I Told You To Watch Them!


I’m at Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, and I’m in Smug Parent mode.

I always get like this on those rare occasions when my kids are behaving like angels while everyone else’s are wrecking the place. Despite the fact that we’ve only been on site for an hour and they’re practically bursting with excitement about us all being on holiday in such an incredible place, Sebastian and Evie are acting like proper little grown-ups.

We’re in the play area next to the supermarket, and I’m watching two boys of Bast’s age trying to push each other off the slide while my little hero helps his tiny sister onto the wooden climbing frame. I glance over at the parents of the boys – who aren’t really paying attention to them – and I shake my head, sadly: this is why kids act up, a lack of attention.

My wife has gone into the mini supermarket to get us some supplies, but here I am: not drinking, not propped up at the sports bar, not distractedly ogling women (well, okay): just being a bloody good dad.

As I’m making judgments on every other parent at the resort, two small girls with blonde ringlets yell ‘Charge!’ and run into each other, both thinking the other one is going to move. As they land on their bottoms and burst out crying, Bast runs over to them and helps one to her feet. Then he runs back to the climbing frame to check on his little sister.

I start to stride up and down, deliberately calling out to him and giving him the thumbs up so that other parents know who his dad is. Nobody seem to be paying attention, so I walk over to Bast, lean down and ruffle his hair.

“You’re a good boy, Basty.”

He looks up.

“Dad, those two little girls ran into each other.”

“I know, Bast. They were playing chicken: it’s a very silly game.”

“Which one was the chicken?”

I laugh, and shake my head. “No, chicken is not like that. It’s….well, I guess it’s a bit like the jousting we saw at Leeds Castle, except that one person moves at the last second. It’s…just something kids do.”


“I don’t know, Bast….because some children do really silly things? That’s why mummy and I are very lucky that you and Evie are such good little smurfs!”

Almost on cue, Evie runs up to us. “Daddy, I’m hungry.”

“Me too. Shall we go find mum and see what she’s got for lunch?”



Off we go to the mini supermarket, and I reflect on how well organised Center Parcs are for providing those little trolleys for the smurfs: I know it’s a devious way of making sure they sell extra stuff the parents don’t really want, but it’s still….you know……a cute idea.

While I look at the magazines, Basty is quietly showing Evie how to steer her trolley so they don’t run into each other, and the two of them move apart. It’s really quite busy in the mini supermarket, as lots of  people have arrived and are flowing in one great sea towards the checkouts.

I visibly smirk as two kids old enough to know better start fighting over a bottle of chocolate milk. I even lock eyes with the father and give him a sympathetic look, but the big guy is staring past me in horror and pointing.

I turn just as it happens.

Bast and Evie have gone to either end of the aisle, and charged at each other.

They run the trolleys together with such a gut wrenching smash that Evie goes over the handlebar and ends up inside Sebastian’s trolley, screaming ‘daddddddddy!’ and crying her eyes out while Bast gallops around the devastation, shouting. “I win! I win!” As he spins, he knocks four cans of baked beans onto the floor and a thickset man in a tracksuit steps on one and has to grab the side of the cabinet to stay upright.

I bolt towards Evie, but in my hurry to get to her I shoulder-barge a grandmother who drops her walking stick which I then trip over. By the time I get to Evie, she is covered in her own snot and being patted down by two of the irresponsible parents who were ignoring their kids at the play area. I swear they give me disapproving looks as I leave the supermarket, carrying one screaming smurf in my arms and dragging the other one by the arm of his jacket.

When I get outside, my wife is waiting for me with her arms folded.

“I told you to watch them,” she says.


Toilet Time


Occasionally, I call my wife in the toilet….just to see how she’s doing.

I wish this was an exaggeration, but it isn’t.

My wife used to go in there to actually use the toilet. Then it became a place to check her phone in the morning before developing into a tiny space where she could play the odd game of Pet Rescue, chat to friends on Whatsapp and, eventually, conduct some of her business transactions.

I don’t begrudge her the toilet time, but what I do find increasingly irritating is the way she looks up in surprise when I check on her after, say, twenty minutes….as if I’ve walked in an important meeting. Sometimes, she even goes: ‘Yes? Can I help you?’

That’s why I call her, instead.

I should point out that she started going into the toilet because of the children. Chi and I worship our smurfs, but they are, I have to admit, two of the most intense little monsters you’re ever likely to encounter. The bigger male one talks constantly: even when you lose your temper and shout at him, he simply waits for you to stop shouting and then carries on his conversation as if you never interrupted. The little one, in order to establish her voice against this torrent of verbal diarrhoea, screams randomly over the top of him. The resulting noise is like having a really loud radio that keeps spewing out static and deafening alarms between announcements.

Don’t get me wrong: during the day, they develop into a pair of beautifully well-rounded children and we regularly get compliments when we’re in public with them, but for some reason mornings and breakfast times are….

….pure and complete chaos.

Letting them watch TV doesn’t work: they fight over which channel they’re going to put on. The Wii Fit causes even more trouble, as they both wrestle on the board until one is thrown off and goes crying to mummy….

….but mummy is in the toilet, working. So they go to daddy, instead.

Daddy is making the breakfast, feeding the fish, emptying cans of dog food into a pet bowl and trying to find the cough medicine, but this makes no difference. Off they go, telling tales, fighting, screaming, grabbing daddy’s leg, running up and down, throwing balls at each other and knocking over random pieces of furniture in remote rooms that I then have to run to in order to check that they haven’t killed each other: I end up taking ten minutes to make a single bowl of Weetabix.

Then, one day, I snap.

I put down all the breakfast stuff, and decide to retire to the toilet. I actually need to go, and the thought of relaxing into a half decent bowel movement makes me quite excited (I used to get excited by women, but now toilet time does it for me: ageing sucks).

Now, I have a choice of toilets. There are four toilets in our house. As we don’t live in a country mansion, I can only assume that the architect who designed the place had IBS, because the poor bastard couldn’t lay out a room without sticking a toilet next to it: working with him must have been a complete nightmare.

‘Should we put in another toilet over there, do you think?’

‘There’s one here, Ted.’

‘Yeah, but even so….I was actually wondering if we could get one between those two walls over THERE.’

I decide to head to the one toilet I know will definitely be unoccupied: the one that sits directly between the kids’ rooms. It has two doors, but I can lock them both. If I do this, the kids will naturally go moaning to mummy and I can just sit, relax and drop my other kids off at the pool.

I even decide to take Paul McKenna in with me, as he’s on my iPod. Paul has tried to lift my depression and change my life several times, but thusfar he’s only succeeded in changing me into a man who is ten quid poorer. To be fair to Paul, I haven’t really given him the chance…as I never get to actually finish one of his self-help courses.

This time, he’s talking through a guided trance. Have you ever tried following a guided trance while going to the toilet? It’s a bit counter productive, but I’m making the effort.

I’m halfway through my toilet time when I hear a distant noise that is slowly but steadily coming closer. I can even hear it over Paul, who saying things like ‘Just relax’ and ‘You’re now drifting away.’

Both locks on the toilet door go at the same time: both of them. They move so fast that it’s like one of those paranormal films where the ghost has control of the house: they spin around and the kids enter through their respective doors. They’re carrying bowls of Weetabix.

I sit there with my mouth hanging open and they walk into the toilet RIGHT in front of me and starting talking to each other as if I’m not there.

Instead of shouting, screaming or reacting in any other way to this horrible intrusion, I simply close my eyes and concentrate on Paul’s melodic voice as he’s counting down from one hundred, but I can hear them OVER the top of the audio and they’re now talking about me.

‘What daddy doing?’

‘Shhh! Don’t disturb him: he’s doing a poo.’

‘Is he doing poos?’


‘Is he doing poos now?’


‘Big poos?’

‘Don’t know! Do you want to see?’

‘See daddy big poos?’

Do you want to see? I open my eyes and peer round in frank astonishment as they move around to look in the bowl while I’m still sitting on it.

I leap up, press the flush and run to another toilet. Behind me, I can hear:

‘There they go forever! Wave to them!’

‘Bye daddy big poos!’

In the other toilet, I have to sit with both feet propped against the door because they can open that lock, too.

I want to lose my temper, I want to scream, I want to shout at the world for not giving me any privacy.

Instead, I call my wife to complain.

I get her answer message.


Nappy Ever After


Look at the Disney Princess in the picture above. Actually LOOK at her face. Do you know why she has that frozen, slightly startled and not entirely positive expression?

It’s because she can smell a full nappy. In fact, she can’t just smell it: the odour of festering baby pebbles is so powerful that EVERYONE can smell nothing but cloying, choking, unimaginably foul turds. It’s worth pointing out that all of us: the family, the princesses and the rest of the crowd, are trapped inside a tower in sweltering heat in the middle of the summertime at Disneyland Paris.

Well, not all of us.

Daddy isn’t there…

…which brings me to the subject of today’s blog post.

I have a confession to make: it’s not good.

You know how, in life, there are things you’re proud of and things you’re not proud of? You might be proud of your family, your kids and your scholastic or business achievements….but know, deep down, that you’re actually a bit of a tit. You might be proud of your looks, but secretly suspect that from the wrong angle your face actually resembles a penis with teeth.

Well, I’m extremely proud of lots of stuff, but there is one thing I’m not very proud of. It’s something I don’t do very often, but – boy – do I ever pick my moments. Quite simply, it’s this: when the going gets tough, I tend to run away from stuff…and I mean that quite literally.

I’m like a spineless, cowardly version of Forrest Gump.

Occasionally, I use this is as a weapon. If I see someone I don’t like (which is usually either a bigot, an intellectual snob or some other form of odious, smarmy biped), I wave at them and wait until they’re really close…and then I RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The next time you see that guy from the office who only ever talks about his car or his sexual conquests or that girl who always pays you compliments in a way that actually puts you down, walk towards that person and then run away. It will completely astonish them, and there’s quite honestly nothing they can do but watch. This is fantastic fun at Tesco, because it adds the thrill that, at any moment, you might have to do it again when you round the end of an aisle.

There are, however, two times that I have run away from a situation where I really should have been a man and stuck it out.

The first was when I was sixteen, and driving to work with my poor mum. In my defence, she’d bought a really crappy Vauxhall Cavalier which had spent more time in the garage than it had in the road outside our house. This lumbering hulk of a mechanical paperweight was about as useful as a condom machine in the Vatican, and it broke down so many times that I was sick – utterly sick – of it. So when my mum pulled up at a busy traffic crossing in Broadstairs at the head of a line of traffic and the engine suddenly sputtered and died on her….

….I got out of the car and ran.

I ran and ran and ran.

Then I went shopping.

I didn’t see mum again until three o’clock in the afternoon, when she came and got me in a taxi when I called her from Birchington….

…and that lovely story brings us to the event in the picture.

It’s the height of a high, sweaty summer at Disneyland Paris and I’m in the worst mood imaginable. This is because we’ve had to buy a ticket to get into a queue, and we’ve been waiting ages. AGES.

Nowhere else on the planet Earth do you buy a ticket in order to start waiting for hours, unless you happen to be attending a book signing by some ridiculously popular celebrity or you’re one of those unfortunate people who use British Rail in order to get to work.

So, for a meet and greet with the Princess, you buy your ticket at – say – ten o’clock in the morning and then you come back at three o’clock and wait for a few hours in a killer queue. Only, in this case, the queue is extra massive because Frozen is still at cinemas worldwide, every kid in the world wants to meet Elsa and they’ve chosen to house the Princess inside a tower that basically consists of a spiral corridor that just winds round and round and round and round like you’re trapped inside one of Willy Wonka’s demented creations.

There’s only ONE way out: you quit the entire experience, leaving your tiny children heartbroken and whining like safari park chimps when all the bananas are taken away.

There are no toilet facilities inside the tower, and if you move from your space in the queue, then you’re basically saying – in the words of Duncan Bannatyne – ‘I’m ooot’.

It is in this exact situation that my wife and I begin to get a tiny and very faint whiff of turdlings.

We look at each other.

Then we look at our six-year-old son, just in case.

Finally, our eyes alight on the usual suspect: our tiny daughter.

She’s smiling up at us, but it’s the sort of smile a body builder would give when they’re pushing five hundred pounds…so we both know she’s filling her shorts.

We look at each other again.

The horror creeps in.

It’s the worst situation imaginable because we know we’re in the middle of the tower and that there’s no way out….

…and that we have around twenty seconds before the families around us begin to notice the smell.

Boy, do they ever notice the smell.

A sort of ‘Whodunnit’ live action show begins, with a burly greek guy grabbing his nose and two women behind him saying, quite loudly: ‘Oh! What’s that smell? God, it’s awful!’

The heat in the tower intensifies as more and more people start to gag: an old man leans against the wall while his wife wretches a couple of times and two little girls start crying.
My wife is refusing to move. She’s saying it with her eyes, but the lack of intention is clear. We are at Disneyland for a BIRTHDAY….and they’re going to meet Elsa no matter what. She’s not going to Let It Go.

….not for anything.

It’s at this point that I lock eyes with my wife and she knows, she just knows, that I’m going to run.

I smile lovingly at her.

I look down at my two beautiful children.

I reflect on what an incredibly lucky guy I am to have such a perfect family.

Then I run.

I run and run and run.

I’m back at the hotel in just under an hour. Thankfully, the room service is incredible, so I have a pretty good afternoon. That Johnny Depp film is on: the one where’s he a lazy writer who hangs around in his pyjamas.

My wife gets back to the hotel just after 6pm. It turns out that Elsa wasn’t available for the Meet and Greet, so they met Cinderella instead.

The picture says it all.

The Tantrum Game


This is my son, Sebastian. He’s on the floor of Boots in Ramsgate, throwing a major strop and blowing raspberries at me. He’s also refusing to move, and I’m threatening him with all sorts of punishments to disguise the fact that I have a bad back and can’t physically drag him outside.

This whole thing started because I lost MY temper, but I was seriously provoked. The really sad part is that we were having an awesome day up until this point: we’d played in the park, done adventure games, explored the wilds of Ramsgate (well, okay, that bit down by the seafront where everyone looks like a character from Tin Tin). Here’s how it all started to go wrong:

Sebastian – what sandwich would you like?”

Egg and cheese.”

You don’t like egg.”

I do. I had it in a sandwich the other day, at nanny’s.”

Okay, well – there’s no egg and cheese.”

Why not?”

There just isn’t. There’s…..let’s see, here……egg mayo, egg and cress, cheese and tomato or cheese and ham.”

Egg and cheese.”

I just told you-“

Take the egg from that one, and the cheese bit from that other one.”

You can’t do that, Sebastian.”

That man is.”

I look over, and – sure enough – there’s an old tramp rooting through the sandwiches. He’s opened at least two boxes, and trying to get the filling out of one sandwich. As we stand there gawping at him, the security guard turns up and hauls him away. Two assistants quickly remove the two boxes he’s touched, while a third cleans the floor.

We just stand there in silence, as I’m trying to work out what lesson to make of this.

Bast says “Is he in trouble?”

I nod. “Poor guy was really hungry. They’ll probably take him to the police.”

For wanting a different sandwich?”

No, Bast. He was STEALING.”

He wasn’t. He was just making a different sandwich. I want egg and cheese.”

Didn’t you learn ANYTHING from what just happened to that man? If we open those packets, the security guard will take us away.”

He can’t: he’s outside with that man. It will be ages before he comes back.”

I’m so stunned by the truth of this statement that I immediately get very cross.

RIGHT! Now I’m going to choose your sandwich for you. Do you want egg or cheese?”

You said YOU were going to choose.”

Just stop being cheeky and answer me.”

Egg and cheese.”

That’s IT! We’re leaving.”


.and, with that, he collapses onto the floor and starts blowing raspberries at me. This goes on for a full ten minutes before the security guard comes back: all the guy does is fold his arms and Bast leaps onto his feet and practically drags me out of the shop. On the way home, I tell Sebastian that he’s going to do what I tell him from now on, that all his privileges are revoked, and that he’s going to do things MY way from now on.

When we get home, I make him an egg and cheese sandwich.

He leaves half of it.

Ending Your Marriage at Costa


I’ve only been at Costa for ten minutes when I suddenly overhear:

So, you wait until we’ve got four kids before you decide it’s her you want and not me.”

I don’t turn around. I sit back in my chair, very slowly, and put down the mocha I’d raised halfway to my lips.

Immediately, my mind scans back through the people I’ve seen arriving at Costa since I’ve been in my seat. This couple is obviously sitting just behind me, out of my sight, and there’s no way I’m turning around when they’re obviously about to have such a serious and painful discussion. I want to go and sit somewhere else, but the place is packed and the only other free chair will trigger my back problem.

So I stay seated….and I think. Immediately, I know which couple it is. I’m a people-watcher, and I distinctly remember them being two places behind me in the queue. I know this because the woman has a distinctive lilt to her voice which rather curiously makes her sound cheerful even when she’s saying things that must evidently be very difficult to say. She was also quite attractive (yes, I know, but I’m a guy and little Dave does a lot of my thinking for me) whereas her partner had a pinched sort of face, as if he was made of Playdough and someone had rolled out his head just to make the nose. If I had to guess, I’d say they were in their mid thirties…which is a bit impressive if they have four children.

All this runs through my head before she makes her next statement, in a much lower voice:

I feel like I don’t matter to you at all.”

I suddenly get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I hate seeing people in pain, or hearing it. My mind tries to focus on the blog I’m writing, but I’m now officially grading this guy optimistically. I decide his name is Jim, and that he’s a good guy who has made a terrible mistake.

Then she says:

Were you f*****g her while I was on the operating table?”

I’m really trying to root for Jim, but this new horror – coupled with the fact that he hasn’t said anything in reply – is quickly reclassifying him in my judgmental cortex as possibly a bit of a dick.

There’s a brief pause where neither of them say anything, and then she ploughs on.

You were with her on my birthday, weren’t you? That’s the reason you got those theatre tickets for my mum and insisted I went with her. You filthy piece of s***.”

Part of my mind cannot believe they’re doing this at a Costa Coffee, but mostly I’m racing to alter my view of Jim, who has now slipped slightly below ‘not a nice guy‘ and is heading straight for ‘tosser’.

It’s then that I notice the old lady sitting opposite and slightly to the right of me. She has a coffee cup halfway to her mouth, and looks absolutely delighted. I mean, seriously delighted, by the whole situation. My jaw drops, and I just gawp at her. I can’t believe she is openly enjoying the misfortune of some poor couple she’s never even met, and I immediately decide she’s a wicked, cacky-fingered old crone who spends her nights stroking some tiny green iguana and writing poisonous letters to her grandchildren. I glare at her. I mean, really glare: teeth out and everything. She notices, offers me a strange half-smile and quickly returns her attention to the magazine she’d been reading (Spiteful Knitting Monthly).

The couple behind me haven’t said anything, and I’m guessing this means the situation is actually getting worse….something that turns out to be correct when she says:

If I’m going to lose everything, I might as well just kill myself.”

The old woman looks up, and grins again. This is beyond belief. She can actually *see* them – she’s looking right at them – and she’s enjoying their pain. It’s just horrible. What’s WRONG with people in the world today? I stare her down, praying that Jim is about to make everything better for his poor, suffering partner, hoping against hope that she’s wrong and that he will say something, anything to save the situation for his children. Then she practically explodes:

Aren’t you going to say ANYTHING? Seriously? Come ON: you’re obviously a terrific bloody actor, so SPEAK.”

I’m sorry,” he says, finally. “I can’t really remember any of it…I just…”

Even from where I am, I feel her lean forward: I hear the coffee cups rattle as she hits the table. She says:

Well you better start learning some of this stuff, because you were supposed to say ‘I still love you’ after I said the thing about the kids.”

I immediately spin round and look behind me. She has a book open. They’re rehearsing for a play. A play.

A f*****g play.

My heart is pounding, and I feel angry: actually, genuinely furious.

That’s when I look back at the old woman, who winks at me. It turns out she wasn’t enjoying a messy break up at all, she was enjoying the look on my face because she knew I thought it was all real.

I feel myself flush bright red, and I pick up my laptop.

I can’t write under this sort of pressure: that hideous old crone has made a complete fool out of me.

He Thinks You’re HIS Dog


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 Davey)


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.


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? Screw him! I feed and walk the little jerk – AND I buy him those bacon biscuits!”

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 shithole 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: there’s no way he just told you that and, even if he did, 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 bitch. 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 him.


Davey Stone is a moderately sociopathic and extremely antagonistic author, blogger and comedy lifestyle commentator. Since starting his career in Knights of Madness with Terry Pratchett and Tom Sharpe, his books have sold more than a million copies for Disney and Penguin in the USA and Hodder in the UK. He has performed at the Edinburgh and Hay Festivals and is now a master freemason and a director of an online gift company when he’s not chasing parts in local pantomimes. He can be contacted at davidleestone@live.co.uk or on his mobile at 0666 666 66666662(6)2.

The Wizard of Westwood Cross


‘So let me get this straight,’ I say, trying to get comfortable in the back of the van. ‘I agree to blog about you, and in return you will show me REAL magic.’


‘Right here at Westwood Cross?’


Not for the first time, I glance sideways at my mate Andy….but all he does is nod and say quietly ‘This guy is the real deal.’

I’m reserving my judgment. I’ve met too many so-called ‘wizards’ and they’re all from either the Derren Brown school of psychological manipulation or the Dynamo academy of elaborate setups and high impact visual illusions. Alternatively, they’re just plain nuts.

There’s no such thing as real magic.

‘He’s like Gandalf,’ Andy whispers. ‘It’s proper Lord of the Rings stuff, mate: blew me away when I first saw it.’

I return my gaze to the wizard, who is in fact a guy of average appearance in his mid to late forties with a receding hairline and a beard that looks like he just fished the hair out of his armpit and slapped it onto his face. His name, for the record books, is Derek…..but I am told that his friends call him Derry.

‘Why aren’t you rich?’ I can’t help asking the question, because I’m so narrow-minded that I automatically assume anyone discovering that they have magical powers would immediately use them for financial gain.

He simply smiles, shakes his head and says: ‘Money isn’t important to me, David. I was given this power for a reason, and it wasn’t to make myself wealthy. I think I was put here – in this place and time – to make the world….better.’

I sniff. ‘You’re doing a rubbish job.’

‘Yes, well….I haven’t really started yet.’

I take a deep breath, and try to maintain my most serious expression. ‘Okay, Derek. I’ll buy in. A few quick questions, though…before you do anything EPIC.’

‘Go for it.’

‘Firstly – do you believe in God?’


I’m quite taken aback by this: people who claim to have supernatural powers nearly always answer ‘yes‘ to the question of a supreme deity. I try again.

‘What about gods? Plural?’

‘Afraid not.’

‘A goddess?’


‘Something evil in the woods?’


‘Just testing.’

Andy is getting restless. He suddenly leans forward, puts his hand on my arm and says, rather urgently: ‘Dave – just WATCH him do his stuff. PLEASE.’

I heave an enormous sigh.

‘Fine – but I’m not blogging about it unless what happens is absolutely incredible.’

‘It will be.’

‘Okay….let’s do it.’

Andy hauls open the back of the van and we step into the car park outside WHSmith. I expect a few moments of meditation or something, but Derek is off like a rocket, doing a kind of fast walk in the direction of Boots. I have to run to keep up with him, and Andy is left at the back because he has the physical conditioning of an elderly tortoise.

For some reason, I’m fully prepared for him to go straight into Boots, but he suddenly veers right and starts hurrying through the main thoroughfare, past River Island and HMV before stopping outside Waterstones bookshop.

When I catch up with him, he turns, looks me directly in the eye and says: ‘In exactly ten seconds, I will go into Waterstones, locate a certain book and turn it around so that it is on the shelf facing the other way. Doing this will start a chain of events that will immediately bring a devastating amount of power down on this shopping centre.’

I’m trying hard not to be rude, but what I’m hearing is ridiculous. ‘Derek – people do that stuff all the time, mate…and apart from making more work for the booksellers, I’m pretty sure nothing ever happens.’

He leans in close to me, and smiles. ‘They’re moving the wrong books, David. Now….GET READY.’

I gulp and make a face, just as Andy puffs and pants his way up to us. Derek is rolling up his sleeves and beginning to move his fingers in a really odd way.

‘Hang on a minute,’ I say, suddenly aware that there might be something a bit off with this guy. ‘Nobody’s going to get hurt, are they?’

He shakes his head. ‘Not at all: the people in Debenhams might feel something, but I doubt anyone else will notice.’


‘Just…..watch and learn. Oh, and do as I say. Okay?’


‘Sit on that bench, both of you.’

Andy and I wordlessly take a seat on the bench outside Waterstones.

‘Now…..watch Debenhams. Watch it VERY, VERY closely. Not the people…..the building itself.’

Andy and I turn our heads and focus on Debenhams. It’s a bit difficult to stare at the place, because there’s a car outside it with a giant statue of a greyhound on top. This would be even be a distraction in Twin Peaks, but we’re in Thanet…and it’s normal. I give Debenhams a really good, intense stare….until my eyes start watering. A minute or so later, I turn to look at Andy…and he’s not moving: he’s totally, TOTALLY fixated on the building.

The wizard Derek emerges from Waterstones, looking incredible smug and self-satisfied, and swinging his arms as if he’s just won first prize in a Lovely Sheep competition.

‘Well?’ he says. ‘Tell me you’ve seen something better than that….and I’ll never bother you ever again.’

‘Something better than what?’ I flash a glance back towards Debenhams. Andy is still mesmerised. ‘Nothing happened.’

Derek grins.

‘I moved the building, David.’


‘I moved the building ever so slightly to the right.’


‘-moved the building, yes. I think you’ll find that the people coming out of it now are a bit disorientated…’

I stare at the glass doors of Debenhams, where a couple are emerging. They’re laughing, joking and swinging their bags.

I’m angry.

Very angry.

‘He HAS,’ Andy confirms, now rubbing his own streaming eyes. ‘He’s only gone and bloody MOVED Debenhams! Look at that sign for Costa: it’s now LEFT of the entrance.’

I crack my knuckles, and pat Andy gently on the shoulder. ‘You’re telling me that when you see a small standing sign for Costa is in a different place, you assume someone has moved the building behind it? You’re a TIT, Andy. An absolute TIT.’

‘Listen, Dave – you don’t understand. Derek-‘

‘Derek is bigger than a tit, Andy. Derek is a complete and massive BREAST. You’ve wasted my time: both of you.’

I get up and walk away.

‘Will you blog about it?’ Derek calls after me.

I turn around to give him the finger, but he and Andy are both now deep in conversation. For the tiniest fraction of a second, my perspective shifts and I suddenly see Debenhams on the RIGHT side of the complex….but a quick blink reveals it’s all in my imagination.


I’m 99% sure that Debenhams didn’t move an inch, and I’m only blogging about this for the following reason: if, by some miracle, a future architectural survey reveals any sort of dynamic shift in the Westwood Cross complex, I want to point to this moment and say: ‘I was THERE.’

You’re My Wife Now


It’s the Spring of 1999, and I’m with Russell Howard….not Russell Howard the comedian, this is Russ Howard, a 42 year old self-employed guy from Maidstone who has a string of long-term relationships with plastic dolls instead of women. Russ is quite open about a lifestyle many would consider to be bizarre, and he talks about these ‘wives’ of his freely as if they’re real people. I’m not allowed to take pictures inside his house, but he has told me that no question is ‘off the table’. This is just as well, because I’m not – technically speaking – a journalist: I’m just a dabbling freelancer who likes to write about extraordinary people….and the best thing about extraordinary people is that they invariably love being written about.

The first two ‘wives’ have been pretty ordinary: number one looked quite exotic and expensive, while number two, I’m fairly certain, is a copy of that doll you always see on the adverts that cries all the time and fills its shorts when you leave it alone for more than twenty minutes. Naturally, I didn’t say any of this to Russ. I’m not stupid.

‘Mr Stone – allow me to introduce you to my third wife, Jess. We met at university.’

‘University? Seriously?’

‘Yes. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the campus was hosting a toy fair and Jess was an unexpected bonus on a stall of exquisite handmade ladies.’

Handmade ladies? I just say: ‘Wow.’

‘Wow indeed. It was love at first sight…..for both of us.’

He opens the door and I look down at Jess, who is staring across the room with that fixed, vacant and frankly terrifying glazed expression that all dolls have. I notice that some of her face has melted, and I point this out to Russ.

He nods, gravely. ‘Jess was involved in a fire when she was younger. She barely escaped with her life: she’s a very brave woman.’

I whistle between my teeth, but I’m suddenly conscious that this is a hastily chosen, totally self-imposed, last minute assignment and that very few people actually know where I am. What if this guy is the real deal? What if he genuinely believes his dolls are alive? What if – taking some inspiration from horrors like The Human Centipede – he actually murders people who visit him and puts random bits of them into the dolls? My imagination is now working overtime.

‘Do you mind?’ I ask, leaning down to examine Jess but secretly going for a sniff to see if I can smell anything….rotten about her.

Close up, it turns out that Jess is rather heavily made-up: lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, the works. I wonder if Russ does this every day with each of his wives, or if it’s once a week (roughly the same timeframe I use to clean out my son’s goldfish…and he’s a dirty little b*st*rd).

There’s a question I’m dying to ask. It’s THE question: the only one that we both know is going to be awkward.

I clear my throat. ‘Do you….er…..are you properly man and wife?’

‘Are we….?’

‘PROPERLY, you know, man and wife.’

He smiles as if he is totally prepared for the question. ‘Oh, yes: we were married in a pagan hand-fasting ceremony not far from here. I’ve married all my wives both officially and ceremonially. I’m a deeply religious man.’

We lock eyes briefly, and I wonder how much of a battle it’s going to be. In the end, however, my pathetic level of patience subsides.

‘Do you have a physical relationship with them?’

‘At last, Mr Stone: you get to the point, as it were. You’re not going to dash off as soon as I’ve answered this, are you? Only, your email suggested that you were genuinely interested in my situation, here.’

I try to look as sincere as I can, and say: ‘It’s just one of a million questions I have to ask.’

‘Okay, Mr Stone: I trust you! No, I’m afraid I do not have a physical relationship with any of my five wives.’

‘You don’t?’


‘What: not at all?’

‘Not at all.’

‘Even in the early days?’ I say, thinking about the amount of marriages that tend to fizzle in the bedroom after the first few years. ‘When you were, like, just dating?’

No….not even in the early days, I’m sorry to say. There is nothing of that nature between any of us.’

‘So you’ve never-‘

‘Never ever.’

I smile and make a face that indicates I understand the situation, but I haven’t got a clue where to start. I don’t mean to be vulgar or disrespectful, but if he’s not having Happy Time with these toys, I find myself a bit confused by the entire situation. Surely, if the guy is cracked enough to go to incredible lengths in order to ceremonially marry long pieces of plastic, there must be something monumentally strange stopping him from doing the sideways shuffle with each new Barbie he picks up? What is it? I need to know.

‘Mr Stone: can we continue?’


‘Then do come this way, please. You must meet Sally: she’s number four!’

I’m trying to keep up my enthusiasm, but my mind is now racing away, firing raft after raft of inappropriate questions into the mix. Is he doing something else with them? Is he taking them out for dinner and just not plucking up the courage to make a move on them? What is going on? If he’s not in a physical relationship with these things, then what – when it comes right down to it – is the actual point? Surely he’s just a collector with a weird approach?

I suddenly realise that it might be me who is slightly depraved, and not him. I was so sure that the whole thing was a form of fetish that I didn’t stop to consider for one second that it might not be.

We both continue up the corridor, but en route to the door that he’s indicated leads to Sally’s bedroom, we pass a small office where a smartly dressed, reasonably attractive girl is tapping away on an old-school typewriter. She looks up and smiles as we pass.

‘Your secretary?’ I ask, nodding back at the room.

‘Clare? Oh, no, Mr Stone: Clare is my girlfriend. This way, please-‘

I just stand in the corridor with my mouth hanging open, and I have to run to catch him up when he gets to the door.

‘You have a girlfriend?’


‘A real one?’

‘The last time I checked, yes.’

‘But…does she – I mean- er – don’t your wives mind you having a girlfriend?’

‘Of course not! It would get very lonely if I was completely on my own in the house. Ah, here we are: I’d very much like you to meet Sally, my fourth wife.’

I smile, regain my composure and walk boldly into the room….but I’m lost: just completely lost.

All in all, I was at the house for just over an hour, and I never fully understood exactly what was going on. It somehow didn’t seem right to ask if he was sleeping with Clare…..mostly for fear that he might actually say ‘no’.

Recently, I found myself thinking about Russ and wondering what he’s up to now. I got such a wave of nostalgia for the man that I even popped round to my in-laws because I knew they had a doll exactly like the ones Russ had been marrying for the best part of a decade. I gave her cuddle, sat her on my knee and even started to chat her up, but it was no use: I couldn’t get past the fact that – when it came right down to it – I might as well start flirting with the all the frames around the windows in my house. Plastic is plastic, and the only piece I regularly take on a date is my debit card.


Your Doctor Today will be: Wikipedia


I used to talk to the doctor, tell him/her what was wrong with me, get a bit of sympathy, some good advice, occasionally a finger stuck somewhere that I don’t even like my wife going or – on one or two odd occasions – a gentle cupping in the testicular area while being engaged in a ridiculously ordinary conversation about the weather.

I can’t say it was always enjoyable, but I regularly left reassured about my health and general wellbeing.

Going to the doctor isn’t like that any more.

I walk in, comforted by the fact that the doctor is still sitting there with a smile or a concerned frown, and I start.

‘Hey doc.’

‘Mr Stone. How are you today?’

‘Not good. I’ve got this cough, my throat feels like its closing up, I feel faint, I’ve got no appetite, I think I might have piles or a fissure, I’ve got this rash on my back, I feel sick and a bit dizzy: basically, I just – er – doc?’

I stop there because I realize I’m not actually talking to a doctor any more: I’m talking to the space where the doctor was. This is because the doctor has scooted across the room on his chair and is now tapping furiously into a keyboard. It looks like he’s on Wikipedia, which is pretty insane as it was Wikipedia that caused me to go to the doctor in the first place.

After a while, he says ‘Right, basically you have all the symptoms of [insert unidentifiable infection here] and it’s just sorting out an info sheet and a prescription.’

‘The computer?’

‘Yes. You’ll get a complete work up in two seconds: just let me put some paper into the printer…..always running out, these days…..ah, yes – here we go.’

I’m smiling, but I’m actually thinking ‘What does this computer need YOU for, doctor? Am I going to walk in here one day and just see a monitor with a pair of glasses on and a cursor flashing next to a message that says.

>Mr Stone – what can I do for you today? Is about the same thing you were looking up at home a few seconds ago? Only, I saw your Facebook status update about the thing you found in your ear.

I didn’t come to see a computer: I came to see the doctor.

It is then that he asks me the most insane question I’ve ever been asked in such a situation. He says:

‘Mr Stone – can I just ask: when you came in here today, what exactly were you hoping that I could do for you?’

I think for a second, as if it’s a trick question. ‘Er – I was hoping you could make me better?’

‘Really? Excellent. I quite understand. And do you?’

‘Do I what?’

‘Feel better?’


‘That’s marvelous. Take this prescription and, fingers crossed, you’ll be right as rain in a few days.’

‘Er…..thanks, Doc.’

‘No worries.’

I head home, wondering what the computer would have done if I’d walked in, collapsed and started fitting on the floor: covered me in a ream of paper and emailed for an ambulance?

Ah….dark times.


Davey Stone is a moderately sociopathic and extremely antagonistic author, blogger and comedy lifestyle commentator. Since starting his career in Knights of Madness with Terry Pratchett and Tom Sharpe, his books have sold more than a million copies for Disney and Penguin in the USA and Hodder in the UK. He has performed at the Edinburgh and Hay Festivals and is now a master freemason and a director of an online gift company when he’s not chasing parts in local pantomimes. He can be contacted at davidleestone@live.co.uk or on his mobile at 0666 666 66666662(6)2.


The Hunters Club


On a dark night in Ramsgate not long after my 18th birthday, something really horrible happened to a good friend of mine. He was a lovely guy in his early thirties, and his name was Gray Bennett. It’s important at this point that you know Gray survived and is – as far as I’m aware – physically okay, but if I said that the event I’m about to describe never damaged the man, my guess is that I would be lying. A lot.

Gray was the victim of a very elaborate practical joke delivered at the hands of a man I’m going to call Nick in this blog because he doesn’t come across as a very nice guy and – in case he’s still around – it’s not my intention to give him any unwanted publicity. I would feel a lot more personal guilt about the nightmare that unfolded had I knowingly been part of what took place, but I wasn’t. In all honesty, I thought we were just winding Gray up over a cup of tea in a cafe.

Sadly, Nick had other plans.

Nick introduced me to Gray in a crowded pub one Friday night in early Febraury. Gray had just got a brand new gaming computer that he wanted to show off, so he invited us both back to his house to take a look at it. I knew Gray wasn’t quite the ticket from the get go: by that, I don’t mean that he had any immediately detectable mental difficulties, just that some of his personal lifestyle choices struck me as a bit strange. First off, he’d nailed shut the letterbox on his front door, had glued all around the edges of the frame (effectively sealing the door completely) and had rearranged his entire house to face the back garden. Every piece of furniture was aligned as if the back door was the front door, and the only way into this guy’s house was through the back garden. When I asked him why he’d done this, he told me that he was being professionally watched by a couple across the street who’d been hired by Dairy Crest in order to discover if he was genuinely off sick (I assumed by this that he had once been a milkman, but I later learned that Gray had only ever worked for Natwest Bank).

Then there were the cats. Holy mother of all mercy, I have never had an experience in my life like the one I had the first time I visited Gray’s house. We’d only been there five minutes when he offered me a chair. There were two choices, a three-seater sofa with some sort of jelly substance smeared across the cushions or an armchair that was completely – and I mean springs out everywhere – ripped to shreds. I didn’t realise I was making a life choice at the time, but I think that if I’d chosen the sofa I might not hate cats as much as I do now.

I sat down, awkwardly, and then I looked up. Something dropped on my face from the landing above.

On my face.

My actual face.

The only one I’ve got.

I have never moved so fast, fought so bravely or screamed so loudly as I did when I hurled that beast from my head and flung it across the room. Nick and Gray both roared with laughter, but that evil bloody cat – which, incidentally, always looked more like a fat ginger hamster during daylight hours – never came near me again. The only problem was, the other nine did.

That’s right: ten cats.


That’s fine for an elderly woman who licks her lips a lot and occasionally empties her bladder in Oxfam, but a guy in his thirties with no ties and an eye for the ladies? It’s insane.

Still, I wasn’t one to judge: I was an overweight geek who lived at home with his mum and nan: I’m pretty sure this guy outranked me on most girls’ hotlists. Apart from anything else, he lived in a house full of p**sy.

I liked Gray, and we became friends. He, Nick and I would hang out together, copying games and trading hints, tips and stories about life, the universe and everything….but Gray lied all the time, and pretty much lived in a world of his own.

Then it happened. I found this one Saturday morning in a charity shop:


The Hunters Club was a story in the comic. As far as I can remember, it was about a group of evil psychopaths in the far future who randomly choose people from a local phone directory and call them up, warning them that they have been chosen at random as victims and have ten seconds to leave their house and run before the hunt begins.

Nick didn’t think it was stupid when I told him about it at the cafe. He thought it was incredible, and he immediately wanted to pass the story onto Gray as if it were true. He wanted me to tell it, because I had a small knack for putting a bit of a spin on crazy tales in a way that made people buy into them. I had a bad feeling about this – the story Gray had told about Dairy Crest indicated that he might have an overactive imagination – so I refused to carry out the deed, but rather stupidly I didn’t stop Nick from doing the same.

When Gray arrived, I just sat there in silence, uncomfortably playing with my tea cup while Nick told the story of a real Hunters Club operating in Thanet, a club who the police just couldn’t track down. Gray fell for the story immediately, and warned us both – quite seriously – to be careful.

The call came at 10pm on my mum’s main house phone. My nan picked it up, and after a brief exchange she said: ‘It’s a friend of yours: he sounds like a bloody lunatic.’

Even though he’d never called the house before and I had no reason to suspect trouble, I just knew it was Gray.

‘What’s up?’ I said, trying to sound as calm as possible.

‘Dave? It’s Gray. Gray Bennett. You HAVE to help me, mate. Get Nick, and go to my house. I need some things.’


‘They’re coming for me.’


‘The Hunters Club! They phoned my f*****g house, and they’re coming for me.’

‘Gray, listen-‘

‘HELP ME! I’m so f*****g scared. Get NICK.’

‘Listen, Gray: where are you?’

‘I’m at my auntie’s house. She didn’t believe me about them, so I’ve had to tie her up and-‘

‘You WHAT?’

‘Please – you have to-‘

‘You tied up your AUNTIE? Why the hell did you do that?’

‘She was going to call the police! They said they’d kill me if I called the police! Listen: it will take two of you to bring all my computer stuff: I left my house open! You need to get Nick!’

I gritted my teeth. ‘Oh, I’ll get Nick all right. Don’t you worry about that. Where does your auntie live?’

‘She’s in the blue house across from the pub. Green door. I’ve been watching my place out of the window: they’re not there yet.’

‘Do NOTHING, Gray. Do you understand me? Do NOTHING. We’re coming.’

I stormed out of my nan’s house and down the road to the big building where Nick lived in a converted attic flat. I took the steps two at a time, and then pressed the bell until the top window flew open and an all too familiar face stared down at me from the roof.


‘Don’t Dave me: get down here RIGHT NOW and fix what you’ve done.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘Bennett just called my house! He’s tied up his f*****g AUNTIE because he thinks the Hunters Club is coming for him!’

Nick slapped a hand over his mouth and looked, for the merest fraction of a second, like he might burst out laughing. Then he saw my expression, and changed his mind.

Five minutes later, we both arrived at Gray’s house. It was a miracle he hadn’t been burgled, because the poor guy had left his back door wide open. There was his wallet on the kitchen counter with notes spilling out of it, and a load of shopping on the side that had probably gone to ruin.

We bombed it across the road to the blue house with the green door, and Gray answered practically as we rang the bell.

‘Get in here, QUICK!’

We plunged through a dark hallway into a small living room where a moderately obese woman was tied with rope – actual rope – to a wide armchair. Disturbingly, she looked calm and not in any way surprised by the situation she found herself in.

For a few seconds, Nick and I just stood there, speechless. Then I started to untie Gray’s auntie.

‘Don’t! She’ll call the police!’

‘Gray,’ I said. ‘Sit down RIGHT NOW, dude. Nick has something that he wants to tell you, and he’s going to do that while I get this rope undone.’

Nick explained everything, very well and extremely apologetically and I could see the terror lifting from Gray’s eyes. There was something else, though: he was almost so into the story that he didn’t quite seem to believe that it was just a story. When Nick finally persuaded him to go back to his house, I stayed behind for a few seconds to chat to his auntie, who – up until this point – had said absolutely nothing.

I shook my head. ‘I’m so sorry: it was such a stupid thing to tell him. We knew he was gullible, but – well, people just don’t think, do they? We’re both 100% to blame for what happened, and if you want to call the police you are completely entitled to, but-

His auntie leaned forward, grabbed hold of my arm and smiled at me in a way that made me feel very, very uncomfortable. ‘It’s not the first time he’s tied me up,’ she said, and she winked. She actually winked.

I ran out of that house as if the Thanet Hunters Club was after me….and I never looked back.

The Ramsgate Pleasurama Carjack Caper

The Datsun/Nissan Cherry – one of a large number of cars I DIDN’T steal.

The year is 1991, and I am sitting in the manager’s office of Ramsgate’s old Pleasurama arcade, accused of trying to steal cars in the car park. My best friend, Russ, is sitting beside me: he’s accused, too. We have been in the office, waiting for the police to arrive, for around twenty minutes….but it feels like we’ve been there for hours.

We’re thirteen years old old, and we’ve never so much as stolen a pen, let alone a car. Unfortunately, the staff at Pleasureama are absolutely convinced that we’re responsible for the attempted theft because they’ve seen us trying to get into at least three vehicles.

Only, they haven’t….because nobody can find the woman who actually saw us trying to steal the cars. The staff are currently looking for her and, while they’re running all around the building between the arcade machines, we’re trapped in the manager’s office.

We went to Pleasurama every Saturday morning, mostly going through a routine of Pacland, Golden Axe, Rolling Thunder, Operation Wolf and Wrestler War. What we didn’t tend to do, being a couple of juvenile geeks in training, was to hotwire a few cars and go joyriding around Ramsgate in them.

Fortunately, I’m not that worried: despite their insane refusal to call either of our parents (we were young, and didn’t know this was totally against the law) my nan’s oldest friend works at Pleasurama and I’ve just told the manager to go and find her in order to confirm that I’m not the sort of kid who gets involved in stuff like car theft.

She arrives after what feels like an age, and then does something completely – COMPLETELY – unexpected.

She looks at me, this woman who has known me since I was born, and she says: “Well, I wouldn’t have thought – but – well, actually: you never know these days, do you? You just don’t know with these bloody kids.”

I stare at her.

To see if she’s joking.

She isn’t.

She just stares back at me, smiles sympathetically, puts her head on one side and says: “You just can’t tell.”

Then she leaves.

We sit there, in complete shock and silence, for another fifteen minutes.

Finally, someone finds the woman who is serving as an eye-witness to these attempted thefts. She walks into the room, barely glances at us and says: “Oh, no – they were much older than that.”

Then SHE leaves.

The manager doesn’t even say sorry. He just takes us back to the arcade and puts twenty credits on Golden Axe for us.

We played for about two credits, and then we turned very quickly and walked out. My mate went straight home, and we didn’t really start talking about it until the following week at school. We were both scared, shocked and shaken up: I learned a horrible lesson about the unpredictability of human nature, and about how little people consider others when they’re on some sort of minor witch hunt.

Little things seem like big things when you’re young. To me, being accused of theft was horrific.

I assumed that they never actually called the police, but that threat – the threat of real trouble – hung over us every second we sat in that office.

We never went back to Pleasurama after that.

Personally, the experience and the unprofessional nature of the people who worked there was burned into my memory for years afterwards.

I was bloody glad when the place came crashing to the ground.

Now, of course…..I miss it.

Besides, twenty credits was WASTED on Golden Axe: you can complete it with five if you’ve traded the Conan bloke with the oiled nipples in for that gnome and the barbarian girl.

Are YOUR Obsessions Bad For You?


Obsessions can be good for you: they can also be exceptionally bad. Something that really fascinates is the very thin line between a hobby and an obsession or addiction…and how a workable routine can blur that line completely.

I always look at it like this. If you do something every day, it might be a hobby you love (reading, games, making Lego) or a routine you’ve worked into your life (exercise, a particular activity) and it can be very healthy and life-enhancing. For me, the best way to determine if the said routine is becoming toxic is when – for whatever reason – you have to give it a miss. So, for example, if you’re on holiday and unable to take your particular brand of daily exercise, can you relax and let yourself off for a few days or a week…or do you get a creeping urge to try to work it in? Worse still, do you feel wretched or massively guilty if you DON’T find a way to complete the daily routine

I’ve always been an obsessive…and I have also gone to extraordinary lengths to satisfy those obsessions. My obsession with books ended in a situation where my first house was bought and paid for by the Disney corporation. My obsession with exercise turned me from being a morbidly obese teenager into a guy with an okay body for an average male and a fairly good one for a forty-year-old.

My obsessions with coffee and alcohol have been more damaging: I don’t consume gallons of either, but ideally I’d like to avoid them completely. As a result of the regular caffeine intake, I have to drink a truly ridiculous amount of water each day and moisturize fairly constantly in order to stop my skin drying out completely. The alcohol in the evening makes me feel sluggish and overtired the following day. I’m a chocoholic – I literally cannot have chocolate in the house without eating it. At Easter, I turn into a chocolate predator: the eggs have to be hidden from me…and hidden well. If I find them, regardless of who they belong to, I will eat them….

….and still I exercise obsessively. Another obsession I have is work – I’m always working on something: an acting job, writing a project, doing promotion for the family gift company or preparing some other endeavor I’ve become entangled in.

I’m obsessive about my children: I have to spend an equal amount of time with them in order to feel like I’m doing my duty as a father. My own dad left when I was born and never came back – I feel that my children deserve better than that. I get up with them in the morning, I play games with them when they come home from school and I read to them in the evening: if I miss one of these activities, I feel a crushing guilt about it.

I have to be careful around certain women. My friendship circle – currently around 80% women – has to be specially selected and maintained like an ornate garden: I need to be able to appreciate the people around me….but not too much. I’m extremely fond of women because I was raised by two women and have more respect for women than men: the stronger the woman, the more I adore her. I’m married to an exceptionally strong woman. This aside, with very few exceptions, I dislike other men. My three very best friends, however, are all male and lead very different lives to me. They don’t interact with each other beyond the occasional gathering. I see all of them weekly, some in coffee shops and some at home.

I am incredibly solitary. That’s an obsession, too: I love to see people…but only when I know they’re coming. I often seem rude when I’m approached on the fly.

Generally speaking, most of my friends think I’m up to something I shouldn’t be around 90% of the time.

They’re invariably wrong.

They’re wrong because of the very fact that I AM an obsessive.

I’m either with my children, working, exercising, reading, in a coffee shop, drinking wine or eating chocolate.

Every day.





Terry Pratchett, My Nan and Me

As great as it is to have your name featured alongside talented writers like Woody Allen, Spike Milligan, Philip K. Dick and Orson Welles, there was only one name – other than my own – which really mattered to me in this collection: Terry Pratchett.


Two of my biggest influences died just twelve days apart: my Nan on 1st March, 2015 and Terry Pratchett on 12th.

I was in Holland & Barrett at Westwood Cross when my Nan died. I remember that time seemed to stop when I got the call: I expected to feel angry or devastated or at least very emotional but I felt nothing.


The horrible truth of it all didn’t really hit me until we had to tell the children. The fact was that she’d been dying for months, slowly wasting away after refusing all treatment for the cancer she’d been diagnosed with, eventually refusing food and drink as well. Each time I went to visit her it the task became more difficult: I was becoming increasingly cowardly when it came to being in the room on my own, choosing instead to hide behind the children for fear of having to have those really horrible conversations where you’re the only one really there.

When the news of Terry Pratchett’s death reached me, I was halfway up some stairs in a really cold building and I couldn’t find the room I was supposed to be looking for. I glanced down at the message, which was from a mutual friend. It said: ‘Terry Pratchett has gone.’

I sat down on the steps and looked out of the window. Then I gritted my teeth, got up and found my way to the right room. I completed a counseling session about some mental health stuff I was struggling with.

Again, I felt nothing.

Sometimes, when the most important people are lost, you DO feel nothing.

You only realize how important they were afterwards.

I was an isolated, lonely child with no social skills whatsoever. I had made only one friend during my entire time at primary school and his parents had sent him to a different secondary: I was lost, I felt completely alone and I just wanted to run and hide. The place I found to do that was Discworld: one weekend, finding myself £1 short of the new Fighting Fantasy game-book by Steve Jackson & Ian Livinstone, I ended up buying a copy of Eric by Terry Pratchett: it was the only book in WHSmith for £2.99.

Terry Pratchett spoke to me in a language I understood. It felt like he wrote the books for ME and me alone: I discovered many years later that approximately 450,000 other kids of my age group and countess adults all thought the same thing.

I started writing stories and I sent them to Terry: he couldn’t read them. Authors are always advised not to read unpublished works. I was thirteen years old and it would be another five years until Terry could actually read something I wrote….but that didn’t stop the encouragement. He would answer every letter, occasionally throwing in one of his own when I was particularly fraught or down on myself – and occasionally telling me off when I threatened to throw in the towel:

The first letter, enlarged.


Terry finally read my first published story ‘The Dullitch Assassins’ when it appeared in the small-press magazine Xenos in 1997: I was nineteen and when the letter arrived I fully expected a scathing attack on the obvious inspiration I’d drawn from Discworld. He just said ‘Shades of Assassins’ Guild final exam in that? Never mind: we all need time to find our own voice and you WILL find yours.’

I’m still convinced that he was instrumental in my first professional sale for the same story. The veteran anthologist Peter Haining had asked Terry to open a major comic-fantasy anthology called Knights of Madness with one of his stories. The book, which also contained stories by fantasy and SF heavyweights like Mervyn Peake, Gene Wolfe, Woody Allen, Philip K. Dick and Tom Sharpe, needed to showcase one new talent for the future of the genre – and I was chosen. I remember asking Terry if he’d been involved in the decision and getting the usual amiably evasive replies. The book was eventually published just after my twentieth birthday, by Souvenir Press and Orbit in the UK – and Ace in the USA.

At the time, my Nan went straight down the pub to celebrate.

Yeah…my Nan.

I was midway through the Discworld series when I read my first Witches book. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, the Witches series features a Macbeth-style trio of women called Granny Weatherwax, Magrat Garlick and…..

….and Nanny Ogg. Let’s be clear, here: Nanny Ogg is my grandmother.


My Nan had a wild youth: she danced, she sang, she often took off a lot of her clothes and she was ridiculously popular with men. She was often the life and soul of the local pubs but if you crossed her you would suffer the sort of retribution now associated with deadly cults or the clinically insane. She would make her own remedies, smoke anything that she could roll herself and eat sandwiches full of raw garlic.

When Terry Pratchett created Nanny Ogg, with her demonic laugh, the twinkle in her eye and the ridiculous, enslaving attitude she had for younger women, it was like he’d actually STOLEN my nan’s entire character-matrix. I even asked her once if they’d ever met: she’d looked very carefully at his author photograph and said ‘Did he start off in Croydon?’

I still have the framed letter from Terry at home…and I still ultimately credit it for getting me the deals that made headline news in the publishing world (if you haven’t read ‘The Geek Gets Even’ click HERE).

Terry’s Duracell batteries letter is still my favourite memory of the man one critic called ‘The Dickens of the 20th Century.’

If you haven’t read the Discworld series, you really should. My personal favourites are Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum. Once you’re done with those, try Guards Guards, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay and Night Watch.

It’s worth pointing out that I never wrote another novel after Terry’s death. I simply finished the projects I was contracted for and quietly put down my pen. I always thought I wrote books because I wanted as many people to enjoy them as possible…but I guess it turned out that I only really wanted one person to read my work: the one person who really understood me.


The Geek Gets Even


This article was published in The Times newspaper on 24th May 2003 and also in The Sunday Times. It was written by Tim Teeman and the photograph – used separately – is copyright: Andre Heger.

From the age of eight, David Lee Stone was obsessed with being a writer. After years of rejection he gave up, but his mum rescued his first novel from the bin, netting him publishing deals worth 1m. Now, he tells Tim Teeman, he wants his childhood back.

YOU won’t find David Lee Stone on Granta’s list of best young British novelists. Nor is he the product of a creative writing course, or a telegenic graduate from the dreaming spires. But, having signed a £500,000 three-book deal with Hodder, he is one of our wealthiest young novelists and geekishly atypical of his peers. I have barely alighted from the cab outside his narrow three-storey home in Ramsgate before he is shaking my hand; big, puppyish smile, glittering eyes.

He is entitled to be excited, for he is — in his own words — “living a fairytale”. After years of rejection, Stone angrily tore up the manuscript of his first novel and threw it into the dustbin.

Unbeknown to him, his mother retrieved it and sent it to Ed Victor, star literary agent to Frederick Forsyth, Nigella Lawson, Will Self and Anne Robinson. The rest is pure Hollywood — and, yes, film rights are being negotiated.

Stone — 25, skinny, dressed in fitted navy jumper and trousers — leads the way to his study on the top floor. The stairwell is dark with creepy wood veneer walls and office-style doors concealing bedrooms; claustrophobic, very Silence of the Lambs. The stairs creak ominously. He has lived here since he was a baby with his mother and grandmother Doris, 76, who owns the house (and who disappears to the pub for nine hour stretches each day).

On the shelves of his neat study are Terry Pratchett novels, books about folklore, Monty Python and Dave Allen videos. There are two computers (one VDU and a laptop), a photo held in place by entwined teddy bears showing him and his girlfriend Chiara. There is a row of copies of his first novel, The Ratastrophe Catastrophe, above the VDU. He doesn’t take his eyes off them. The first in a trilogy about the kingdom of Illmoor, presided over by a dour duke and in danger of a plague of rats, it resembles the comic fantasy world of Pratchett with touches of other favourites of Stone’s — Blackadder and Douglas Adams.

Stories tumble from him. As we sit down, he is telling me about “the terrible things” that happened while working at his mother’s estate agents at the age of 16. Misplaced keys? I jest.

“The doctors say it’s psychological,” he says gravely (yikes, what’s he going to say?), “where if I cut my hands I pass out. If I cut myself anywhere else, I’m fine. They think it’s psychological because I use my hands for writing. And one day I cut my hands and fainted in front of an old couple . . . Ah, here she is,” he says brightly. I look around. There’s no one there. Then Barbara, his mother, appears with a mug of tea, a slight 51-year-old with ash-blonde hair and a knowing smile.

AT EIGHT, Stone wanted to be a comedian, to write and perform his own material like his hero, Dave Allen. He had never read a book. “Everyone was reading The Hobbit but I got very bored easily. I had a short attention span.” His mother was concerned at how withdrawn her son was. She took him to a Methodist Sunday school but he always wanted to go home and write. When he was ten he entered a short story, poetry and essay competition.

“At the prizegiving, they said ‘David Stone third prize, poetry competition’. I was aghast. (The poem was about dying in a swamp.) Then I won second prize for my essay, which was about shoes. My short story came first — it was a fantasy about some plastic figures who lived in a dustbin. I thought ‘Maybe I could create a world with a special set of stories’.”

Stone played truant for much of his time at secondary school. “I was never very confident there. I wasn’t completely introverted. But I never liked to get involved in extra-curricular stuff. I hated football.” While everyone else sweated in double maths, he sat in his eyrie and created lists of characters. He drew plans of villages and cities in the land of Illmoor, put names on houses, concocted stories for each of its residents, imagined giants and inept sorcerers. “I wanted to mimic all those huge fantasy epics where a king drones on for 40 pages about his kingdom. My duke hates the place he lives in. Everyone is good and bad.”

He looks plaintive. “I gave up my entire young life to write,” he says, a note of real regret tinging his voice. “I had one friend, Clive, who would come round on a Saturday afternoon. Apart from that, I’d be up here writing. I had a gameplan and I was sticking to it.”

His school recorded that in one term he had missed 106 half days out of 136. “This was major truancy,” he says, shrugging. “I would stare at the mirror and concentrate on looking ill. I hated Weetabix and once I ate three bowls of it to make myself sick.” Each time, his mother would send him to the surgery — he made sure he saw different doctors so he wouldn’t be caught out — and “they were like, ‘it may be contagious’, and signed me off.”

At 14, Stone started sending chapters and short stories to publishers and received his first rejections. Dispirited, he wrote to Pratchett and fellow fantasy writer Tom Holt, who sent encouraging letters. Only one teacher, Ms Reeves (English), inspired him. He created puzzles for classmates. “People asked, ‘Who is this freak?’ It was a power of sorts. The cool people wanted to talk to me.” But school reports were damning. “There are a lot of problems coming from absence”; “David is very bright but never applies himself”.

He looks down. “My school life was complicated.” That note of regret, again. Was he bullied?

“I was tormented. My school bag was kicked around. They took the mick out of my hair (ginger), my size (he was growing bigger). I may have been more bullied had I spent more time there. But I had a talent for putting people in headlocks and making their eyes bulge.” (Which must have made his uncle, former champion boxer Alan Minter, proud.)

Stone did his GCSEs but never picked up the results. Despite Ms Reeves asking him to, he never went back on the last day of school. “Once I’d left I was glad it was over. But now I linger on Friends Reunited talking to people. I’m desperate to grab the past I missed out on.” His voice hardens. “It’s a great wound in me. Everyone keeps saying, ‘You’ve done so well’, and I think yeah . . . I missed out on friends. I mean, I’ve got a lot of friends now, but not ones that connect me to my past.”

But you were a practised geek, I say. You sat up here in self-imposed isolation. You’re famous and rich because of it. Stone looks at me pointedly. “Last week, I had terrific news. We’ve signed an incredible deal with Disney, who have bought the trilogy for the US and Italy for roughly the same amount as Hodder (making him a millionaire on paper). Also we’ve sold the first book to Russia, Brazil, Holland and Japan. The Disney lady said she was going to e-mail me on Monday but I have been more waiting for a reply to an e-mail from an old classmate than I have from her.”

He is so intense. “If you asked people what I was like at school, no one from a secondary school of more than one thousand pupils could tell you. That’s awful.”

When he left school he became very depressed. “I thought I was nothing and would come to nothing. Perhaps all that isolation had beaten every ounce of confidence out of me. I thought I should have put more effort in at school but it was too late. I thought, ‘Oh god, I’ve got no friends. I haven’t got a girlfriend. I’m a terribly sad person’.”

Stone went to work at his mother’s estate agency but hated it and spent all his time scrawling more Illmoor character names and profiles on buyers’ application forms, while pretending to be working. He ballooned to 17 stone, having fallen for a sales assistant in the bakery next door, then lost seven stone in as many months with a strict diet and fitness regime. Finally, he sold a story to a magazine and his confidence returned.

To make matters soapier, Stone’s father, whom he had never known, came back into his life at 18. (Stone was the result of an adulterous affair. When he was a few months old, his father returned to live with his wife.) He was dying of cancer and Barbara, who had never felt any bitterness about what had happened, suggested that David meet him. “I thought ‘I’ll make him feel good before he dies’. We shook hands. He was very nervous and tearful. He had so much regret but I’d never felt I missed out on anything so I had nothing to ask of him and he was grateful for that.” He died two years later.

Stone got a job at Blockbuster video, became confident and outgoing, met his longtime girlfriend Chiara (her father is “Thanet’s premier joiner and woodsmith”, he says proudly, one of a clutch of Alan Patridge-isms; later he says he was “the life and soul of Blockbuster video”). He sold stories to magazines but didn’t worry about making money. He wrote furiously, refusing to go out at weekends. One editor said he could be the new Terry Pratchett. He had meetings with publishers. He wrote a book, After the Organist.

“But it was rejected everywhere. One day, I had had enough. I thought, ‘What am I going to do? The whole of my life I’ve been obsessed by this. Has this cost me my schooling? My social life? When am I going to wake up and pack this bloody thing in?’ I ripped up the manuscript and threw a chunk into the bin. I knew the dustmen were coming the next day. I told my mother I was going out. ‘I have quit writing’ I told her. I was angry, punching the walls.” He is contorted on his seat, angry for himself even now. “I thought, ‘If I can’t pursue my dream, what’s the point of anything?’”

Stone eyes the row of books above the computer. “I walked and walked. I was crying. I’m not the kind of person who would consider suicide but I was thinking, ‘This thing has taken away my life’. The book was the best I could do but it would kill me if I allowed it to. Why, aged eight, had I been given the inspiration to be a writer and why had it taken my soul?”

Phew. Meanwhile, a dovetailing melodrama was occurring in the house. His mother saw a chunk of manuscript was missing, deduced he had thrown it away and retrieved it from the bin. The only literary agent’s name she knew was Ed Victor, agent to her son’s hero Douglas Adams. After Barbara regaled Victor’s secretary with David’s life story for an hour and a half, the secretary said that the agency would take the unusual step of looking at an unsolicited manuscript. Without telling her son, Barbara sent it.

Stone came home but he did not go back into his study and stopped writing completely. A couple of weeks later, his mother answered the phone and he heard her say, “Oh my — well, he’s here but I’m going to have to explain something to him first.” It was Ed Victor’s office. Contracts were sent out that day. “I was knocked for six,” he says, shaking his head, insisting he has not embellished any aspect of this extraordinary tale. “Why hadn’t I had faith in myself when my mother did?” Sophie Hicks, an agent at Victor’s, found him a publisher and over two and half years he recast the book. He was stunned at the £500,000 at first, but then felt “vindicated. I had been right all along. I have so much ambition. I see my books as everything.” He predicts he will be “a lunatic” around Illmoor’s merchandising — DVDs, T-shirts, computer games. An unashamed “prostitute for publicity”, Stone adores appearing on TV and wants a part in any future movie of the book.

He does not worry about writer’s block and writes quickly: his second book is completed and he is well into the third. He has material for 16 more Illmoor-set novels, he says, and has written two children’s books — one a comedy about pirates, which he wrote wearing a bandanna and a plastic parrot on his head, the other about a little boy who likes to befriend demons.

Does he think he’s worth £500,000? “My mum said that if I divided the figure up into all the years I’ve been writing then it comes to nothing more than what I would have got for quite a well-paid job. That’s the only way I can look at it or I would go insane.” The first review of the novel, by M. J. Simpson in SFX magazine, encourages readers to not think of the advance but whether the book is worth its cover price, £10.99. “To which the answer is a resounding yes,” the critic concluded.

“I have lived on very little,” Stone says earnestly. “I still go into Smiths and pick up a book for £5.99 and think, ‘Can I afford this?’ I worry about the money getting taken away from me.” He has bought his mother a small car, a home entertainment system and a pedigree dog and wants to buy her a home of her own. He wants to give some money to charity. He doesn’t want a fast car. He cannot drive.

Yet Stone still feels incomplete. “I want the approval of people in my past because I was such a nondescript character at school. I have only the pictures on the mantelpiece to prove I had a childhood. I want the books to prove ‘this is what I’ve done, this is what I was doing all that time, this is what I wanted to be’.”

His mother has archived all his work since he was eight, acts as his PA, still reads his work first. But their close relationship is set to change. He and Chiara are buying their first home. “My mum is in a bit of a . . . thing about it. She’s like, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’.” His voice wavers. “If she hadn’t made that phone call I wouldn’t be where I am now. I am so grateful. I really do owe her everything.”

Barbara comes in. She speaks quietly but is far from meek. The story of her removing David’s manuscript from the bin is certainly perfect drama — maternal love saves the day — but she contacted Ed Victor because, she insists, she felt her son’s writing was genuinely good.

Did she feel irresponsible, letting him play truant from school? “Yes, but I didn’t know the truth,” she says. “I thought he was ill. But when I read what he had been doing I was struck that his grasp of English was so good, far beyond a normal youngster’s.”

Stone laughs. “You’d take me up to the football pitch and ask the kids to play with me and I would end up standing on the sidelines while you played with them.”

“I couldn’t understand why he didn’t play with other kids or do sports,” she says. “But I realised he was putting his thoughts down on paper and it made sense. Full stop. David writes.” She will enjoy his success “from the outside — he’ll look after his old mum”. Theirs is not a cloying intimacy, she implies.

She drives me to the station, David in the back. We mull over local fame — he’s been recognised in Waitrose. The other day a woman told Barbara that her son had been in the Cubs with David and Barbara said “How nice” and walked on. “But David was never in the Cubs,” she says.

I get out of the car, leave the passenger door open. Front seat?, I motion to David.

“No, I’m fine in the back,” he says, looking small, scrunched up. David Lee Stone, 25, is finally happy to be a kid.

Nicholas Clee, Editor of The Bookseller, on the fantasy phenomenon

“David Lee Stone’s novel is another example of a children’s fantasy that publishers hope will ‘cross over’ and find an adult market — a trend fired by the success of Harry Potter, followed by Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. You could say Terry Pratchett, in his Discworld books, was doing this before Rowling.

“There have been a number of other examples. Macmillan paid a six-figure sum for Lian Hearn’s Across The Nightingale Floor set in an imagined realm. Penguin paid a lot for Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books which have done very well.

“There are no signs of a decline at the moment. Although figures of £500,000 sound a lot, publishers put a lot of marketing muscle behind these books to ensure they pay their way. And even if it doesn’t pay back, £500,000 is not much compared to the £100 million big Hollywood studios spend on a blockbuster. Publishers are better covered against things that don’t work.” TT




I was holding a glass of whiskey when it happened.

I didn’t hear the glass smash.

I didn’t feel anything as I hit the floor.

It was like somebody just switched me off.

This was the thirteenth time in my life that it had happened. I know this because you never lose count of the bad experiences or the nightmares that befall you: it’s the same reason that writers can remember every negative review they’ve ever had but can’t recall a single positive one.

The first time it happened I was seven years old and my mum was bringing me back from the dentist, a cruel man with a rough manner who had no sympathy whatsoever for the children in his care. My mum had just brought me back to school and I walked through the gate into a playground crowded with games of Had, Kiss Chase and Tag (that’s how old I am).

On my way through the gate, I cut my hand on a wall. It wasn’t a bad cut: it was tiny. I didn’t think anything of it.

I saw my mate Trevor and made a beeline for him, running in a zigzag to avoid the kid who was ‘IT’ in case I ended up involved in a game I didn’t want to play.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the middle of the playground surrounded by concerned looking dinner ladies, anxious teachers and excited kids.

I didn’t remember anything at that point, but the faces were just outlines and everyone was talking in squeaky, high-pitched voices.

It took a while for my vision to clear…but when it did I had to spend a lot of time telling everyone that I was okay: I was really keen to do this as I was phobic about hospitals and I just wanted to go home.

When it happened a second time, just after my ninth birthday, my mum took me to get tested. It turned out that I had:

Vasovagal syncope (vay-zoh-VAY-gul SING-kuh-pee) occurs when you faint because your body overreacts to certain triggers, such as cuts or grazes, the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. It may also be called neurocardiogenic syncope. The vasovagal syncope trigger causes your heart rate and blood pressure to drop suddenly. That leads to reduced blood flow to your brain, causing you to briefly lose consciousness.

It didn’t sound that serious, but the attacks were getting worse and the periods of temporary blindness and deafness were becoming more distressing. Eventually, I decided enough was enough when I collapsed in Portsmouth after slashing my hand on a shelf in a charity shop: I’d stopped the bleeding and waited until I felt okay, but when I didn’t faint after a time I made the mistake of walking out onto a busy road with a stack of books and nearly caused an accident when I blacked out.

The doctors told me there wasn’t really much they could do, that the problem was partly psychological and not wholly researched as a physical anomaly.

‘You need to overcome it,’ one said. To be fair, he was a spiritualist so the fact that he believed in a talking snake should have helped me to cut him some slack. It didn’t.

My beautiful school friend Christina tried to cure me with tapping: it seemed to work, for a time. It gave me confidence that I might stay conscious during an episode and indeed I cut myself several times over the following months without incident.


…..we’re back to the beginning of this story.

It’s Christmas Eve, I’m in the house on my own while the family are out visiting the in-laws and I’m watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand (mainly for the sex). I’m also wrapping presents and I have a large glass of whiskey on the go: it’s my second.

Halfway through wrapping the largest gift, I cut my hand on the sticky tape dispenser. It’s a tiny cut and, to be honest, I don’t give a shit. I’m fairly drunk so I just laugh it off and get on with the wrapping.

I finish the present and start writing out the card: I complete a long and very emotional message to my wife, put the present under the tree and then decided to rewind the TV show to a point I missed where the really beautiful merchant woman stripped naked before stepping into a bath.

I see the TV control and I reach out for it.

The room rolls upwards.

All the xmas decorations blur together and the tree bleeds out in green lines.

I wake up to the distant sound of sex coming from the TV.

I feel sick because my hearing is distorted, the room is a white noise and I can only see white lines.

I roll onto my side and try to focus.

I can taste blood in my mouth, but whiskey as well: it’s a horrible mix.

There is glass everywhere.

We have hard floor laminate in the lounge, but I don’t feel like I’m injured: I just feel shocked and completely disorientated.

That’s when I start to laugh.

I laugh for a long time.

It’s not really a funny situation….but the sheer brutality of it makes me feel a buzz of adrenaline.

In the morning, I take out the really quite beautiful SOS necklace that I was bought several years before and always refused to wear. I open it up, write my details on the message paper inside it and I screw the thing back together.

I did that because I knew it was the responsible thing to do, that as a husband and a father I needed to take extra care of myself in order to be the best that I could be.

I bought gloves: you’d be amazed how many people notice when you’re wearing gloves. In Winter, nobody questions you about it. In Summer, it’s a real topic of conversation. These days, I just tell people I ride a bike and can’t be bothered to take them off.

It’s not a big deal: people think I’m weird anyway.


From St. George’s School to The World’s Worst Estate Agent in just FIVE Years


When I left school, it was pretty much agreed that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I say ‘agreed’ because that was a view held jointly by myself and most of my teachers. There was nothing particularly wrong with the school I attended (St. George’s CofE Foundation in Broadstairs), but when it came to supporting to their pupils, they tended to prefer a decent footballer to any number of creative daydreamers. The Head Boy during my final year was also the cricket captain, a rounders ace and an enthusiastic tennis player: the only thing he didn’t seem to excel at was getting himself dressed, as I don’t think I ever saw his shirt buttoned much above the waist and his fly was always undone.

The headteacher was a Justice of the Peace, something he must have spent a lot of time doing as his office was often empty. In his place, the two deputy heads – a boxing enthusiast and a hardened Rod Stewart fan – took turns in hosting the sort of tedious assembly that you could only hope might one day get interrupted by a targeted meteor strike. The pair were ably assisted by a female Darth Vader with an army haircut and hugely religious antagonist with her hair pulled into a bun that was wound so tight that I often wondered if the smile she sported was actually a grimace of agony.

I had three interests at school: reading, playing games and fancying every girl in a short skirt. I even wrote down the names of my top ten most wanted dates and decided I would snog them all before some bespectacled twat lured me off to the Warhammer hut and introduced me to a bunch of plastic elves. I only went in there for two minutes but ended up staying for five years.

I also held a record that, thanks to my distorted sense of values, I had actually become very proud of: 105 half sessions absent out of 111 during a single term. I’m given to understand that this record still holds the crown…and the school had been around since 1841 so there’s a good chance I was up against characters like Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger.

“What are you planning to do with yourself, Stone?” the headmaster asked me on my last day (he was in his office, so it must have been quiet in court).

“I’m going to work at my mother’s estate agent, Sir.”

He looked at me over the top of his half-moon glasses, and said: “Your poor mother.”

As it turned out, he was right.

If the impending recession or the various shady senior partners of the firm hadn’t bulldozed the business, I would have done the job. I didn’t actually do this on purpose (as I really liked the £72 per week they were paying me: it helped to maintain my Discworld collection), but it happened because I was so incompetent and mentally disconnected from the job that I literally saw every day as a new opportunity to do exactly what I wanted. Examples of these horrific endeavors (and the resulting disasters) included:

  1. Creating fictional characters and then inventing various addresses for them in Broadstairs before filing them as applicants on the computer.
 This resulted in countless first class letters on the mailing list that went to people who didn’t exist (The Wizard Wankaplet springs to mind) or others who did exist but lived at invented addresses like: 
Quick Tits Tower, 4 Boner Drive, 
CT10 2KK
  2. Misunderstanding a phone call and informing a couple that the house they’d just bought was ready to move into a whole 24 hours earlier than agreed on exchange. This resulted in the buyer and his two furniture vans arriving from North Wales, and said buyer holding me up against the wall while my associates called the police. I think I’d annoyed him by saying “Look, I SAID I was sorry: what more do you want? Blood?” It turned out that’s exactly what he wanted.
  3. Never turning up at viewings.
 This resulted in a shocking amount of couples stood outside empty houses all over Thanet, waiting impatiently and saying things like “He was ginger, the bloke who set this up: wasn’t he?”
  4. Telling a couple – very untruthfully – that a house had once suffered a major flea infestation once they were already inside the property.
 This resulted in the couple constantly slapping and scratching at themselves for the entire length of the viewing and leaving the place virtually at a dead run.
  5. Agreeing to distribute a major leaflet campaign for a multinational property agency and then dumping the entire print run into a skip in an empty car-park before wandering off for a two-hour lunch with my colleague: we even had chocolate fudge cake at the end.

Ahh…..they were great days.

I eventually quit Estate Agency for the calmer waters of Blockbuster Video. I remember being in a rush to leave during my last few days, partly because I wanted to break new ground in a world of possibilities but mostly because the phone bill was due and I’d been calling soap hotlines all week to find out what was going to happen in Eastenders.