some reason, you can only remember about three second’s worth of that dream.

I’ve had this experience many times. I’ve had dreams where I’ve been lost on a jungle steam train that’s going over a bridge about to collapse, dreams where I’ve been trying to stop the take-off of a massive space rocket because some dastardly villain has upset the fuel tanks somehow, but I end up lodged on the rocket blasting off anyway.

There have been dreams where it feels like I’m lost between an Enid Blyton book and an Indiana Jones movie. So why the hell can’t I remember them fully?

Here’s a little trick to help you to try and remember those nights of awesomeness. As soon as you’re awake, write those dreams down. Even if it’s three A.M, even if you can’t fully comprehend what just happened in you head, just write down everything you remember. Once you’ve done that, focus as hard as possible on those dreams and try and recall the unclear moments. Scribble down what you can.

Now you can go back to sleep. And when you wake up at a more suitable time, you’ll go back to being sad, annoyance and yearning to go back to sleep. This is because you wrote those dream notes on a piece of paper which you left lying on the bed. It’s also because you left the window open just before you went back to sleep because you were in such a state when you woke up from your dream. It’s also because the cat came in to find a tasty looking bit of paper on your bed and gobbled it all up.

No notes, no memories and a slightly fatter cat.

All you can do now is pray that today will go as quickly as possible so you can snuggle into bed, close your eyes, and hope you’ve got another night of sheer awesomeness on the way.

A child, a weakling, a chubster, a snob, a Chinaman and his wife walk into a house…

And two years later, they walk out of the house.

‘Now then’, I ponder to myself, ‘what can I write about a bunch of people I’ve been living with during university these past two years who haven’t had much of an impact on me.’

Well I guess that’s a start. The weakling has already left for home, the rest of us are planning a final, farewell meal. Now don’t get me wrong, I love these chaps. But am I going to miss them once I leave?

Well, no. It sounds awful, I know, and doesn’t do my introverted self any favours. Perhaps it’s down to why we’re all at university. Three of them are physics students, one a business student, the other a student of war and security studies. And then there’s me – the arty-farty creative writing and film student.

I chose to live with these people because, at the end of first year, I didn’t have any other options. Two, well three if you count the wife of one of the physics students, I’d never met before we moved in.
Yes, I lived with a married couple this past two years. And it’s put me right off marriage. Maybe I watch too much How I Met Your Mother, but the Chinaman and his wife struck me as just, well, not in love. It doesn’t help when the Chinaman said one day that he had cheated on her. Oh boy.

But it’s proved to be hugely entertaining living with people of this calibre. Pubs, cinemas, house parties and takeaway/Cards Against Humanity nights were fairly common and a lot of fun (even though the weakling refused to take part in the house parties. He’s petrified of social interaction to the point where he locks himself in his room).

Our highly different personalities clashed nearly as often as they complimented each other, and there are moments I shan’t forget. Such as all of us explaining to the Chinaman how you can’t leave half-eaten chicken carcases in the cupboard. Or… or… Ah, I thought I had more.

Oh well. At least only one of them was a genuine pain to live with. The chubster is just about the laziest person I’ve ever met. He skipped exams simply because he couldn’t be bothered to attend them. His room looks as if a pigsty exploded. And he keeps cats. Cats that he wouldn’t let outside. Cats that have overactive bowels. He’s one guy I won’t miss.

Yet it’s still been a highly liberating experience living with people who aren’t my family. Perhaps if I had ended up living with like-minded people, you wouldn’t be able to read this post from all the tears that would have poured into the keyboard from my eyes.

Either way, this is still another chapter of my university life drawing to a close. So overall, I shan’t miss the piled-up bins, the awkward silences whenever the Chinaman and his wife are in the same room, or the mixture of weed and cat-piss radiating from the chubster’s room.

At least this way, there are no tears. Perhaps it’s just typical male bravado that we shan’t miss each other. We all have our capes and we all love seeking out them pastures.

And guys, if any of you should ever read this, just be glad I didn’t write about those other times…

Post-uni life: Round One

You know that feeling you get when you wake up after a long night’s sleep, and it feels like you’ve only been asleep for a few moments? Well I’ve recently handed in my last ever assignment for university, and its how I’m feeling right now.

Three whole years have gone by, and they feel exactly like a long night’s sleep – i.e. a prolonged blink. So much has changed in my life, and I’ve changed with it. Actually, that’s a lie; I haven’t really changed at all. Rather, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have before. Being a student of creative writing and film studies and being part of my student TV team has allowed me to not only indulge in my passions, but finally release my quirky self amongst like-minded people.
Uni is now done, except for graduation. But until then, and after, what now?

My dream career is to be a professional writer/film-maker, and I’ve already bagged myself several freelance writing positions at various film/TV/sci-fi websites and magazines, so really my life right now couldn’t be better.

But deep down I feel somewhat petrified and depressed. Petrified because now that I’ve finished my educational life (I’m not planning to do any sort of Masters), I’m free to do whatever I want, and I previously thought I knew what I wanted. But here I am, waiting to go back home, and that’s where these feelings are radiating from.

In short, I don’t want to go back home. Home is a farm in Lincolnshire, situated between the countryside and the sea. We’re out on the marshlands, in the middle of nowhere. We’ve no shops, one pub that keeps closing down and changing hands and no neighbours. If you want some milk or the paper, you have to drive to the next village.

Three years living with everything within walking distance makes me feel like these past three years have been something of a waste. The idea of going back to nothing is hugely depressing. Now at this point, I think I can tell what you’re thinking. I should just stop moaning, get a flat, and live my life, right? Well that would be just too bloody easy, wouldn’t it?

My family is in tatters. My mum is not in the best of health and both my brothers are disabled, which makes living on a farm, complete with animals and outbuildings that constantly need looking after, just the perfect way of life. I myself am neither disabled nor in any ill health, so my mum is only too keen to put me to work on anything and everything an elderly/disabled person can’t do.

And that’s where the problem lies. I don’t just feel obliged to help out, I feel trapped. I feel like I may not get out of that place until my mum passes away, and then I’ll still be trapped. Both my brothers are disabled to the point where they need constant care, and getting genuine care for them is a nightmare.

And I know nothing of how flat-buying works. Do I have the money right now to get a place of my own? Even if I do, where do I go? Do I stay within close distance of home? If not, does it make sense to go back home, find a waiter/cleaner job, save up and then bugger off?

But don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind helping out at all, that’s one of the rules of being a family. But my family isn’t much to write home about. When I was younger, I was immensely selfish and lazy, and learnt the hard way how being part of a family work. And I’m grateful to have somewhere to go back to at all. I think it’s just that I’ve outgrown it. I don’t need it anymore. I know how to look after myself now.

So I guess this is what it boils down to. Feeling trapped. Feeling like, although no-one says it, I’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere with my life on hold. After all, how are you supposed to meet new people in the middle of nowhere? Ever since my dad died just over a year ago I feel, more than ever, like it’s my duty to return back home and forget everything I’ve achieved these past three years. What good’s a BA when you can help your brother clear-up all the horseshit in the field?

As I said earlier, I thought my dream was to be a professional writer/film-maker. Right now my dream is to have my own flat and have a go at life the way I want to, without feeling the need to get my mum’s approval. She left her home when she was 17. 17! I’ve spoken to hear a couple of times about getting a place of my own once I leave uni, even encouraging her to kick me out so I’ll at least have an excuse to go get my own life. All she can say is, ‘oh Fred, I’ll never kick you out’.

Is this what she’ll be saying to me in five years time, or ten?

So that’s my conundrum, another panic in the life of Fred. Maybe there are some people out there in similar situations? If so, we should just band together and form a society for the soon-to-be-mentally-and-emotionally-deranged.

Or else, we could just get a flat together.