Thursday, 29 October 2015

Recollections of Amsterdam, 1979

My 25-year-old son has recently returned from a 4-day break in Amsterdam with his girlfriend who arranged the visit as a surprise for his birthday. No doubt the two of them will have absorbed the culture on offer within the Dutch capital: the exquisite art on display in the Van Gogh Museum; a sombre trudge around Anne Frank House where eight Jewish people tried, unsuccessfully, to evade Hitler’s evil clutches; and the charm of the canal network that meanders around the city.  
Their trip to Amsterdam rekindled memories of my only visit there in 1979, as a twenty-one-year old. Accompanied by my best mate, Alwyn, my patchy recall of our long weekend is rather different and comprises some less refined moments, as two testosterone-drenched, unattached young men experienced what was then the sex-and-drugs capital of Europe.

The passage of 36 years has, inevitably, lessened the clarity of my recollections. Also, the fact that Alwyn and I lived the whole experience in a drunken haze further compromises the reliability of my memories. Nonetheless, here are some of the more salient snapshots:

  1. Attending a live sex show where the lady, kneeling on all fours, appeared bored and unforgiving while the poor bloke thrusting at her rear struggled to sustain an erection.
  2. Arriving back at our economy accommodation – the Magic Inn – at 4.00 am to find a bearded tramp in a stained raincoat asleep on my bed. Having lost the power of speech due to imbibing copious quantities of Heineken, I fumbled my way back to reception and tried, using a combination of grunts and hand signals, to explain to the young girl behind the desk about my unwanted room-mate. She sped upstairs and, seconds later, I heard her scream, ‘Dirck! How many times do I have to tell you – get the fuck out of here!’
  3. A 230-pound pimp in a three-piece pinstripe suit and tie encouraging us not to linger too long gawping at the red-light ladies in the windows. If I recall, his exact words were, ‘Move along or I’ll cut you into little pieces’.
  4. Participating – fully – in an ‘all-day booze cruise’ along the canals and, by the evening, engaging in some communal on-board sexual groping. I have little recollection of the nature of my playmates; I just hope they were human!
  5. Lounging in a city-centre cafĂ© surrounded by hairy, sandal-clad hippies, all of whom were smoking reefers. As a lifelong non-smoker – not even tobacco – I did not join in, but recall the sweet, sickly smell that clung to me. In the aftermath, I suddenly realised that Alwyn was an alien who had been sent to planet earth on a mission to murder me.   

But, alas, standards have slipped. It is such a pity that, unlike their parents, the young adults of today lack awareness of the finer things in life.  
Photo courtesy of scottchan at


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Six pieces of advice I'd give my teenage self

As a contented 57-year-old I’ve few regrets. I found my soulmate and we’ve savoured the 34 years together. Between us we guided two children into adulthood, both of who are decent, talented and – of course – beautiful 20-somethings. And we’re lucky enough to be financially secure and able to travel the world following our recent early retirements at the age of 55.

But knowing what I know now, if I could travel back in time, there are some nuggets of wisdom I’d share with my 16-year-old self.

1. Don’t assume there’s always a ‘right’ answer for all of life’s questions. There are few absolute truths in this world, so rather than devoting all your energies to science subjects, why not give more of your time to English Literature and the appreciation of art. Read more fiction and fewer chemistry textbooks. Don’t always strive for the logical answer – Dr Spock was a bore - but explore the infinite expanse of your own creativity and imagination.

2. Don’t’ expect too much from your girlfriends. Lower your standards. Spread your seed far and wide (while, of course, taking the necessary precautions). Flirt more and don’t take your relationships too seriously – there’ll be time enough for that when you’re older. When someone tells you that your current girlfriend was spotted licking the tonsils of another boy, don’t sink into a depressive stupor; just smile, wish her well and move on to the next gal.
3. Don’t drink copious quantities of Pernod, as it will evoke projectile vomiting and, before you
realise, your orange stomach lining will be sprayed across the bedroom wall like some psychedelic modern art.
4. And try to drink less volume of beer when you stay over at a mate’s house; your best friend’s parents wont appreciate you pissing the bed in their guest room.
5. Actively seek out opportunities to learn new skills. Don’t always play safe by restricting yourself to sporting activities that you already know you’re good at. If you botch up, it doesn’t matter – learn to laugh at yourself.
6.Relish every moment of team sports – football, cricket, basketball – for there are few better feelings than winning and losing together as part of a unit against a common foe. Embrace that togetherness that competition brings; you’ll miss it when it’s no longer around.  
But would my 16-year-old self have listened? Absolutely not for, as everyone recognises, teenagers always know best.

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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Seven things I don't understand about my wife

Image courtesy of Ambro at
I met the future Mrs Jones 36 years ago at a social-club disco in the psychiatric hospital where we both worked. We’ve been a partnership ever since. My love for her strengthens with each passing year, and no one understands me better (and vice-versa); we often finish each other’s sentences.

Nevertheless, there are several recurrent behaviours my wife displays that leave me befuddled – perhaps others can inform me whether these actions are peculiar to Mrs Jones or endemic across the female population.

  1. Moving household items for no apparent reason
Often, I return home and believe, for an instant, I’ve mistakenly entered the wrong house as some combination of armchairs, settee, cupboard and coffee table have exchanged places.

On other occasions it is smaller items that are rearranged. In the shower, while facing the gushing water, the shampoo was always on the left while the conditioner lived on the right. One memorable day in July, Mrs Jones swapped them around; it took me three weeks to realise why I wasn’t working up a lather!

 2. A liking for busy outdoor flea markets

My lady could spend a whole day rooting through the stalls on an outdoor market, burrowing into the merchandise in search of a bargain. As for me, I don’t take kindly to the back of my legs being rammed by prams, my ribs poked by pointed elbows and my personal space invaded by a frenzied shopper with body odour and bad breath - all for the sake of buying some crap

  1. Irritation when I leave the toilet seat up
I’ve always struggled to comprehend the angry reaction to my leaving the toilet seat up. I don’t respond with fury when I go to splash the porcelain and find the seat down. In a society of gender equality, shouldn’t she lift it after use so it’s ready for me?  

  1. Criticising my dress sense
I accept that selecting matching clothes to wear is not one of my strong points, so I often depend on Mrs Jones to choose my outfits. Sometimes she complains, asking - with hands on hips and indignant expression – ‘do I always have to dress you’. Yet, on the rare occasions when I strike out for independence by dressing myself she responds, ‘Oh no – that shirt doesn’t match those trousers’. What can a guy do?

  1. Quilt hogging
Throughout the 30-plus years we’ve slept together, and irrespective of the size of the bed and quilt, there will usually be a point in the depths of night when Mrs Jones turns over while clinging to the bedspread as if on the crest of a roller-coaster ride. This sudden – nay, violent – movement invariably exposes my bare arse to the elements.

    6. Inconsistent spending

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Sometimes Mrs Jones will dedicate a whole week to a mission to half our grocery budget, rejoicing in her achievement of saving a few pennies on a loaf or a bag of potatoes. These periods of austerity are punctuated by spending binges when she shops like a crazed Russian oil baron let loose in London’s West End.

    7. Fluctuating sexual interest

Now both in our mid-50s, those days of working our way through the Kama Sutra have – sadly – long gone. While my sexual interest remains constant, albeit less than in my young adulthood, Mrs Jones would admit that these days she can take or leave the rumpy-pumpy. Nevertheless, it has not gone unnoticed that there is a sudden increase in her libido in the aftermath of those rare occasions when she's witnessed an attractive woman talking to me.

Any help in de-ciphering the mysteries of my wife’s psyche would be gratefully received. I eagerly await your comments.



Thursday, 27 August 2015

Beware the Egyptian god of the bowel

Courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at
After a wonderful two-weeks holiday in Egypt, I returned home to the UK with a tan and the shits. And I don’t mean any run-of-the-mill shits; this was an erupting-mount-Vesuvius-with-an-explosive-personality-disorder type.

For 8 days I spent my time within a 3-metre safety zone of the nearest lavatory, fearing to tread beyond this imaginary line in case the angry Egyptian god of the large intestine decided to make yet another unwelcome appearance. During this extended period of captivity, I often pondered the source of the bug that had decided to squat in the depths of my gut: I had followed advice, and drank none of the tap water; I’m obsessive about washing my hands thoroughly prior to each meal and after using the loo; and we tourists were repeatedly reassured that bottled water was routinely deployed to wash all the salads and other food stuffs.

Alas, the likely cause of my spectacular rear-end emissions occurred to me: contaminated beer glasses. The 7-day cruise along the Nile River had witnessed several of my fellow tourists succumb to ‘tummy upsets’ and it occurred to me that all those stricken were lager drinkers. On several occasions, late in the evenings, the boat staff had ran out of clean glasses and were forced to rinse the used ones; I’m certain they resorted to tap water on these occasions thereby exposing my inner tubing to over 2000-years’ worth of detritus that had been slopped into the ancient river.

Motivated by her constant fear of being shat on in bed at night, Mrs Jones persuaded me to seek medical assistance and so I ventured out the house to consult my local doctor.

‘I’ll require a stool sample’ he said, while handing me a flimsy plastic pot with a red spoon in it, rather like the ones used for eating ice cream from a tub.

‘Here and now?’ I asked, while disturbing images of me squatting in the corner of his office pushed into my mind.

‘No no’, he said with a tolerant smile, ‘take the pot home with you. When you next feel the urge to open your bowels, place several layers of toilet tissue in the bowl and, once you’ve emptied, scoop out a piece and return it to the reception desk for analysis.’

As I sped home, I suspected the doc had failed to grasp the extent of my looseness. ‘Scoop out a piece?’ Think water-bomb with flecks of sand and you will be getting closer to the essence of my lavatory experience.

Within minutes of arriving home, the irresistible rumble returned. Upon reaching the bathroom, I decided upon my own strategy to capture a sample of dung. I stripped naked, wrapped toilet tissue around my hand and forearm and squatted above the toilet bowl. At the point of detonation, I swung the plastic pot to-and-fro under my arse; it was a bit like wafting a thimble over the nozzle of an over-pressurised hose-pipe.
Courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at

Having successfully captured a splash of excrement, the next morning I returned to the doctor’s surgery, my specimen bottle hidden deep in my jacket pocket – it may have been my imagination, but passers-by seemed to stare at me, as if they had insider information about my secret cargo; or perhaps I just stank of shit.

At the reception window, the practice nurse casually collected my specimen while munching on a cheese and tomato sandwich – such professionalism! Within 48 hours, the bug had been identified and a 7-day course of antibiotics successfully rid me of the bacterial intruder.  

So if you are contemplating a visit to Egypt, the threat of terrorism is the least of your worries. It is the intestine-grasping revenge of the Nile River that you should fear. Don’t say you’ve not been warned. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The middle-aged man's survival guide

Women are complicated. Sometimes they're unfathomable. Despite a relationship spanning over 34 years, I cannot yet claim to understand the mind of Mrs Jones. But I have learnt a few things along the way – how else would I have survived? – and I’d  like to share them for the benefit of other men out there who might be even more perplexed than I am about the female psyche.

With regards to her body shape and appearance, a lady will never ask a question of her man unless she has already identified the response she wants to hear. Consequently, such questions strike pulsating terror into the bowels of any male. We know there is a ‘correct’ answer that, if delivered promptly and with sincerity, could later be rewarded with an assortment of sexual favours. But get it wrong and punishment awaits, ranging from icy silences to physical assaults.    

So gentleman, here is my guide to how to (and how not to) respond to six common questions from our partners. If you’re masochistic enough to offer response 1, brace yourself for punishment of a type that would have seemed gruesome in the dark ages. Offer a response 2 and expect to spend at least the next 24 hours in social isolation during which she will emit only one-syllable replies to your attempts to initiate conversation. But get it right with a response 3 and you could be creasing the sheets while entwined in the limbs of a passionate woman (that is, your partner).

Question: Which of these two dresses should I wear at the restaurant tonight? (asked while trying them on)

RESPONSE 1: ‘Won’t your jeans and sweatshirt suffice?

RESPONSE 2: ‘They both look OK’

RESPONSE 3: ‘You look great in both; they each show off your figure, but I think the red one just edges it’


Question: Do you think my bingo wings are disappearing? (while tugging the flabby bits on her upper arms)

RESPONSE 1: ‘No, but all women your age have bingo wings. And now I come to think of it, even the pretty lass next door has them, and she’s a lot younger than you’

RESPONSE 2: ‘They’re getting there’

RESPONSE 3: ‘I can’t say I’ve ever noticed them; your arms always look slender and elegant to me’


Question: My boobs are getting really floppy; don’t you find them a big turn off?

RESPONSE 1: ‘Yes. They’re like two blubber-filled hammocks in a gale’

RESPONSE 2: ‘No, I like them floppy’

RESPONSE 3: ‘I love your boobs; what man wouldn’t? Soft and natural and so much better than those plastic ones that some models flash across the newspapers’


Question: Does my butt look big in these jeans?

RESPONSE 1: ‘Of course it does; I didn’t nickname you “bacon arse” for nothing!’

RESPONSE 2: ‘No, not really’

RESPONSE 3: ‘No way! It looks firm and pert. In fact it’s taking all my willpower not to caress it’


Question: Doesn’t that bracelet look gorgeous? (while gazing into a jeweller’s shop window)

RESPONSE 1: ‘Give me strength! At that price we should be living in it, never mind wearing it’

RESPONSE 2: ‘Yes it’s nice’

RESPONSE 3: ‘It would look fantastic on you. If only we could muster the funds to buy it’ (buy it later that day and surprise her)


Question: Do you think I’m losing weight? (while standing in front of a full-length mirror)

RESPONSE 1: ‘No, I can’t say I’ve noticed’

RESPONSE 2: ‘I hope not; I like you with a bit of excess poundage’

RESPONSE 3: ‘Without a doubt; you’re shape reminds me of our wedding day’   

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at











Friday, 26 June 2015

Reflections in front of a carriage clock


Image courtesy of farconville at
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… …

I sit alone in the corner of a room, mindful of the passing seconds. Three months from now I will be 57; a year of existence for each of the Heinz varieties. Well past my half century, 8 years from ‘pensioner’ status, 41 years beyond the age of legal consent for sexual shenanigans.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… …

I’ve always had an aversion to time. Relentless, taunting clocks spewing out their unsettling messages each time you glance into their faces: another hour of humiliation to endure in the school woodwork class at the mercy of a sadistic teacher; 45 minutes beyond the scheduled meeting time at the bus-stop confirms she’s stood me up; only 10 minutes remaining in the History exam and I’ve yet to start the final question; 11 hours into my wife’s torturous labour and no sign of my son’s head.

Tick-tock, tick-tock… …

Yesterday I learnt of the sudden death of a longstanding friend. He was my age – seven months younger, actually. Fifty-two-years ago we sat, side-by-side, in the infant class on our first day at school, flushed pink with a combination of excitement and fear. Yet now he's gone, and each tick and tock proclaims I, too, am one second closer to nothingness, as Time inexorably inhales my juices, drying me up, edging me closer to that arid shell on the mortuary slab.





I will book the flight to visit my only brother in the Bahamas, rather than just talking about it

Tick-tock, tick-tock… …

I will start to write that block-buster novel I’ve been pondering on for over a decade

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… …

I will invite my wonderful son over for a couple of bottles of Abbott’s ale while we listen to, and discuss, our favourite music. And take my beautiful daughter to a Mexican restaurant to catch up on her university experiences while imbibing chicken fajitas and a cool drop of Corona Extra

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… …

And tonight I’ll surprise Mrs Jones by preparing a meal of fillet steak, swilled down with a Spanish Rioja. We’ll talk, and reminisce, about our 34 joyful years together. After which I’ll lift my lady off her feet – a (little) bit like the iconic scene from An Officer and a Gentleman – carry her to bed, and pound her into multiple-orgasmic ecstasy. (Okay, just one orgasm, if I’m on form – and my lumbago doesn’t flare up while I’m in full piston-like flow – but it will be high quality).

Because, after all, we need to grasp each fucking tick and each fucking tock as if it’s our last.    





Thursday, 21 May 2015



Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. At 56 years of age I believe it is time to review my life,
take stock, make amends. I don’t believe there is a God or an afterlife, but who can be certain of such things. So I’d like to play safe and acknowledge all my major wrongdoings from over half a century of prowling the planet earth. After I’ve drawn my final breath, if I find myself at the ultimate junction, I want to ensure I’m ushered in the direction of the arrow labelled ‘fine wine, ale and warm female flesh’ rather than the one indicating ‘fire, brimstone and a perpetual knee to the bollocks’.

So brace yourself, here goes; my confessional.

Dad, I’m sorry I lied to you when I was 9 and you asked me about my 14-year-old brother’s liking for tobacco. Adopting my most sincere facial expression – chin jutting, eyes fixed on yours – I swore that I’d never seen Tony puff on a single cigarette. Father, I sinned. Your older child was smoking like a damp log on a campfire. Forgive me. I know it’s no excuse but I had been bribed by my big brother; he’d allowed me a couple of drags if I remained silent.

Mum, I’m sorry I lied to you when I was 7. I was responsible for those giant spiders that infested our house. My behaviour at the time would today have led to a hefty prescription of Ritalin. Forgive me, for it was I who engaged in frenzied fly-murdering sprees (aiming for a minimum cull of three bulbous blue-bottles a day) and stored their pulped carcasses under a loose window tile; word most have spread through the spider community that a ready-made feast was being served daily, motivating all the dominant eight-legged creatures within a 2-mile radius to descend on our living room. And didn’t they fatten up quickly; our window ledge soon resembled a scene from Arachnophobia.    

And mum, it was not the cat’s fault that your wardrobe smelt of piss in 1977 – it’s amazing where a semi-slumbering young man will urinate after ingesting 12 pints of finest ale.

Mrs Fenwick, I wish to retract my comment to you when you returned home to break up your son’s house party 39 years ago. With the maturity of middle-age, I can now understand why you might have felt annoyed to discover muddy foot-prints on the Artexed ceiling of your recently-decorated dining room, semi-naked teenagers in your bed, not to mention the pools of vomit on the bathroom floor. You were never a ‘stuck up, snotty cow’ so please forgive me for my foul-mouthed ignorance; again, the demon drink may have distorted my mind. (Although come to think of it, you did often carry an unfortunate facial expression, as if someone was wafting a turd under your nose).    

Jean, the cougar, please accept my sincerest apologies for my failure to rise to the occasion, particularly after that delicious three-course meal you prepared for me. I was good-to-go, until I caught sight of your lady bits which, after churning out three children –one of whom, at 20 years old, was my age – seemed discoloured and misshapen, like a poorly-assembled tent flapping in the wind, and not at all like those of my female peers. Please forgive me.

Jane, the lovely young lady from Durham, you were totally right to deny me access to your inner treasures on our first date. I was 20 years old, full of anger and resentment, and treated you shoddily. And I’m sure you were far from being a ‘frigid slab of whale blubber’; please forgive me.

I think that should just about cover it. Oh wait. To the old lady I met last week in the frozen-fish aisle of the local Tesco store: it was I, not you, who was responsible for emitting the rotting-cabbage smell; it just slipped out when I bent over the refrigerators in search of battered cod. I should never have accused you. Sorry.

Well, I feel lighter already. Wine, ale and warm female flesh, here I come!  
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