Hello Dolly (tales from back of house)

Service was over and the clean down almost complete. Apart from the low continuous hum of the extraction fan, intermittent rattle of cutlery from the still room and the final high pitched spins of the dish wash rinse cycle the kitchen was silent. This made the ear piercing cry even more eerie.
‘Eeeeeeeeeiiiiaaaahhhh! She’s Fuckin’ here…She’s come tae get me!’
Most of the chefs were out in the refuse yard perched on waste bins or sitting on piles of bread crates. The ritual cooling down after a hot gruelling slog on the stoves. Some smoked, others just guzzled bottles of beer. No one spoke. All of them in mind numbing contemplation whether to get shitfaced or not. Sam and Will jumped up and dashed in to investigate the commotion. It was ‘Phsyco Phil’ lying in the fetal position at the entrance to the walk in chiller. Just inside the door on the floor lay an up ended container of Rocket. The strewn leaves slightly concealing an old porcelain doll. At closer inspection the doll looked in really bad shape. At some point the head had been cracked, possibly on multiple occasions and glued back together. Bits of the face were missing and clumps of hair had been hacked off. A lock of the hair was tied into a ribbon that now hung round the neck. Other strands of blonde hair had been glued to the dolls hands. The eyes half closed and squint with the damage. The clothing disheveled and torn had been splattered with ink, paint and brown streaks which looked and smelt like shit. A number of ornate Victorian hat pins driven through the dolls chest held a sanitary towel in place with the words SHAME written in what could be blood.
Phil an old school junior sous chef had become a casualty of the trade. Because of his nature he would never really climb much higher up the ranks. Tales of his knack for violence were renowned. On one occasion he had thrown a steel bucket at a gobby junior chef , splitting the back of the guys head open. Twenty stitches later and all bandaged up they were back on service together, running the Veg section as if nothing had happened. One Saturday night Phil scored some Ecstasy and forced the whole kitchen team to take it. Everyone including the head chef was wired for service. How he still maintained a job was beyond comprehension of most. Rumour had it that the head chef was indebted to him for life. Phil helped him out of a sticky situation in the past. To be fair Phil had calmed down a lot and no one in the present team had witnessed any major antics. Although Stacey remained tucked away behind the blue roll dispenser as a reminder. Stacey is an old carving knife that has been sharpened down both edges. Now and again Phil would reminisce about the good old days.
‘ I’ll tell you what. You cunts are soft theses days.’ Phil would threaten in a jocular way. ‘Don’t make me reach for Stacey! You’ll never be the same again after I shove her up your shiter. Ken whit Ah’ mean. Haaahaaa’
No one had the balls to test Phil’s word. His favourite was a tale of when a gang of junkies came to the kitchen door looking for a payment. A drug debt Phil refused to shell out for.
‘The pills were fuckin’ duds onnieway. Fuckin’ shite mixed in some cunts bathtub. Aye rite. Fuck off am naw gonnie pay for any o that shite.’ he would justify.
‘Stacey was on point that day I’ll tell ye. ‘ Phil boasted ‘Ah was like a Samurai warrior. Ah only needed to gash wan boy across the napper before they all ran like fuck. She got him real good ken. Slashed right from the fuckin’ boys lug, doon his cheek tae the chin man. I cood see his fuckin’ teeth throo the gap in his cheek man. Bloody poetry in motion. Hhhaaa ha. Fuckin’ junkie bastards comin tae fuck wi me…Dinnae think sae.’
Phil had a couple of hand jammers tattooed above his knuckles. Created by some scratcher with a tattoo machine at a seedy party. It happened back in the eighties and being wasted he decided it needed to be Samantha Fox’s breasts. One on each hand. For Sam and Will the image of this hard man cowering on the ground sobbing into fist fulls of wonky tits was a little unnerving.
‘Phil…Phil ….You alright man.’ questioned Sam. She was to afraid to crouch down and touch Phil’s jolting body .
‘ It’s her.’ Phil said looking up at them. His eyes glazed over with tears, wild and red. ‘Which one of yooze cunts let her in here?’ He questioned as little bits of white spittle dribbled down his chin. ‘Hey?.. Who was it?’
‘ Jeezuz…Phil what the fuck you talking about?’ retorted Sam ‘ No one saw or did any thing. We were too fuckin busy man. Whose gonna try an sneak a shitty fucked up doll into your prep during service for fuck sake?’ she said now feeling worried that she might have come across a little brazen.
‘ Well it was some cunt roon here.’ Phil was regaining his strength as the fear inside him began to turn to anger. ‘ Who kens onyway?.. Hey? Who the fuck kens aboot the doll?’ Phil’s psychotic glare darted between the two chefs.
‘We all do Phil.’ Answered Sam tentatively looking down at the floor and moving behind a bench fridge. Well out of striking distance. ‘ Everyone knows what happened… But I can assure you man. This was not one of us.’
Gossip in kitchens can be rife. It keeps things ticking over as all the cogs trundle on speeding up and slowing down through prep and service. Everyone has something on the others which means there is a code of conduct. Chefs can talk amongst themselves and dish out banter, but it goes no further. The problem with Phil was that his fucked up story involved everyone. The nattering spread out of control, beyond the confines of the kitchen walls. His only saving grace was his mental bastard reputation . Most of the workers cherished their lives so never talked loosely in Phil’s presence.

It was a few years since Kiki had gone off grid for good. She was a bit of a loner and never really fully engaged with her peers. A kooky, snooty rich kid who probably didn’t need to work anyway. A beautiful porcelain skinned goddess who liked to flirt with the common people. She played the silly air head game but had a manipulative streak which proved otherwise. Kiki enjoyed danger and pushed personal boundaries. Her aloof nature pissed most people off however she maintained some mystical air of attraction. Most of the guys and some of the girls desperately wanted to be with her. She would strip off at staff parties and dance teasingly slowly. The low light bouncing of her smooth perfectly formed curves. A few people tried to move in on her. Failing miserably. As soon as they got too close she would clam up until they walked away. Resuming her sensual gyrations once her space returned. Phil ended up getting lucky or so he thought. Kiki gravitated towards his fucked up personality and lavished in the thought that she was truly untouchable under his guard. He never thought he had a chance so didn’t pursue her like the others. He sat back and enjoyed the show. Kiki relished the fact her parents would hate him as he stood out as a beacon against everything she came from. It all started of as a bit of fun for her but Phil was imbedded in from the start. He was loved up and gave Kiki an old porcelain doll that belonged to his Grannie. This gesture was his attempt to try cage her. The free bird spirit that attracted him in the beginning soon became irksome. He hated everyone ogling his lady during her party piece . Kiki’s stubborn attitude grated on Phil yet he was afraid of losing out so got strung along. Eventually in a night of exceptional hedonism Phil lost control. He beat Kiki and locked her in a cupboard for the night. The next day he smoothed things over and normal practice resumed. The beatings became more frequent but Kiki never retaliated. Phil became more powerful in himself and started treating Kiki like a slave. Until the day he saw the doll. After every episode Phil unleashed on her, Kiki defaced part of the doll .
‘ What the fuck have you done to ma Grannies doll you fuckin ingrate?’ Phil screamed ready to lay in another fist.
‘ Don’t you see Phil.’ Kiki questioned. ‘ It’s her Phil… The doll it’s her.. Your Grannie… She sees everything you do… She hates you for it.’
‘Naw… It can’t be.’ Phil became terrified and began to shake with fear. ‘Am sorry… I never meant to be a bad boy.’ he pleaded for forgiveness.
‘ Everything you did to me is imbedded in this doll.’ Kiki explained. ‘ It’s plain as the cracks in her face that you need to look upon.’ she turned and walked out and never returned .
Phil changed after that day. For weeks he tried to rid himself of the doll. But she always returned even after he changed the locks. No matter if he hid it or threw it away this broken talisman would turn up. In the shower, on a shelf, in a cupboard, on the doorstep or on his pillow. He feared the doll greatly but could not bring himself to fully destroy it. He felt she might then attack him in dreams. Sleep became his only escape as the drugs and drink usually made the demons come.

The rest of the brigade had now moved in from outside. They all stood around waiting to see what Phil would do next. Kiki and the doll had been out of Phil’s life for years now. He genuinely thought he had seen the last of it.
‘Ah paid the price already… Damn your condescending shite!’ Phil screamed into the air now oblivious to the audience dotted around him. ‘ Ah paid the dues to ma fucked up life. Repented for what Ah did to you. Can we just naw call it quits?’ he pleaded looking into the dolls eyes. No one dared to move or speak. As long as the doll was Phil’s focus they were all safer.

Phil shuffled away past the crew around him not looking at anyone. He held the limp doll by the hand as he went. His head hanging low as if all his energy had been sapped. Only letting out intermittent whimpers as he left the kitchen a proper broken man.

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Hello Dolly (tales from back of house)

Note to selfies’

note to selfies (words inspired by Christopher Baker’s installation ‘Hello world’ at Saatchi gallery)

we talk over each other and it manifests as noise
pointless social ranters desperately trying to be liked
a juggernaut of opinions incessantly poised
we parley with vigour without pause for breath
clogged wax like eardrums wain in an echo
we fail to listen ignorant of the truth
our opinions are comparable
yet we struggle with difference
focused on weakness to pin on a blame
searching for the love and acceptance of peers
a common purpose to feel valued in existence
wrecked from above by the ball of self-centred gain

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  1. IMG_3049#christopherbaker #saatchigallery #pictureyourself #selfie
Note to selfies’

The agony of choice (a dystopian tale)

There was always talk of the world outside the confines of the bubble wall. A massive transparent protective dome built around the city. The chatter comprised of memories from the old world and whether others had managed to scramble to safety. Most of the citizens were content with the life they had fashioned around the circumstances. Time ticked over slowly since the war but in the calmness of almost total destruction the people learned to cope. The overlords provided for the masses as long as individuals remained useful to them. Everyone with in the confines had been hand picked for their multiple attributes. Covering the basic needs for survival and suitable candidates to rebuild a stable community. Some skill sets had been hard to come by. Modern life had become mechanised and pushed the fundamental physical labour jobs to the back burner. Rendering them surplus to requirement. Luckily some people had maintained a more traditional approach to life keeping lost skills alive. This made them important commodities now.
The majority of the original citizens believed they were lucky to have survived. In the old days everything had gotten chaotic. The world leaders openly began to seemingly lose their minds. Random rich men and woman pushed themselves into positions of power proclaiming themselves rulers. Confusion was the order of the day back then fed unending pot of fake money created by the banks.The people of earth could not tell who was genuine within the media shit storm unfolding before their eyes. Truthfully most preferred not to get involved and happily trod on in rose tinted ignorance. The farce evolved becoming more absurd with many turning a bling eye to the looming danger.
In hind sight the survivors could see it was all preordained. A ludicrously played out sham shielded everyone from what was happening behind the scenes. Feeling enraged and frightened the people decided to try take control by backing political front runners unqualified to be in power. Mere puppets playing their part in the largest mind control experiment ever undertaken. Little did the people know that this had been the masterplan all along and they played into the hands of the overlords. Inevitably causing the start of their own self destruction.
Two generations had now grown up within the confines of the bubble. A few underground rebellions had began to sprout with limited success. These citizens had access to rare texts from the old world. Most of the human history had been wiped out and many survivors hated talking of the past. A new history had begun the day the warheads were fired. Luckily a band of forward thinking educators within the protected zone had foreseen what was coming. They collaborated in a secret mission bringing important tomes from far and wide hiding them in a bunker for safety.

A group of specialists went out on a ground breaking expedition beyond the wall once. State of the art suits protected them from the elements. The atmosphere outside the protective bubble however beautiful with its array of coloured sunsets and rises was said to be highly toxic. Pictures were beamed back to every available screen and there was much rejoicing and wonderment of the spectacle. The possibility that life could exist outside the great bubble was very exciting. Rebel sceptics said the whole expedition had been faked, that it was impossible to pull off. The belief was that it was another power play to keep the masses subdued. The rebels tried to prove there was a massive residual radioactive belt which could not be penetrated with the materials at scientists disposal. They believed that camera equipment and film would not work in the conditions they were meant to be exposed to.They even examined the pictures in fine detail picking out anomalies and irregular shadows to prove the expedition had been staged. The majority of the citizens ridiculed them in favour of staying true to the overlords. After all in their eyes they were the true saviours. Exposing the truth was going to be difficult. Resources were limited which weakened the effort. The strength of the overlords was great with their propaganda machine working at full pelt. A never ending stream of obedient workers keeping the cogs well oiled. To scared to step out of line.

‘What was the real purpose behind this show? What is it they have in store for us?’

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The agony of choice (a dystopian tale)

United in the ‘Tradgic’

It has been a week since I stayed up into the early hours of the morning to cyber witness the final concert of the Tragically Hip via a live stream. Gord Downie who has inspired a nation with his in depth lyrics and thoughts came out to say good bye in the most profound way. At first I felt the crowd seemed awkwardly subdued possibly a weird feeling of ‘Shit this is it… The end of the end’. Sure the music and legacy of the band will remain cemented in culture for ages but sadly on a less intimate level. I cannot help but admire what Gord did with this part of his time on earth. In true poetic fashion he had something to say and did it with style.
It is difficult to describe how I would react when properly faced with my own mortality. It is an enivitable stage of life that everyone will experience at some point. With some of us it will happen quickly and we will almost have no time to think. In near death experiences they say everything slows down. Possibly giving you time to make peace with yourself before leaving the plain of life as we know it. The more prolonged pre death experience really bothers me. Most often it manifests itself in diseases like cancer where the person is presented with a timeline. I have witnessed plenty of lives plagued by that timeline and figure the most common denominator is the question. Will I be able to die with dignity?

Another factor thrown up by this death march is the need to have everything in order and sometimes to leave some kind of legacy (a tiny foot print in the vastness of time). In human terms I refuse to believe anybody wants to slip out unnoticed. Many sadly do but all of us need to feel everything is worthwhile. Call it a mild form of vanity if you will. From the outside looking in it seems easier for the person whose fate has been sealed by the timeline. Once they come to terms with what is about to happen. A strength presents itself bedding in as they make peace in their minds and begin to move forward. Sure there will be spates of severe melancholy but it is all about setting up for the the inevitable. The ones left behind often struggle to mend the hole left by loss and the hurt may dissipate but it never really goes away.

A friend of mine has been fairly recently diagnosed with cancer. Initially we never really got into the bones of it. In the early days there was probably too much for him to process and the time scale given was short. We chose to briefly ignore the news and continued on as if nothing had happened which was difficult considering the emoting going on in the back of my mind. Thankfully the disease has been controlled better and the timescale has been prolonged by a few years.A few weeks ago we met up for a day out. The further into the day we got the more beers we consumed the closer we moved toward the elephant in the room. It was the small things that he started to notice more. The greenness of the trees, the beauty of his surroundings and the warmth of the sun on his face that became more heightened. As most of us bash through life at an ever increasing rate of knots we often forget the little things that make this world great. I tend to focus on the shit, get bogged down by media, become bitter about what I have not got. Most of all I forget about what I do have. The less materialistic things that are after all the essence of humanity. Lessons are dished out constantly if the time is taken to listen for them.

I have read a few of posts on social media pertaining to ‘The Hip’ gig. How almost a whole nation shut down for a few hours to witness a dying mans legacy being played out before their eyes. Some people calling for the band and particularly Gord Downie to be honoured by the country in someway. Upon reading some of the comments I was flabbergasted by the negativity of some people.
Some suggesting that getting cancer and writing a bunch of songs did not warrant being honoured by the country. I say to theses people ‘ Open your eyes, cut out the cataracts of doubt that cloud your vision. Here is a man with his band who have managed to unite a massive amount of humans together from all over the globe to share something special. If you take the time to listen to the lessons strewn through the songs it may make you a better person. Surely that has to stand for something.’

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#tragicallyhip #gorddownie #openyourmind #poeticmind #everydaysaschoolday #cbccanadaimage

United in the ‘Tradgic’

Eyeballing Achilles (Tales from back of house)

Jen stood in front of the mirror alone. Naked as the day she entered the world. The reflection bouncing back filled her with disgust.
‘Who would want to tap that?’ She asked out loud as she cast a critical eye over every part of a body she hated. The sagging weighty tits. The flabby belly which now hung so low that it obscured her unkempt bush.
‘Is this really me?’ she questioned.’ What happened to that fresh faced girl filled with beautiful promise?’
Surely this was some cruel trick being played out on her. All the negativity in her life had slowly stalked her as prey. Finally pouncing to devour her in fat. Jen never saw it coming and desperately wanted to cut it all out. Suck it up into a magic fat munching contraption. She was convinced that if she squeezed hard enough the dense lard around her midriff would melt and seep out through her pores. Jen looked at her lower arms where the small cuts and burns of kitchen life were now concealed by tattoos. Back in the day these injuries were displayed as badges of honour and she wandered round like some proud self harmer. She grew out of this phase, eventually covering them with a more artistic form of scar tissue. They say that tattoos often tell a story of your life mapped out in ink.
‘Mine is just a story of misery and bollocks.’ she muttered as she surveyed the macabre images adorning her body. The once soft inviting skin of her lithe inner thighs now flabby with the epidermis thick and rough. Surely it would create reverse beard rash on any unsuspecting beau daring to dive headfirst into that nether-region. The most devastating injuries lay behind the eyes. Jen could see the damage of every insult and trick she pulled to push her way to the top. Success had brought loneliness. The personal sacrifices she had made over the years had left her high and dry. The people she turned her back on were gone and all that was left was a band of superficial acquaintances who would never really know her inner soul. In Jen’s minds eye the lives she had trod on to prop herself up there were beginning to rot . As the ropey pedestal began to decay from the bottom up Jen could feel the inertia of the wobble building up slowly as she prepared to crumble with it.
Jen always had an interest in food. She was an adventurous kid and was open to trying new flavours. It seemed like a natural progression for her to move towards a career in the kitchen. Jen did a stint at college but frankly was bored with it. She had learnt a lot more working a few shifts a week in the local pub than she ever did at cooking school. Being headstrong Jen stuck it out. She wanted to be the real deal so persevered through the slow meander of the course and walked away with the qualification.
Jen decided to head for the city to find work. She believed they took food more seriously there and opportunities were plentiful.
‘ I need to cut my teeth in bigger establishments.’ Jen convinced her parents who had always lived rurally. ‘ I have to go somewhere that is offering a faster paced lifestyle. Work with proper chefs who are at the top of their game and can teach me the art to great food.’ she continued.
The catering industry was on the cusp of a food revolution which was becoming more apparent in the media. The rise of the celebrity chef was underway through more column inches in glossy mags and TV air time.
Starting at the bottom Jen was pushed onto the pastry section. The kitchen was dominated by males which she found irritating at first. Chefs appeared in mainstream media romanticising about how they were inspired to cook from a very young age via mothers and grandmothers. “Where were these women were now? How come they raised these boys to be ego driven, chauvinistic wankers.” Jen wondered.
‘Chef can I join the main kitchen.’ Jen asked the Head chef one day. ‘I don’t want to be a pastry chef. I’d rather be over there at the grill.’
‘Look here girl!’ the Chef snapped at her.’ We are not in your fuckin’ Wendy house now! Making mud cakes for your dollies is a thing of the past.’ he continued condescendingly. ‘ You go where I say!..For now that is in pastry. When you prove you have the drive I may give you the chance in another section.’
“What a dick.” Jen thought feeling embarrassed as she burst into tears.
‘That’s why women fail in the kitchen.’ said the chef. ‘You are too emotional. There is no room for tears in my kitchen. Go and sort yourself out. You may return when you are ready to work.’
At the time Jen almost walked out but that prick actually did her a favour. The first layer of armour began to mould itself in. Ironically years later this particular head chef would have an emotional melt down. Eventually loosing face in the media. Even sobbing on the local news after being caught for drug induced house breaking and shop lifting. The adrenaline rush of catering had began to wain on him so he found his fix in drugs and petty crime.
Most chefs tried to bypass the pastry, they were afraid of it. Pastry requires patience and an in depth understanding of precision. It is not for everyone. As luck would have it the head of pastry was a talented guy. A mad cap German who was strict but a real workhorse who led his little sub team from the front.
‘ To be in this industry.’ He addressed Jen in a thick accent.’ You either have to be MAD, STUPID or GAY…Which one are you?’ he questioned before roaring into a loud cackle straight out of the depths of Bedlam. He was clearly one of the mad ones. Turns out he was gay as well but definitely not stupid. At the time Jen felt she was incapable of defining herself on this scale but edged towards the mad side. These beginnings formed a stable grounding for the progression up the ranks for Jen and she began to learn loads about the science behind food production.
As a girl Jen found gaining respect in the industry a hard nut to crack. She felt she had to work much harder than the rest of the boys to be noticed.
Jen was tenacious and energised so went full ball. She had more to prove in this testosterone stew. She pushed harder, drank harder and took more drugs than any of the guys. She had her fair share of sexual fumblings. Her athletic build and attractive looks did not go unnoticed by horny boys in the main kitchen. At the time she felt that dishing out blowjobs, hand-jobs and drunken, drug fuelled bonks was the way in. But it backfired as she discovered the guys were after one thing. Once the conquest was over interest dwindled. Through the hedonistic haze Jen had failed to see she was merely becoming the kitchen bike. That was until one day everything boiled over. A particularly disgusting chef Rodger tried to come onto her in the changing room. His pants were down round his ankles before she could fend him off. This walking stink bomb pushed Jen up against the wall and held his fore arm up against her throat. The hand of his free arm was fumbling around trying to push into her knickers. Jen could feel his hot smelly breath on her face and she wanted to puke. He was taller and stronger than her but she held firm managing to grab a turning knife that was lying on the shelf. His expression changed to one of panic when he realised Jen had the knife jammed up into his scrotum.
‘I’ll cut your fuckin nuts out one by one if you come near me again.’ Jen snarled. ‘If you go telling anyone about what just happened I’ll do you for being a sex pest you slimy cunt.’
‘Please…Don’t…I didn’t mean it.’ said Rodger as he began to sob.’ I just like you that’s all. I just wanted to be with you.’ he continued. ‘ The way you talked to me last night…I thought…’
‘ Listen here you dumb fuck!’ Jen replied still holding the knife in the same spot trying not to think about the now limp penis resting on her hand.
‘ You will never be with me. You are a repulsive piece of shit. When it comes to shit you are lower in the rankings than a fucking dog turd.’ she continued as she felt her hand and legs getting wet with warm liquid as Rodger began to uncontrollably piss himself.
‘ You pathetic sad excuse for a man.’ Jen taunted. ‘ A little girl got the better of you hey. Making you piss in your own pants. Why don’t you run back to mummy and get her to change your nappy you fuckup.’
The chef left with his balls intact but dignity shattered. He disappeared on his split that day and took his knives with him never to return. Rumour had it that he took his own life days later. Jen managed to distance herself from feeling guilty about what she had said to him.
That night Jen got the call from the main kitchen.
‘ That fuckin’ twat Rodger has gone AWOL and I need someone on garnish section tonight.’ said the chef.’ Get yourself in there… Dan talk her through the prep and service.’
She was in.
From that day on things fell into place fairly quickly and movement up the ladder was swift. She had a brain and knew how to use it. The blokes never got to grips with her manipulative ways and she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. When she reached management level she ruled with an iron fist and had bigger balls than a lot of the guys. Timid young boys were broken down and disappeared to the toilet never to return.
‘I might need to phone a plumber soon’ she would jest as another chef disappeared. ‘That shit pipe must be backing up with the amount snivelling twats that have flushed themselves down it.’ she continued as everyone in the brigade jeered. ‘The kitchen is no place for Nancy boys! I’m only interested in the mad fuckers who can deal with suffering. Fit in or Fuck off.’ she would add. Jen had created an inner circle of chefs who formed the backbone to the brigade and the rest were treated like cannon fodder. Poor bastards battling to stay alive in the trenches of service. Once an unsuspecting head popped up out of the protection of a section and the person began to flail around in no mans land they were blasted to hell and gone. At this stage the person had two outcomes either they would heal their wounds quickly and recover or be snagged up in the barbed wire. A sitting duck ready to be obliterated.
Jen’s talent was so sought after that often these beastings would be over looked and swept under the carpet. It was just part of the territory. As long as the punters were filling the restaurant and loving the food who gave a fuck right?
Goose bumps began to form all over her body as Jen stood there reflecting on her past. She found it difficult to picture the future feeling lost with no hint of which way to turn. After years of dishing out abuse Jen had eventually realised that treating people harshly was counter productive. The supply of young talent began to dry up and she was left with a team of bitter and twisted twats that bickered constantly. The world had changed and youngsters where not interested in being treated like dicks. Sadly the straw that finally broke the camels back came out of Jen trying to help. A young man had joined the team as a Kitchen porter. His command of the English language was low but he delved into the work quietly and with out fuss. A few weeks went by and his manner began to change. The boy became more withdrawn and skittish. Jen tried to find out what was wrong and called on a waiter to translate for her. It turned out the boy had run out of the medication he was taking for a mental condition. Jen decided it was best to send him home to his parents for help. There and then Jen booked the flight for him and sent him on his way. The boy thanked her for what she had done and tearfully left. He never made the flight. A flat mate came home to find him lying on the bed in a comatose state. By the time the ambulance arrived it was to late the boy was gone. Jen was just a cook yet in her job she was required to deal with multiple personalities .She tried at best to keep them ticking over together in order to get the job done. Jen wondered if she could have done more?
Jen looked deep into her eyes and was appalled to recollect the souls she had failed.The regret was painfull to handle and she watched herself weep as she felt the demons wrapping around her heart began to squeeze.

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Eyeballing Achilles (Tales from back of house)

Shanghai surprise (Tales from back of house)

Rossco jolts awake and surveys the room. For a split second he forgets where he is but then looks at his watch now smashed and useless. The blood flowing from the gash on his arm has stopped now. However not before it seeped into the strap and dried into a thick layer of skin on his wrist. There is no time to feel sad or nostalgic. His Dad had handed the watch down to him before he died. The watch had become the start of a family heirloom. Rossco’s family were not that well off and heirlooms seemed to be reserved for the rich, but the piece was a good one. The quality is irrelevant as the connection is deeper than value. Rossco enjoyed ticking along to the same time his dad worked to for all those years.
‘Shit we’re still here.’ he curses softly. Suzie he girlfriend is cuddled into his chest and sleeping. The hard empty bath tub they are huddled up in is taking its toll on his skinny body. At least Suzie had calmed down now as she had been hysterical. Her voice became hoarse with all the screaming. Rossco hears voices outside in the hall way, one of them deep and possibly familiar. He decides not to shout out. Drawing attention to himself at this moment may be counter productive. Besides it is better that Suzie remains in her unconscious state for now he thinks.
‘Why the fuck do I let myself get into theses situations?’ he scolds himself for being a sucker for a night out on the drink.

It all started so innocently with a easy Sunday night service at the restaurant. The added bonus was that they finished early. Suzie cashed up her tables and sat in the bar area waiting for Rossco and ‘Big Ben’. They didn’t call him Big Ben for his time keeping that was for sure. Ben wasn’t tall in stature either however he was strongly built and carried himself with the swagger of a taller man. That seemed enough to warrant the nickname. In the past Ben ran with a gang of football casuals and earned his stripes as a hooligan on the back streets of the city. During his time with the gang he had developed a serious habit for drink and drugs which he was now trying to curtail with fluctuating results.
Kenny the new Kitchen porter had finished mopping the floor so the three friends invited him to have a drink to which he gladly obliged. Ben ripped out a bottle of wine from the rack and downed it in a oner. Burping and laughing at his gawking audience.
‘ It’s been paid for… ‘he said as he caught a glimpse of Suzie’s questioning look. ‘I over charged those dipsticks on table ten.’ he explained. ‘The twats deserved it the tight fisted bastards… Never left a tip.’
‘ What the fuck man.’ argued Suzie. ‘ You ripped them of with the wine before they had a chance to give you the tip… That’s bollocks man.’ she added.
‘ Aaahhh straight little Suzie. Power to the people and all that crap.’ teased Ben. ‘I could tell they were skinflint cunts the minute they walked in the door… All laaa dee fuckin daaa with their suave gear on. Fuck’m they never checked the bill anyway. I’m innocent, me lud.’ he continued as he put his hand on his heart and bowed his head towards her.
‘ You’re such a prick at times.’ said Suzie. ‘ It’ll catch you out some time… Good and proper.’
Kenny sat quietly and scoffed at his pint of beer.
‘Let’s move on out for another drink .’ Rossco suggests . ‘ I need to take the edge off. I feel a bit uptight tonight.’
‘ Suzie needs to cradle your balls more.’ blurts out Ben now pissing himself laughing.
‘ You perverted dickhead.’ shouts Suzie. ‘ I do plenty ball action thanks very much. And if Rossco could cut out his fuckin’ drug binging for a while I am sure his tension will be restored to normal levels.’ she adds. ‘ Not that it’s any of your fuckin’ business anyway.’
‘ Oooohh get you.’ mocks Ben reaching for another bottle of wine. There was no point in trying to stop him. Ben’s tolerance for booze is strong but things could get nasty very quickly. Especially if someone tries to come between him and the booze.
‘ Kenny! You coming with us yea?’ asks Ben.
‘ Eeeeehrrr… maybe I need to head off.’ says Kenny rather nervously.
‘ Listen. That’s not really a question. I’m telling you, you need to come with us.’ says Ben giving off a little wanky passive aggression.

Two hours later it was closing time and the four buddies stumble out of the bar. Kenny had come out of his shell and the nervous edge was now obliterated.
‘ Come round to mine for a night cap.’ invites Kenny.
‘ Why not.’ says Rossco feeling like he needs complete oblivion to sort himself out.
‘ Naaa.’ complains Suzie ‘It’s pissing with rain and I need to be in early tomorrow.’
‘ It’s cool.’ says Kenny ‘ We’ll get a cab. Besides I have got a bit of Ching back home. That’ll give you a lift for the morning.’
All the guys are already looking for cabs so Suzie caves and goes along for the ride.

The cab ride is about five minutes through winding back streets. The windows steam up quickly and the rain is pretty heavy so visibility is poor. The three friends totally lose their bearings.
‘Where the fuck are we?’ asks Rossco when he steps out of the cab looking at the semi derelict buildings around him. ‘This is a shithole! No offence Kenny.’
‘ My flats okay.’ assures Kenny ‘ It’s a bit of a rough street granted but I’m trying to get back on my feet after a few set backs.’
‘Set backs?’ questions Ben.
‘Yea I had a few problems. Nothing I can’t handle now.’ answers Kenny.
The three visitors are thankful it is darker in the corridors of the tenement block. They try not to think about what the spongy floor consists of as they follow Kenny towards his flat door. Short blasts of music and a cacophony of shouts and shrill screams echoes around the stair well. Like walking into “Bedlam” a sense of unease begins to creep in. The flat itself is clean and tidy, fairly sparsely furnished but comfortable. Surprisingly once inside the lounge area the noise is dumbed down and every one puts the last few minutes of mild tension behind them.
Beers and whisky start to flow followed by weed and some coke lined up on the small wooden box that doubles as a makeshift table. It is placed in the middle of the room and everyone digs in at leisure.
‘Wow this is my idea of heaven.’ chortles Rossco. Enjoying the hospitality of their new best friend. Suzie has relaxed a bit and passes out on the lazy boy chair in the corner of the room. Ben admires the array of weapons displayed on the walls. Old pistols, rifles, daggers and a beauty of a Japanese “Samurai” sword hanging over a boarded up hole where the fireplace should be.
‘ Where did you get all this stuff?’ asks Ben. ‘It’s amazing and must be worth a fortune.’
‘ I don’t really like to talk about it.’ replies Kenny. ‘ Lets just say I was owed a debt and I collected on it.’ he adds. ‘On the subject of debt. You guys need to shell out some doe for the gear you are having.’
‘ Ha Haaa nice one Kenny.’ jokes Roscco feeling really wired. ‘ You’re so funny.’
‘ I’m being serious.’ says Kenny the tone of his voice changes to being low and menacing. His facial expression has gone from being open and warm to a hard grimace . ‘ You fuckheads expect to get a free ride? Come in, use my stash and expect not to give me something back in return?’
‘ Okay settle down Cochise.’ says Ben ‘ Lets not get too worked up here. I’ve got a good buzz going here which I don’t want to spoil.’
Kenny grabs the sword off the wall and unsheathes the blade. ‘ FUCK! Now you’ve done it.’ shouts Kenny.’ I need to draw blood now. And it’s not going to be fuckin’ mine.’
Ben instantly springs up and makes a dash for the front door.
‘ Get the fuck out! Save yourselves!’ Ben hollers as he opens the door and flees.
‘Ben you Cunt!’ screams Rossco ‘Wait for us!’ as he tries to grab Suzie. She is out of it and in a deeper sleep than he thought. They are both trapped as she wakens to the nightmare. They both huddle together and begin to sob. Kenny is mumbling to himself now and has worked himself into a frenzy. He grips the sword with both hands and begins to swoop the blade down in a chopping motion.
Roscco manages to gain his composure and tries to reason with his captor as Suzie goes into shock and begins shivering uncontrollably.
‘ Look Kenny I need to get Suzie home… Lets talk about this in the morning…No harm done hey.’ Rossco pleads. There is no response from Kenny and Roscco is not sure he is getting through the manic stare.’ Okay. We are sorry. We misunderstood and I promise you will get what we owe.’ Roscco continues. ‘ It’s just I don’t have money on me. In fact I have nothing till Friday when I get paid.’
‘ I don’t believe you.’ snarls Kenny. ‘ What’s stopping you from doing a bunk and leaving me in the shit. Besides Mervyn is going to want his money…He’s not big on credit. He just owed me a favour that’s how I got the gear on tick.’ he adds. ‘ Mervyn’ll be round in the morning…He can deal with you two then.’
Suzie starts screaming for help but in this God forsaken shithole crawling with junkies she is wasting her time. Rossco attempts to stand up and puts his open hand out to indicate his intention. Kenny swipes the sword at Rossco and catches his lower arm. It is a glancing blow but the blade is sharp and cuts a gash in his forearm. He jumps back in fright, falling over the box table and slams hard against the wall. Rossco is dazed for a few seconds but recovers to see the tip of the sword pointing between his eyeballs.
‘ Get up!’ commands Kenny. ‘ You two can sleep in the bathroom tonight. It’s the only door that locks.’ Kenny ushers his prisoners through into the bathroom and locks it behind them.
Rossco grabs a small towel and wraps it round the wound to stop the bleeding. He then opens up a bigger towel and wraps it round the shivering love of his life. Trying to keep her warm.
‘ Why the fuck did Ben ditch us?’ Rossco questions. ‘ Surely he wouldn’t leave us here with this nut job?’ he did not expect an answer and Suzie begins to sob even harder. Rossco decides to try get Suzie more comfortable so he sits in the bath so she can lie on his chest. Eventually her breathing becomes less erratic and she falls asleep.

The voices are getting louder and argumentative, the booming voice of Ben is clear now.
‘ Thank fuck he’s back! ‘ exclaims Rossco. Now standing up and waking Suzie in the process.
‘ We’er getting out of here.’ explains Rossco. ‘ Get yourself together yea. Ben is back and he’s going to save us.’
‘ BEN…BEN… We are in here Ben.’ shouts Rossco.
‘ YES! I know now shut the fuck up.’ comes the reply. ‘I’ve got a situation going on here… Stand clear of the door.’ instructs Ben. Just at that moment the blade of the sword comes stabbing through the door followed by the sound of smashing glass. There is a deep thud and a bit of shuffling. The next thing there is a roar from Ben as the door is blasted open using Kenny’s noggin as a battering ram.
The two captors are relieved at the sight and jump over the slumped up body of Kenny to freedom.
‘ The Key is in the lock.’ says the grateful Rossco looking at Ben who is trying to catch his breath.
‘ But that way was much more fun.’ replies Ben grinning while he admires his handy work. The blood tricking down his forehead doesn’t seem to bother him.
Ben drags Kenny’s limp body to the toilet and shoves his head down the bowl and pulls the flush.
‘Take that you junkie prick.’ says Ben. ‘ And don’t bother turning up for work tomorrow or ever right.’ he warns. ‘Do you understand? ‘ questions Ben. ‘ I need to hear the affirmative… I’m not walking out that door till you agree to never cross our path again, scumbag.’ Ben waits for an answer which is not coming. ‘ As a matter of fact leaving town would be a great idea.’ adds Ben. ‘ Are you reading me loud and clear?’ he pulls Kenny out of the bowl.
‘Yes…I…Get you.’ answers Kenny while spluttering on toilet water.
‘And due to my night being inconvenienced by your little spate of bullshit. I will consider our tab of goods to be wiped clean.’ orders Ben. ‘ And don’t bother getting your dealer prick involved either. If he comes looking for us I will deal with him in the harshest manner possible.’
Kenny nods in acknowledgement of the instruction.
Ben turns to his two friends ‘Let’s go.’
‘ Should we call the police?’ asks Rossco. ‘ He did hold us hostage after all.’
‘ Forget it my man. Chalk it up to a bad trip.’ answers Ben. ‘ Plus tell me how you are going to explain to the Fuzz the reason you happened upon this gem of a joint hey?’ questions Ben sarcastically. ‘The punishment has been dished out. Besides if he can’t pay that dealer the law of the street will figure out something much sweeter.’

Yowzer!

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Shanghai surprise (Tales from back of house)

Lucinda Lovage and her Loopy Lemonade

Lucinda Lovage is the youngest member of her family. She has a brother Jack and sister Katie the oldest child. Lucinda’s brother and sister look after her a lot as Mum and Dad work different shifts. Lucinda hates lemons. At least she thinks she does. She is reminded why one day when the whole family sit down to watch old home movies.

‘ How cute baby Lucinda.’ Katie squeals as a piece of film starts. ‘ I remember this one.’ she continues. ‘It’s the one when we went off on holiday and had a great picnic on the beach.’
In the film Lucinda is sitting happily playing in the sand. She loves the beach and still to this day enjoys building sand castles. Great big ones where princesses rule and enjoy huge banquets of cake.
‘Ha haaaa. Watch this bit.’ says Katie getting very excited and twitchy. She is looking directly at Lucinda waiting for the reaction. On screen Dad hands Lucinda a slice of fruit which she now knows is lemon and she eagerly munches into it. There is a burst of laughter as everyone watches Lucinda’s face as she tastes the bitter lemon. It is a look of shock and disgust as Lucinda realises it is not a sweet orange and her whole body shudders as she bursts into tears. Every one his howling with laughter at her funny face.
‘ Rewind it!’ screams Jack. ‘ I want to see it again. But in slow motion this time. ‘ Jack is frantically looking for the remote control. The family are so busy laughing at Lucinda that they don’t realise she is in a big huff.
‘You are all cruel!’ blurts Lucinda. ‘ I cannot believe someone would play such an evil trick on me.’ she is now at the point of tears. ‘ I’m leaving and going where people love me.’ she says as she begins her angry stomp out of the living room.
‘ Lucinda….Honey.’ Mum calls after her as she tries to slam the door. The problem is that Dad still has not fixed the bobble in the carpet so the door never closes. It just makes a”ffffftttt” sound as the door jams on the raised pile. Mum comes out into the hall where Lucinda sits on the stairs fizzing in anger with her arms crossed. Lucinda can hear her siblings still sniggering behind the door.
‘ That’s enough now.’ Dad says to them. ‘ Lucinda’s upset and needs a bit of time to calm down. Besides I have not shown the real good stuff with you two in it.’ he continues.
‘ Lucinda darling.’ says Mum. ‘ It’s all a bit of a laugh. There is no real harm done. We all do silly stuff at times and we didn’t mean to hurt you. Can you forgive us?’
Lucinda thinks about it for a second. ‘ Yes I can.’ she says. ‘ It was kind of funny anyway. But don’t make me eat lemons again.’
Everyone cheers as Lucinda and Mum return for some more home movie magic. Lucinda is happy to be part of a loving family even if they do silly stuff at times.

At school Lucinda is learning about different places in the world and how some children live alone without family in poverty. Often some of the kids her age have to live on the streets. They never go to school because they need to find a way to survive. Lucinda loves school and being with her friends. She could not imagine it any other way. Lucinda decides she is going to try help them by raising money.
‘What kind of thing can I do to raise money?’ Lucinda asks Mum.
‘Well think of some thing you are good at or enjoy.’ replies Mum. ‘ It needs to be something that is not going to cost you much either.’ Mum adds. ‘The more you spend on the project the less you’ll have to give. Plus you have already spent your pocket money.’
‘ Ohhh… I think I understand.’ says Lucinda. ‘ What can I do that I enjoy and am good at?’ she asks herself out loud. ‘Drawing?..Maybe not there are so many good pictures out there. Baking maybe?.. Hmmmm that might take up too much time and I need help with the oven.’
It is a very hot day and Lucinda sits looking out over the garden desperate for a refreshing drink. She looks out over the beautiful plants a trees growing outside when Bam! The LEMON tree. Her greatest fear “aaaaaargggghhhh” but it has free fruit.
‘That’s it!’ Lucinda cries out.’ Lemonade! I could add extra sugar to take away the nasty taste.’
Lucinda has heard about lemonade being very refreshing on a hot day but never had the courage to try it.
‘ I need to put my fear of lemons behind me.’ she decides. ‘ Those children must live in greater fear everyday. They would laugh at me if they found out I was afraid of a fruit?’
Lucinda gets to work. Katie agrees to pick the lemons from the tree as the branches are prickly and higher up. She manages to coax Jack into fetching a bag of sugar that Mr.Green kindly agreed to donate out of the local shop.
Lucinda borrows Mum’s yellow gloves to protect her hands from the lemon acid as she squeezes out the juice with all her might. Luckily Mum has a mechanical juicer which helps. Although it makes a frightful mess.
‘ Now I have mixed the sugar and lemon it’s just a bit of water.’ says Lucinda feeling chuffed.
She puts on a brave face as she tastes the drink.
‘Uuuuuuugggghh!’ cries Lucinda as she runs to the tap to rinse her mouth out. ‘It’s too sour. ‘ she says sadly. ‘ And I have used up all the sugar…No ones going to want to drink that.’
Lucinda is about to walk away and give up when she spots Mum’s Elderflower cordial on the shelf. Mum made a few weeks ago and it has plenty of sugar in it.
‘ I am not sure if lemon and Elderflower go together.’ says Lucinda with a little doubt. But she is in a crazy kind of mood now. ‘ It’s a bit loopy but here goes.’ She pours a bottle of syrup into the bowl and adds a bit of water. It is time to taste it. ‘ Wow that’s it! Perfect.’
Lucinda draws up a sign “Lucinda’s Loooopy Lemonade. Donations needed”. she takes some plastic disposable picnic cups, a small table, Granny’s old table cloth, some ice donated by the freezer and a chair. Lucinda thinks setting up shop at the end of the driveway would be a good spot. Besides there is a big tree which makes plenty of shade.
Business is slow. Most of the people are inside hiding from the heat.
‘ Wow this is difficult.’ says Lucinda feeling a little tired out. ‘Where are all the people?’
No sooner have the words come out of her mouth when a big car stops in front of her. The window rolls down. It is Mr.Barr the man who lives in the big house at the end of the road. He owns a great big juice factory.
‘ Hello Lucinda!’ Mr.Barr greets.
‘Hello Mister Barr.’ She answers.
‘ How is business?’ He asks.
‘ Not very good.’ she says looking a little sad.’ Everybody is inside and all my stuff is to heavy to carry door to door.’
‘ What are you raising money for.’ asks Mr.Barr.
‘ Poor children.’ she answers. ‘ Some of them are all alone without a family, a school or even clean water to drink.’ she adds.
‘ That is terrible.’ says Mr.Barr looking concerned. ‘ As it happens I am on my way to a meeting and need some refreshment.’
Lucinda pours a cup and takes it to the car. Mr Barr has a sip of the cold drink.
‘By Golly!’ exclaims Mr.Barr. ‘That is delicious. It has a very clever name as well. My tastebuds have gone all loopy.’
‘ I came up with it all on my own.’ says Lucinda proudly.
‘ Let me make you an offer.’ says Mr.Barr. ‘ I would like to take this juice to my meeting.’ he adds as he pulls a wad of crisp notes out of his pocket and hands them to Lucinda.
‘ Wow!’ says Lucinda looking at the pile of money in her hand.’ This will help a lot.’ she says finding it hard not to grin too much.
Later that night the door bell rings. It is Mr.Barr.
‘Lucinda.’ He says. ‘ How would you like to produce your “Loopy Lemonade”at my drinks factory?’
‘Eeerrr…Yes!’ says Lucinda feeling nervous and excited at the same time. ‘I’d love to.’
‘ I am so happy you said yes.’ says Mr.Barr smiling. ‘ And the best part is that the profit we make on each juice will go to your poor children around the world. Making sure they get looked after.’
‘ Hooray!’ screams Lucinda with delight. As she jumps up to give Mr Barr a big hug.
‘What a loopy day.’ says Lucinda as every one laughs and claps with joy.

Yowzer!

#newwriting #charity #lucindasloopylemonadeimage

Lucinda Lovage and her Loopy Lemonade