Went to Liverpool today

Went to Liverpool today. Got the very last space in the car park which was good. Got jostled by chavs in Primark which was not good. Went with Hannah intending to buy her some Christmas presents. Spent £15 in Primark which bought 143 items!! That’s really cheap but of course if we attempt to wash any of those items they will immediately triple in size and thereafter be useful only as dusters.


What do you want inscribed on your grave stone?


Its a cliché I know but it’s true that you think about your own mortality more as you get older. Realistically I’ve probably only got about fifty-odd years left to live and that’s if I’m lucky! How do any of us get any pleasure out of life with that shadow hanging over us? I know it seems like a morbid subject and I don’t want to depress the hell out of you all so let’s take a light-hearted slant on it by asking what people would choose as their epitaph if they could write it themselves. I’d go for something like the one above or Spike Milligan‘s legendary suggestion; ‘I TOLD YOU I WAS ILL!’.

What’s your Toy Story?

Do you remember when the image above could create enough excitement in a boy to make him almost wet his Y-fronts? TV Ping Pong represented the summit of electronic game technology. Confronted with the above scene on your own television screen, kids would shout out ‘look, I can make the thing move up and down!!’. The act of controlling a rectangle on the TV was almost unbearably thrilling.

At the risk of turning into one of those people who say ‘it used to be all fields round here, you know’ or ‘that’s not proper music, that’s just noise’, I thought I’d have a little stroll down Amnesia Lane and dig out a few pictures of the toys I used to have when I was a kid in the 1970s. The fact that the recent Toy Story 3 was so poignant to so many shows how important our toys are to us when we’re children.

The ones which spring to my mind are my Six Million Dollar Man action figure (above) with weird glassy ‘bionic’ eye that you could see through by peering through an open wound in the back of the figure’s head. Hard to imagine any modern TV character becoming a hero figure whilst wearing a red, crimpolene jump suit. The television series which spawned the toy was about a man with robotic parts including legs which enabled him to run at 60mph. I never understood why, in the programme, when Steve Austin ran at 60mph it actually slowed down the film so that he looked like he was going at about the speed of a slug.

As a Star Wars fan in 1977 I also had a replica of the Death Star in which to house my figures of Han Solo with the head bitten off and Princess Leia with biro nipples drawn on. The thing cost about fifteen quid which was the equivalent of a thousand pounds in today’s money and yet was made completely out of cardboard! It took four days to construct by fitting together all the pieces and two days to utterly destroy. I think its final resting place was in the garden covered in bird turd.

I also had a hand-held Space Invaders electronic game (above, top) which was the most irritating and repetitive game ever created. And I had an Emu hand puppet which was completely unlike the TV version with nylon fur that, if it came in contact with anything warmer than body temperature would probably have erupted in an inferno of lethal flames and poisonous fumes.

And not forgetting Stretch Armstrong (above) who was a pliable plastic man who could be moulded into whatever shape you wanted. When released he would slowly resume his original size and shape, settling back into his moulded container like a sort of muscle-bound pensioner. The container was roughly his shape and the screeching, whining noise the polystyrene produced as Stretch Amstrong eased himself back into it would set your teeth on edge for days.

So there are a few of my treasured toys of the past. Seeing photos of them after all this time is like seeing pictures of friends or relatives who are long gone. How wonderful to be innocent and uncomplicated enough to get pleasure out of bits of moulded plastic and cardboard. I suppose they were more innocent and uncomplicated times, the 70s. And round here, you know, it was all fields.


Although Remembrance Day was technically 11th November most countries will officially mark the occasion on Sunday.  No chance that I could forget this as the town’s cenotaph is right outside my Mum and Dad’s house (I took the above photo from out of the front window!) Whatever your views on war its worth sparing a moment’s thought to honour those who have died.

Stephen King’s new book is better than a casserole

Stephen King has a new book out called Full Dark No Stars and I haven’t read it. I don’t like the fact that Stephen King has a new book out which I haven’t read. As soon as I can get my hands on the new book that Stephen King has out I will read it and then be able to proclaim that Stephen King has a new book out and I have read it. Not having read the new book which Stephen King has out irks me because… well, I like Stephen King books.

Actually that’s not entirely true. I don’t like all Stephen King books. I’m not too keen on the Stephen King books which lean towards gross out horror. To me, gross out horror isn’t really horror; it’s just gross. Not being a fan of nausea (don’t ever ask me to go on the Waltzers) I don’t go for gross. If you do like gross then I’m sure Stephen King’s gross out horror books would be right up your street (what’s that one where some creature comes out of the toilet?!). Stephen King knows exactly how he wants a reader to feel and if he wants to gross you out, he grosses you out. But, to me,true horror is a subtler moment of realisation that requires a more unexpected and unpredictable source than a bloke getting his eyes gouged out (although a bloke getting his eyes gouged out has a pretty good pedigree as a horror stimulus; just look at King Lear !!)

The Stephen King books I prefer are those in which the emphasis is on characters. In these, I think he is untouchable. In particular I love his depiction of small town life. I’ve never been to America let alone Maine where many of King’s books are set but when I read his characterisation something rings out as universally true. I also love the Stephen King books where there’s a small number of characters (I know most people love his five inch thick blockbusters with 228 characaters but I’m a bit odd) such as Misery or, my all time favourite The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. He just seems to know what makes people tick and be able to put it down on paper so perfectly.

The annoying thing about Stephen King though for me, as someone who tries to do a bit of writing of my own, is that he’s one of those people who you read and just think to yourself; ‘Bugger! I’ll never be that good!’ That’s not healthy for me. It’s like an aspiring chef trying to make a casserole and straight away running up against Gordon Ramsey’s Coq au Vin. So maybe I won’t rush out and buy new Stephen King book Full Dark No Stars after all. Maybe instead I’ll go out and pick up a lovely Jeffrey Archer. No threat to my casserole there.


Thousands Celebrate Terrorist in England

Tonight we celebrated Guy Fawkes Night in England by setting off a large number of fireworks costing thousands of pounds which would otherwise only have been wasted on schools and hospitals. Here in Runcorn, Cheshire, we all headed for the banks of the River Mersey to stare up at the night sky and say “ooooooh!” a lot whilst rubbing up against hoodies.

Nobody mentioned the fact that we were commemorating a bloke who tried to blow up the seat of democracy in our country; a terrorist, basically. People seemed unconcerned by this but when a street vendor tried to charge £5 for a bulb-operated light sabre they tried to gouge out his eyes.

I’m being a bit sneery about it but actually it was a really spectacular and enjoyable night. Halton Borough Council (my munificent employer) laid on the bash for free and it was the best fireworks display since 1605 (that’s just gone 4 o’clock).

“Have you written a book?!” Yeah. Sorry about that.

I’m still getting a ridiculous, childish kick out of seeing my book in print. It seems to have gone down really well and has sold better than I expected it to (mind you, I only expected it to sell six). Its weird though; the main motivation for writing it was never to make money (just as well; profits are currently running at £14!). It just felt like something I had to do.

People have come up to me in work and said ‘have you written a book?!!’ Family, friends and some people I haven’t seen in years have ordered it after seeing it mentioned on the net (thanks Mark, Sharon and Brian especially!). I was so used to having the book as a private thing inside my head that when people started asking me about it, it felt very strange. Its like someone has just read your innermost thoughts.

A couple of people who have finished the book have asked me about some of the things that are left unanswered (if you’ve not read it, skip this paragraph). Firstly; who was driving the Fiesta with the flame transfers and, secondly, what does L.P.I stand for as it crops up a few times? And of course there’s the obvious questions of why the characters are being stopped from leaving Ghost Road, who is holding them there, and what exists outside? I think its probably best I don’t answer these questions explicitly although the answers are actually all in there. The books I love best don’t offer easy answers but let readers make up their own theories and I wanted this to be a bit like that.

Overall I’m pleased with the book. It was supposed to be a fast-moving, scary and thought-provoking ghost story and so far people seem to have enjoyed it on those levels. I don’t know if writers always feel like this but when I read through I always see things I could have done better or things that I should have put in/omitted. Anyway its too late now; the thing is out there! The only thing I can do now is make a start on the next one!


Go to amazon to buy; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Road-Jon-Kenna/dp/1446186903/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288907087&sr=8-1

or buy for less at lulu.com;