Downtime

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I’ve been peddling on the tiny bike again…but I’m not getting anywhere FAST.

Downtime.

[Meaning: refers to a period of time that a system fails to provide or perform its primary function].

I use it to refer to the dark days I sometimes get between projects, when I tend to feel a bit useless.

The good news? I have delivered Outcasts 2 and 3 to Hodder: the series is done and dusted….and I’m on to the next project: a YA horror series about a girl with a horrible imagination.

So….what do I get up to when I’m not writing?

Here’s an example of one of my recent days:

I get up early.

I hit the shed. I print out templates and work the heat presses, producing mountains of engraved art and personalised gift products.

Then I hit the cross trainer. I do half a movie on that, then run through all my back exercises. The movie is Fortress…and I fancy the woman who plays Christopher Lambert’s wife: unlike him, she’s not made of wood.

Afterwards, I finish up on the orders, grab some lunch and go to pick up my smallest smurf from nursery. I collect the WRONG backpack and take some other kid’s lunch home.

Then I take the smallest smurf to the cinema to watch a movie. The movie is ‘The Secret Life of Pets’. I like the first five minutes when all the owners leave and their dogs start to come to life: after that, it’s just like any other animated movie.

I return in time to grab the bigger smurf from school. He’s carrying a potted plant which I know is going to sit on the window ledge and rot. I clap excitedly when I see it.

We go home: I take him swimming. It takes ages to get his shower cap on and he gets really annoyed when I catch his ear with the strap of his goggles.

When I get back, it’s dinnertime. We have home-made pizza: my wife is brilliant at that.

After dinner, we spend time with both smurfs before swapping over to put them to bed. We play Deal or No Deal and Evie wins. She always wins, because she shouts ‘DEAL!’ the second the banker makes his first offer: the rest of us are greedy.

Then I collapse to watch a movie with Mrs Stone. It’s  Saw III, which is sick, disturbing and slightly depressing…but there’s a naked woman in it, so it’s watchable.

A single coffee currently powers me through the morning. Sadly, it’s Carte Noir and not Costa.

A single glass of wine gets me through the evening. Sadly, it’s white…not red.

I’m not sure if you can tell from this blog entry….but loved every second of my day.

My answer to anyone who suffers from depression of any sort is to crowd your hours with as much noise and distraction as possible. Dark days are just that: days when your chemical balance is off. Don’t hide from the reality of this, don’t avoid people and don’t shun the world: embrace the situation for what it is – a blip. Just keep going…and eventually you won’t even notice when the colour floods back into your life.

I actually think I look a bit like Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ in this picture, albeit slightly more concerned than puzzled. Until next time….

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Burn Cycle

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The rather special view of London from my hotel room. Unfortunately, this was taken at 3am (I couldn’t sleep because of the GUILT)

Something pretty horrific happened last weekend…and the event reminded me that you never quite know what’s around the corner.

It’s Friday morning and I’m pretty stressed: I’m heading off to London for a film project and there’s lots of last minute rushing around to make sure there’s nothing I’ve forgotten.

So…as I walk into the kitchen, I notice an unpleasant smell. It’s not exactly disgusting, but it isn’t nice and I soon realise it’s coming from the sink. I tell Chiara about it and we decide to put soda crystals down the pipes. This involves pouring the powder into the plughole, boiling the kettle and then flooding the pipes with hot water to melt the crystals through and clear the blockage.

While I boil the kettle, Chi is under the sink rummaging around looking for potential problems with the pipes. This is all fine until the kettle finishes boiling and I carry it across to pour the molten water down the sink.

As some point, as I tip the kettle, it leaks boiling water onto the back of my hand: the shock of the burn makes my entire arm twitch…and I pour the water over Chiara. She cries out and I grab at the kettle to keep it steady, but the water has burned her head and chest quite badly. Moving as fast as I can, I do something that it seems – in hindsight – that I shouldn’t have done: I fill a jug of cold water and hurl it over her.

Now she’s not only burnt, she’s also really pissed off because she looks like a drowned rat.

Still in panic mode, I fill ANOTHER jug of water and am about to throw that over her too when she threatens me and tells me to calm down. Then we apply cold peas and burn cream.

By the time I leave for London, I feel terrible: really, really awful. I can’t stop thinking about what I’ve done – accident or no accident – and the awful procedure of going through my wife’s hair to see how much of the hot water had burned her scalp.

I’m so distracted and miserable that by the time I arrive at the beautiful Staybridge Suites Hotel in Stratford, I’ve gone into a kind of isolated trance. I practically ignore the woman who takes me through the check-in procedure: I don’t even fantasize about sleeping with her, which is unusual for me as she’s quite attractive.

Unfortunately, the thing I’m not listening to in particular is an instruction on how to operate the lift….so ten minutes later, when I’m stuck between two floors, I end up frantically pressing the panic button and getting hotel security out before I realise that I have to hold the card up to the sensor in order to get the lift to move.

That night, I have to strip naked because of the heat…but I still can’t sleep. The room gets hotter and hotter, as if the gods are punishing me with my own personal furnace. I tap the thermostat a few times, but instead of going down it goes UP.

My dreams are full of fire, but I wake at 1am, 3am and 5am.

The following day, I do my filming….but my heart really isn’t in it.

Still, lush hotel…..it even had its own kitchen, complete with Nespresso machine!

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Scrawny Ginger Chimp

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My wife and I in bed…before I lost all the weight.

Ladies – do you know how difficult it is being a man? Do you?

Of course you don’t…but that’s okay: I’m going to tell you.

I’m going to tell you why your husbands cheat, why your boyfriends flirt outrageously with other women when they’re perfectly happy with you…and why the world is set up for men to FAIL.

Now, I could start this post off by recounting the story of something that happened to me at Costa Coffee the other day….but if I do that, you’re all going to think I’m an insanely oversexed lunatic who probably needs an entire bottle of Calms and, possibly, a half decent therapist.

So I’m going to tell you something important first.

I’m a bit camp. In fact, I’m actually quite effeminate. I do my hair every morning, moisturize, carry a man bag, spray my special favourite places (the ones with hair) with expensive perfume and even talcum powder my arse so that it doesn’t chafe against my lovely patterned underpants. I cut my eyelashes with a pair of scissors – yes, you read that right – because for some reason they’re on the march and I even have an EYE roller for my eye contour area. An EYE ROLLER.

After all this preparation, I don’t just feel like a man….I could probably GET one if I posted a decent picture on the right site.

Anyway, I’m putting all this up to show my appreciation of a womanly demeanour. I appreciate women arguably more than any other man on the planet: I was raised by two women….and all the other powerful figures in the extended family were also women. My dad left my mum when I was born, but all the evidence pointed to the fact that he was a devoted fan of women too for an entirely different set of reasons.

Got all that? Right. So – camp guy, bit effeminate, in touch with my lady lumps.

Done.

So, I’m in Costa the other day smashing away on my laptop for a book deadline when a woman walks in. I’ve seen this woman a thousand times, I’ve even had a drink with her and a long chat about some charity event she was doing: she’s okay, but didn’t make enough of a strong impression for me to really remember much about her…

….until today. Today, for some reason, when I’m sitting alone and minding my own business, trying to get on with my work……today…..this woman is my sexual trigger.

BANG.

B A N G. Costa disappears: the glass, the counter, the tables: everything. Suddenly, we’re back in the jungle and I’ve reverted to Scrawny Ginger Chimp. I now want to have sex with this woman.

At least, my CHIMP does. I don’t – I want to get on and finish my book. Sadly, while she saunters up to the counter, my mental landscape is now THIS:

“Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex you sexy sex.”

I close my eyes and concentrate on the scene I’m writing: it’s for a horror anthology about freemasons (I was a Master Mason – I’ve mentioned that a few times, right?) but my Chimp just will not let go. In fact, it’s cranking up.

“Ooooooh sexy sex. Sex? Sex! Sexy sex sex, you sexy sexer.”

I want to cry. My mind is screaming to break out, so I’m now hearing:

“Sex sex sex sex please help I’m trapped in here sexy sex sex sex sex somebody get me out I just want to be nice to people sexy sex sex my face hurts sex sex.”

At this point, she looks over, spots me and waves. My mind goes:

“Oh hi! How have you been sex sex sex sex sex you look a bit down today sex sex sex I hope everything’s okay at home sex sex sexy sex in your face sex.”

Now, there’s a massive battle going on between the Chimp part of me (that wants to cover her in chocolate and lick it all off) and the human part of me that’s worried she looks a bit sad and wants to cheer her up.

So I do the thing I always do when I find myself turned on in public at difficult times.

I suddenly turn EVERYONE at Costa into Disney characters.

I shut my eyes, squeeze them tight and reopen them. There’s Mickey and Minnie behind the counter (serving), Donald, Daisy, Ariel, Rapunzel, Jasmine, Tiana, Goofy, Winnie the Poo and that weird Donkey one that only appears in the films that go straight to DVD. The two big guys sitting by the window are Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the woman with the strange thing on her leg is that flappy thing with no eyeballs from Mulan.

Slowly…..really slowly…..I return my attention to the woman who caused all the trouble.

To my absolute delight, she’s now Olaf from Frozen….

….which is fine until she winks at me.

It’s the final straw. I just pack all my sh*t up and go home for the day.

People ask me why I write in coffee shops less and less, these days: the reason is, quite simply, because there’s too many distractions and not enough Disney characters to go around.

-Dave

“In order for a man to feel loved, he needs to have sex and in order for a woman to have sex she needs to feel loved….so the basic act of procreation actually requires a LIE from one of you.” Billy Connolly.

 

 

 

Dog Days

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It’s been a horrible few weeks and I’m fighting shadows. I can’t really argue: my depression hasn’t been an issue for quite some time, so I guess I was due a bad patch. Unfortunately, this particular bout has come at the same time as something else.

Our doggy got diagnosed with Cancer a week or so ago and we have been faced with an awful choice: invasive surgery and equally grim chemotherapy or just leave him as he is and wait for things to deteriorate. This is one of those situations where the little guy is fine in himself, but we discovered the lump and started to investigate: something I’m now regretting. The investigation uncovered a lot of malignant tissue and a large shadow on his lungs. Jake is twelve years old, wags his tail a lot, barks a lot and goes crazy whenever someone visits the house (which has always driven me nuts).

Chiara and I got Jake when we first moved in together. He was there before either of our children and it’s difficult to imagine life without the hairy little dude. He makes so much background noise in the house that I fear the terrible silence that would descend if he wasn’t around. When I met my wife, she had a really irritating bird called Twinkle. It was a cockatiel and it made so much noise when I was working on my pirate novel that I actually wrote it into the book as an annoying parrot called McGuffin. It squawked all day, every day…unless you put a blanket over the cage. We let it out occasionally, during which time it would make the same noise but all over the house. I once even conducted an experiment where I went out for the day and asked the neighbours to report on whether or not the noise stopped (as I was so convinced it was directed at me). When I got home, they told me that it had just squawked all day long, regardless.

I cried when the bloody thing got sick: I didn’t even cry when my nan died.

Animals: they come into your life and the reason that you end up loving them so much is because they’re nicer than people. We all know this.

I’m going to make the most of the next few months with Jake: it might be all there is.

Way back when, I wrote a very popular comedy post on Jakey when he was a puppy that was called ‘The Dog Whisperer’ – it got 68,000 views and was picked up by an international syndication site. Here it is reprinted for the purpose of nostalgia:

THE DOG WHISPERER

When I finally decided that my dog had some sort of mental health issue, I didn’t mess around. I immediately splashed the cash and called in the professional: a £50 per day dog whisperer called Anita who lived on the borders of Kent and claimed to offer a life-changing service for pets AND their owners. This is the email I sent her:

Dear Anita

I’m worried about my dog. Could you please come out to my house for one day (at your usual rate) and give me a diagnosis on him? His name is Jake, he’s two years old, and he has a lot of other dogs as parents: we think he’s part spaniel, part labrador, part whippet and part terrier. Here are the list of things I’m worried about:

  1. He looks at me as if he hates me (can you tell if he does by talking to him?)
  2. He looks at my wife the same way.
  3. He doesn’t get excited by ANYTHING except other people. Even when I feed him, he just mopes over the food.
4. He’s SO happy when I go out, it’s just ridiculous. As soon as I get my coat, he goes crazy. I thought it might be excitement about going for a walk, but he gets REALLY miserable again if I actually put a lead on him and take him out.
5. I’m starting not to like him, either. Can you tell him that?

Thanks in advance,

Mr D. Stone (call me Dave)

————

She arrived on a wet Tuesday morning sometime in February, and came in out of the pouring rain like a character from a Lovecraft movie. Standing there in the hall, dripping wet in an old sheepskin coat and a pair of boots that looked as if they were covered in dog sh*t, she was – pound for pound – the most unattractive and unfriendly looking woman I have ever laid eyes on.

Immediately, I decide that her lack of any warmth and sex appeal means that she is a TERRIFIC dog whisperer. I look round at Jake, who usually LOVES other people coming into the house. This time, however, he’s backing away. It’s possible he thinks that she’s another dog (I wondered myself), but there’s a slim chance he’s actually terrified of her.

“Let’s not have any of that,” she snaps, quickly striding up to Jake and putting out her hand. He reaches up his nose and sniffs, then he’s ALL over this woman – and I mean ALL OVER HER. In about eight seconds, they’re best friends…which is when she turns to me and says: “Can you give us a moment?”

I smile…..for too long. “I’m sorry?”

“Would you mind giving us a moment, Mr Stone?”

“What – you and the dog?”

“Myself and Jake, yes. You DO want to know what’s wrong with him?”

I nod, thinking about the £50 I could have given to ANY local lunatic rather than actually calling one in, long distance.

“Into the kitchen, then. Off you go.”

“Sure thing,” I say. “Er….tea? Coffee?” (bowl of water?)

“Tea, white with five sugars. Bring it back with you: I’ll only need a few seconds.”

I make the tea, but I’m at the kitchen door….listening for barking or even howling or something.

NOT ONE SOUND.

Then I go back in to see that she and Jake are cuddled up on the sofa.

She grins at me, and says: “You can stop worrying. He thinks you’re okay.”

My inner voice immediately goes ‘Just OKAY? F**k him! I feed and walk the little jerk!”

Then she says. “I’m afraid it’s the house he doesn’t like.”

I slowly sit down next to the pair of them, and look doubtfully at a dog who is now on his back with all four legs in the air, moaning with pleasure as this big female yeti is scratching his stomach.

“Is it haunted or something? I saw that in a movie once, and-“

“It’s not haunted, Mr Stone. He just doesn’t like it, here: the layout of the rooms has him very stressed. Ideally, he needs to be somewhere with a lot more light and, if possible, an open plan living room.”

I stare at her to see if she’s joking.

She isn’t.

I want to say “Who does this dog think he is? You should see the s**thole we got him from! I didn’t even want to sit DOWN in that house…” but what I actually say – because I hate confrontation – is: “Hmm…..maybe we could move things around a bit for him.”

Amazingly, this doesn’t make her go. “Oh, you’re SUCH a lovely owner.” Instead, she goes: “Maybe move the sofas so that there is more open space around the front of the room?”

I nod, thinking, you mad old tart: he’s going in the garden when you leave. I’m not completely changing the layout of the house so that Bonio Gronk can stretch out beside the fire and think everyone who walks through the front door is his b*tch. He’s a dog: they used to run wild. Now this one’s an interior designer.

Then something really horrible and truly shocking happens.

I look around and realize that he’s actually right. The layout of our living room is just…..DREADFUL. Everything’s wrong: it’s like we opened the door and threw all the furniture inside.
When I glance down again, I see that Anita the dog whisperer is affectionately patting my arm. I immediately wonder if, just by touching me, she’s giving me…..THE SIGHT. Dog Sight. Something similar?

The rest of the day is spent going through diet plans, walking schedules, obedience training and general pet maintenance. For all this, she charges me her day rate and promptly disappears.

When my wife gets home, she doesn’t believe a WORD of it. For the next few years, our dog becomes steadily more and more unpredictable….and then – finally – we move house.

I showed him the details of the first three properties we looked at, and I swear he actually WAGGED his tail when I came to the house we now live in.

Of course, that was then.

Now he’s here, he hates this place too.

There’s just no pleasing the little b***ard.

 

 

Game Boys…

So….yesterday, Shan from Harris & Hoole lured me away from my favourite glass cube at Costa with a neat suggestion that I bring my little gaming posse to the coffee shop for a Dominion marathon.

I immediately called MT and Brown, giving us the following line-up:

MT – A smart, confident, hulking bloke with a sudden tendency to punch tables, pull hair out of your arms in thick tufts and shout obscenities when a game isn’t going his way. He does this a lot….which is perfectly acceptable, if you’re in PRISON. He blogs, too.

Brown – A sly, manipulative wind-up merchant who regularly goads people by taking shots at them for things they did fourteen turns previously or sometimes even in past games. The guy is still having a go at me for something I did in a school playground during the 90s.

Dave – I cheat. Like a motherf*cker. Pretty much constantly. You don’t just have to watch my eyes, you have to watch my hands and every single muscle movement I make. I’ll pick up six cards when I should pick up five and then talk loudly about sex in an attempt to divert everyone’s attention so I can pick up a seventh one.

We played for a few hours, gorging ourselves on the lush coffee and chatting with the staff…especially when one customer left behind a bunch of sculptures made out of tissue paper:

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Afterwards, we decided to meet up in the evening for a run of Small World, adding two more players to the mix. These were:

Jaylord – An antagonistic, constantly sarcastic git who blurts out ‘that’s what she said’ after practically any statement, making everything you contribute to the conversation inappropriate:

Me: This is so bloody hard
Jay: That’s what she said

Me: I don’t think I can get all this is one hand
Jay: That’s what she said

After two hours, you just want to punch him.

Stu – A dry, placid guy with a deep voice who lives in a remote village but drives his M3 so fast that when I step outside to call him on his mobile for a game night he’s on the drive before I hang up. Conversely, he spends so long taking his turn that people often go into another room and watch a film while’s he looking at his cards. I have long suspected that he does this on purpose.

These games were all held in honour of Harry, our lovely, beer-swilling, professional opinion giving chimp who missed out on gaming by failing to text me every five seconds in order to follow my train of thought for day. To be my friend, you need patience….a lot of it.

Sorry, Harry: on the bright side, you DID get to stay home and eat more….well…..more of whatever it is you’re eating in this picture:

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Curse of The Love Owl

I’m at Costa by 8.30am for one reason: I want to photograph an owl before the place fills up. It’s not a REAL owl: the staff don’t encourage real owls to fly around inside the building as they tend swoop a lot and shit on the customers.

No….it’s a magical owl artefact. Here it is:

Everyone needs a friend like Keith. Before we both settled down to quite ordinary lives (well, not in his case….he’s actually out saving the planet right now), we had some truly extraordinary adventures. Keith has always been a bit of an Indiana Jones type. Birthdays and Christmas were quite exciting times around the guy, as other people would buy you socks and underpants while he’d hand you something he pulled out of the ground at Abu Simbel. I’m quite serious: right now, there are probably expeditions out looking for some of the stuff he gave me.

One year, he handed me a box containing a seriously heavy, jewelled owl statue. When I looked at him blankly, he explained that inside the owl was a necklace containing a tiny replica of the larger object.

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“If you put the big owl on the mantlepiece and wear the little owl when you’re out and about, you will always be able to find your way home.”

As magic goes, it’s a wonderful idea…and I now use it if one of the children is going away for the day. However, at the time I was younger and quite highly sexed so I quickly decided that it had another function:

“If you go out to a public place, wearing the tiny owl around your neck…and you POINT the big owl at someone you fancy, they will immediately be drawn to you.”

As it turned out, the power of the owl could not be denied. McDonald’s, Cafe Rouge, Costa, Nero, even Subway (and it’s hard to get attention there as the customers are dribbling the whole time and the place is soaked in sex with words like ‘stuffed’ and ‘foot long’ on everyone’s lips).

In fact, it’s in Subway that I first set eyes on the woman: beautiful, classy, attractive and confident. She’s leaning on the counter with a faraway look in her eyes like a woman who just failed at Candy Crush and only needed ONE more Jelly Bear to get to the next round.

I focus the power of the Owl on her….and I can feel it working. As I close my eyes, she’s already looking in my direction. I can literally feel the energy swirling around me and the excitement is bloody electric.

Footsteps, perfume…..I let it all wash over me….and then I open my eyes.

At some point, the woman has left Subway and there’s an overweight, hairy biker at the counter…

…but – damn – that guy could kiss.

Press Release: OUTCASTS 2

Well, this is a great way to kick off the new temporary blog platform at DAVELAND!

Hodder have issued both a cover and a release date for OUTCASTS 2!

Thunderbolt will be released on 12th January 2017 and you can order it from Amazon by clicking HERE.

In the meantime, here’s a preview of the cover:

Outcasts Thunderbolt cover