Ending Your Marriage at Costa

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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.

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He Thinks You’re HIS Dog

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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.

NOT ONE SOUND.

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

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

My inner voice immediately goes ‘Just OKAY? 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.

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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.

I Miss My Nan…

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…and this is why.

[The following post was written the year before she died.]

It’s Saturday morning, and both my kids are at a local birthday party: I’m not going, because it’s a Two Party Saturday and I’ve pulled the late shift. I’ll be at Jungle Jim’s tonight, watching all the sweaty midgets get high on e-numbers before bedtime. It’s no big deal: I’m used to it.

What I’m not used to is making lunch at my nan’s house. My nan lives very close to the location of the party, so I’ve escaped to get a convenient bite to eat.

…except it’s not turning out to be convenient. In fact, it’s proving practically bloody impossible.

‘Nan! Have you got any cheese?’

‘What’s that?’

‘CHEESE!’

‘I’ve got MY cheese. It’s in the fridge. You don’t have any of YOUR cheese here: you live somewhere else.’

‘Can I have some of yours?’

‘I don’t want to go out shopping tomorrow!’

‘You go out shopping EVERY day.’

‘Yeah, well, cheese isn’t f***ing cheap.’

‘It’s TWO slices, Nan. I’m only making a ham and cheese roll.’

‘Is it one of MY rolls?’

I look down at the small brown roll I’ve taken from a packet.

‘Yes, Nan.’

‘Eh?’

‘YES! YES IT IS!’

‘I bet you’re using my marge as well, aint ya?’

‘YES! Shall I leave a pound on the sideboard?’

‘Don’t be so f***ing cheeky! Besides, that roll is worth more than a pound.’

‘The pack says you got FIVE for 99p.’

‘Yeah…but I’m not the one hungry. Now just make yourself the roll and p*ss off home. I’m watching telly.’

I cut two really thin slices of cheese, and decide that I don’t have enough energy to fight for the ham. I do, however, want some pickle…and that I’m ready to go to war for.

‘Can I have pickle?’

‘Eh?’

‘Pickle!’

‘What?’

‘PICKLE!’

There’s a long pause before the shout comes back.

‘Fine, but after all that bloody cheek you can get it yourself. Look in the cupboard!’

I walk into the living room. She was watching a rerun of the detective show she calls ‘Inspector Moss’ but now she’s just glaring at me….as if I’ve been charged with theft. In a funny way, I have.

I reach to open the cupboard, which is rammed – and I mean rammed ­­– full of every bargain she’s found by haggling the 99p shop down to the point where they’re paying her to take the stuff away.

I have to rummage for a full minute before I find a brand of pickle the makers have ambitiously decided to call ‘Pickle’.

I’m about to open it when I realize that there’s a nasty smell of guff coming from the cupboard.

We used to say that a lot at school when someone farted, and there was once a shop in Ramsgate that smelled so badly of guff that it actually became popular because school kids dared each other to last more than a minute inside without gagging.

I can’t tell where the smell of guff is originating in my nan’s cupboard, but on a whim I turn the plastic bottle of pickle around and read: BEST BEFORE JUL 04.

July 2004 was ten years ago.

A decade.

‘Nan! This pickle’s out of date.’

‘F**k you, Princess. Buy your own pickle.’

‘Nan – have you been putting this on your food?’

‘Course I ‘ave.’

‘It might be poisonous.’

‘Boll**ks. I’ve been eatin’ out of date stuff for years. Those warnin’s mean b*gger all. Just eat it, you bloody weed.’

‘It’s TEN YEARS out of date, Nan! This sh*t is older than both my kids, and it’s nearly as old as my marriage!’

‘And there’s STILL some left: that’s how careful I am.’

‘Nan – you can afford new pickle.’

‘I don’t want new pickle: I’ve still got some left. You havin’ some or not? If not, put it back.’

I start to turn other bottles round: all sorts from both the main shelves. I don’t find a single container in date.

‘Nan-‘

‘Don’t lecture me: you ate loads of out of date stuff growing up.’

‘I did?’

‘Yeah.’

‘What if I’m ill because of it?’

‘Ha! You’ve got two kids, ‘aven’t ya? If you want to stop bein’ ill all the time, get off the internet and all those bloody games: load o’ rubbish.’

I peer around the cupboard door at her. ‘I’m doing okay actually, Nan: my mood is a lot better. I’ve even stopped drinking.’

‘Yeah? You should have kept it up: you look f***ing miserable.’

I grit my teeth. ‘Is that right? Well, let me ask YOU something: why do you need all this old food? What you’ve got here is a cupboard full of poison: AND it smells of guff!’

‘CLOSE THE BLOODY THING, THEN!’ she screams. ‘‘AVE YOUR SH*TTY ROLL WITHOUT MY POISONED PICKLE AND SEE HOW YOU BLOODY LIKE IT! GO AND CHOKE ON THE F****NG THING!’

I storm back to the kitchen, cobble together my roll and eat it as quickly as I can. While I’m finishing up, my mum comes in: she lives with my nan and, as far as servants go, is a bit like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted.

When I tell mum about the incident with the cupboard, she sighs and says:

‘Yes, she won’t be told. It’s the war, you see. Her family were hit very hard during the Rationing, and she never knew where the next meal was coming from. She keeps absolutely everything in case she ever needs it in the future.

For a long time, I don’t say anything….

….because I’ve remembered that there are times in life when I’m just a bit of an ignorant dick.

Kissing Cousins

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It’s BLOKE NIGHT….and we’re trying to out-weird each other by speaking from the heart: this is always a recipe for disaster.

“I once had a dream that I woke up naked on a park bench with an elderly Chinese guy licking my foot.”

Everyone laughs, which upsets me a bit because it’s true.

“I had one where I was pregnant.”

Pathetic. Even by Bloke Night standards, that is lame.

“I had this really weird one where I was kissing my cousin.”

Everyone laughs again……everyone except me.

I sniff. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

A deadly silence hits the table.

“What?” I shrug. “The Royal Family have been doing it for years: that’s why they all look the same. There’s only one portrait in Buckingham Palace with four hundred names under it.”

Now I have the entire table’s attention, as they’re waiting to see if I smile. I don’t: I just take another drink.

“Dude……” says the big guy up at the far end. “You would kiss your own cousin?”

I nod. “Hell yeah; I fancied a few of my cousins.”

“You WHAT?”

“That’s sick!”

“Dude…..”

“What’s wrong with you?”

I shrug. “Look….say you’re out at a club in a different town, you meet this really hot girl and the two of you just hit it off – but afterwards you find out she’s your cousin. Do you just break up with her?”

“YES!”

“HELL YES!”

“YOU TOTALLY DO!”

“ARE YOU NUTS? HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW SOMEONE IS YOUR COUSIN?”

I smirk: they’re really going for it. Besides, in my family it’s absolutely possible that I wouldn’t know half my cousins. Seriously. No-one knows what the f*** went on with half of our lot: my niece is also my gran’s great niece, my aunt turned out to be someone’s friend from down the road who wasn’t even related to my mum, and I only met my actual siblings when I was in my 20s. I’m serious – if you live in Thanet, there’s a good chance that at the very least I’m your cousin: possibly even your brother. Anyway, the conversation continues:

“There’s nothing wrong with fancying your cousins, guys,” I mutter, leaning back in my chair and trying to keep a straight face.

“He’s right about the Royal Family,” says someone else. “They do all look the same.”

“Apart from Jim Hewitt’s kid,” a third guy pipes up. “The ginger one: he’s awesome.”

“Don’t diss Diana!”

“I’m not dissing Diana! Diana was the best royal EVER: I’m just saying that Harry looks like his dad!”

There’s a murmur of agreement, and I decide to up the ante:  “Look – everyone fancies their cousins: just man up and have the balls to admit it.

A few seconds pass. Then: “Okay, there was this ONE girl – but she’s at least a second cousin.”

“Yeah, me too – my cousin from Norfolk is quite hot.”

“My cousin Sheryl is uber good-looking.”

“Yeah, Suzy is my mum’s second cousin and she’s just-“

“I always used to imagine that all the girls at the bus-stops  were my sisters.”

DEAD SILENCE.

All heads turn to the little guy at the end of the table who spoke. He’s new to the group, and we’re not 100% sold on him, yet.

I slowly put down my drink. “You did what?”

“Er…..” he says. “I….er……used to imagine that all the girls at the bus-stop were my sisters.”

“How many were there?”

“Ten or twelve.”

“You ever speak to them?”

“No…..not really. I just used to picture them all in one bed with me, and we could just about fit….and it was REALLY cold. Mum couldn’t afford great heating, and the walls were all covered with ripped wallpaper and stuff. There was this old oil lamp as well…..oh, and the bus stop was there in the room with us. At the end.”

It’s suddenly like Hulk Hogan VS Ultimate Warrior in this room: nobody moves…..but he just carries ON:

“After a while, I would pick one of them out and just lie in this bath with her singing to me: really old stuff from the 80s like Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson. Then, this one time, half the house fell down and me and my sisters just rolled out onto the street. We were all in so much pain.”

I take a deep breath. Someone has to stop him, because the looks that are going around this table are priceless, and he’s completely oblivious to it.

I hold up my hand. “That’s….er….that’s all a bit weird, mate.”

“You think so?”

There’s a chorus of confirmation. Then he says: “I really fancied my cousin Jenny, though!” and, suddenly, normality is restored. Everyone’s willing to cut him a break, because he’s new and it’s tough to fit in……

….but a bus-stop full of imaginary sisters? WTF did we just listen to? Who goes to that place in their head?

The truth is that, although Bloke Night is a place for gutsy and occasionally disgusting revelations, we don’t do weird.

Not that weird.

I guess that, even in a group like ours, there’s always ONE.

He missed the next Bloke Night.

And the one after that.

In fact, we never really saw him again after that cold night in lonesome October…..but I picture him out there, huddling for warmth in a freezing bed with his twelve sisters. Wherever he is now, I really hope he’s happy….and not in too much pain.

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.

I’ve Wet Myself, Mate

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I’m standing beside the entrance to the lift at the back of the oddly depressing WHSmith store at Westwood Cross when I realise that my friend, the guy I’m here to meet up with, is taking a really long time to buy a magazine. I left him at the counter, and there was literally no queue…so when five minutes roll around and he hasn’t followed me, I get that slightly odd sort of feeling that something might be wrong.

I’m just about to investigate the situation when I see my buddy absolutely barrelling down the aisle towards the lift with a face like thunder. Let me take a second to describe my friend: he’s a young, muscular dude with a sporty demeanour and the sort of good looks that tend to attract a fair bit of attention when he’s not striding around town with his (knockout) girlfriend. However, when he’s heading for you, picking up the pace like he’s going to go for a rugby tackle, you pay attention.

My face suddenly turns serious. ‘What’s up? What’s happened?’

‘Just get in the lift.’

‘But-‘

‘Dave, just GET IN THE LIFT. NOW.’

He practically shoves me back, just as the doors open….and we both go into the lift like we’re two gay guys who are seriously up for some fun.

I hit the side rail, shove him back as the doors close and muscle up (as much as I can): ‘What the HELL is wrong with you?’

‘I’ve wet myself, mate.’

‘You what?’

‘That stupid cow made me wet myself.’

We both look down, and he’s telling the truth: he’s wearing beige shorts that are now flooded with a darker tint all around the crotch.

I frown. ‘How-‘

‘I told you. That stupid cow with the fringe!’

I try to remember the people in the shop as we came in. ‘You mean the woman with the pram?’

‘Yes. Dumb BITCH. Look what she’s done!’

We both look down again. The lift door springs open and, to my shock, he presses the ground floor button and we head back down. He’s obviously too embarrassed to get out of the lift, and I understand that….but….

‘How did she-‘

‘I dropped my wallet by the magazines. So, I’m halfway to the counter and I’m thinking I badly need a piss when that stupid cow shouts at me and tells me I’ve dropped my wallet. It happened straight away.’

I nodded, but I’m really confused. ‘What happened, exactly?’

‘I wet myself when I get distracted. You know, like, really distracted.

There’s a pause.

I stare at him.

‘Seriously?’ is all I can manage.

‘Yeah. No messing. I mean, it hardly ever happens, these days….because I’d need to be desperate for a whizz AND I’d need to get distracted at the wrong moment, but-‘

I look down at the patch on his trousers.

‘Er…dude: are you sure this isn’t a medical issue?’

‘No WAY. I f*****g hate hospitals. Come on, dude: you know what’s it like. You can’t even set foot in a bloody hospital without having a panic attack.’

I nod.

‘You’re right, but I think that – on balance – I’d go see a doctor if I filled my shorts everyone somebody shouted my name.’

‘I’ve told you: it’s NOT every time. It’s just occasionally. What the hell are we going to do? I’m RINGING wet, here: it’s like I’m wearing a damp towel.’

The lift arrives and, when he presses the button again on three stunned people waiting at the ground floor entrance, I decide it’s time to take the bull by the horns. Otherwise we’re going to end up trying to convince security that we’re not more than good friends. I can pussyfoot around Pisspants all day long, but he’s got to get this problem looked into. It might be something serious, and I’m his friend: it’s my duty to make him feel so embarrassed about it that he goes to the doctor to get it checked out.

I snap my fingers to break this mood of insanity.

‘Right. First you’re going to go to the toilet.’

‘It’s a bit late-‘

‘Not for that! To blow-dry your shorts on the hand dryer.’

‘It’s low down on the wall in this place! I’d have to lie on the floor.’

‘Just take them OFF and do it.’

‘I can’t take my shorts off in a public toilet. It’s weird.’

‘It’s NOT weird. Just get in there and take your shorts off.’

‘I’m not wearing any boxers.’

‘So? Just DO IT.’

‘Will you come in with me?’

I shake my head. ‘If we both go in and you take your trousers off, then it becomes weird…..especially after all that crap in the lift. We’re going to end up getting arrested. Besides, if I go in with you I’d effectively end up blow drying your balls, and I’m not that sort of guy.’

We both laugh, until we realise that the lift door opened again and I just said that last bit to a family with small children.

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.

Does This Happen to YOU at The Royal Victoria Pavilion?

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I’ve started to take my morning coffee (yes, I am an Agatha Christie character) at the Overlook Hotel.

Sorry, I really should give the place its official name: The Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate.

What? It DOES feel like The Overlook Hotel.

I’m not criticising the place: the food is amazing, the staff are friendly and welcoming and the coffee is the best you can get outside Costa or Café Nero….

….but it still feels like Jack Nicholson is going to walk in at any moment with a medium-sized boarding axe, shouting ‘Heeeeere’s Johnny!’

I think it’s the creepy lighting. I mean, Wetherspoons always kit out their buildings beautifully (and authentically) but in this case they’ve stayed authentic to that iconic hotel from The Shining.

Imagine that the Royal Victoria Pavilion was empty and it was just you and Jack in there, you scrambling from table to table on all fours and him methodically stalking you with that ‘All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy’ look on his face.

Do you know another place that looks exactly like The Overlook?

The Disney Hotel in Paris.

Yes, the really expensive one that’s right on the park. My wife and I booked a suite there for our honeymoon. I remember walking into the glorious marbled reception hall and thinking ‘Wow – this is glorious.’

Ten minutes later I’m padding through dark, shadowy corridors, seeing pale ghostly twins at every turn while the lightning flickers on and off.

I felt like John Cusack in 1408.

The thing is, I like the Royal Victoria Pavilion.

I do.

I actually like it here. It’s kinda beautiful. Check this out:

True, the chandeliers are odd and every time I gaze out at the ocean I’m half expecting to see a bunch of cultists on the sand or an elder god from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos rising out of the water….

….but, like I say, the coffee is good. You can’t have EVERYTHING.

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 Six Foot Ginger Midget

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In order to avoid a midlife crisis involving a string of passionate affairs or the purchase of a supercar that ends up turning into a fireball on Hyde Park corner, I decided to become an actor…or at the very least an acting extra. I saw my future as ‘that ginger guy drinking coffee’ in the background of a Black Mirror episode or even propping up the bar in the Queen Vic while Phil’s staring down the lens and trying to work out why the arches doesn’t get more business.

Instead, I’m absolutely thrilled to get shortlisted – almost immediately – for a role in a Snow White pantomime. Optimistically, I’m hoping I’ve been earmarked for the huntsman….but pessimistically I’m half-convinced the part I’m actually being considered for is the queen’s weedy, spineless brother (even though I’ve beefed up a bit in the body department).

In fact, I’m so thrilled at the thought of being considered for the show that I don’t bother to check out some of the other actors I’m shortlisted with….until I notice that one of them is a midget.

I’d like to apologise to all the midgets if the correct term is dwarf. If it’s any consolation, I’ve always preferred to be known as a ‘redhead’ but people still insist on calling me ‘ginger’ in quite a derogatory way…so I’m just paying that forward.

So, anyway, I’m up against one of the little people. I figure I have the best chance, as this dude is obviously perfect for a role as one of the dwarfs and not really a threat to my opportunity….until I notice that the role on offer is ‘Grumpy’ and my three other rivals are ALSO – how shall I put this – ‘qualified’ in the height department.

I actually just stare at the screen to see if I’m reading it correctly.

I am.

I’m up against four dwarfs for the dwarf role of Grumpy the dwarf in the dwarf pantomime Snow White and the Seven dwarfs.

The seven DWARFS.

This is not Snow White, the Six Dwarfs and the Five Foot Eleven Other Ginger Dwarf (adopted). No – this is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

I immediately call the agency and enquire about the approach.

It turns out that my height (5ft 11″) has been incorrectly entered as 2ft 11″ and that the angle of my edited profile picture (of me in a short-sleeved t-shirt) does in fact make it look as though I have an enormous head (which I do) and very tiny arms (which I don’t).

I politely explain to the agency that I am not offended by the mistake and I thank them profusely for discovering said mistake before I turned up at an audition – full of dwarfs – as a nearly six-foot tall man who firmly believes he is a dwarf with a great shot at getting the role of Grumpy: I’d certainly have been miserable enough.

As I write this entry, I have just received the news that I am being considered as a background ‘artist’ in a new BBC drama about bodyguards. There are only two other midgets in the running, so I have a great chance.

Note: This entry was written at Wetherspoons’ Royal Victoria Pavillion in, Ramsgate, where I’ve decided to take my morning coffee for the foreseeable future…or until I’m barred.

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.

 

 

Smoking Frogs…

Things You Hear When You Work in Retail

Taking the Biscuit

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‘Dave….somebody keeps leaving me Bourbons.’

Mike looks worried, but I’m not listening to him. We’re in the Debenham’s cafe at Westwood Cross, and I’m watching an old couple giving the duty manager a hard time about absolutely nothing. As far as I can tell, the old buzzard who lacks the balls to stand up to his dominating wife is nevertheless complaining – quite vigorously – about the butter being smaller than it was the last time they were there. He’s waving a bony finger while the crazed heifer he married is poking him in the ribs and muttering to him, throwing out the odd expletive along the way. Every few seconds, I can hear the edge of a ‘f*ck’ or the slightest hint of a ‘b*llocks.’ I’m completely fascinated that these two rotting tortoises are working themselves into a frenzy over a small square of wrapped butter. It’s EPIC, and I feel like sticking two of my own pieces together and shouting over ‘My butter is MASSIVE!’ just to make the thing go into extra time….

‘Dave?’

I manage to pull my attention away from the scene.

‘What’s up, mate?’

‘Somebody keeps leaving me Bourbons.’

‘Nice!’

‘I’m SERIOUS.’

I nod. ‘Sounds good. I loved Bourbons when I was a kid. My nan used to get out a biscuit barrel full of them ready for when I got home: it’s no wonder I was fatter than a whale omelette.’

‘It’s a bit weird though, right?’

I stop watching the old couple and give Mike my undivided focus. The poor guy actually does look anxious.

‘How is it weird? A pack of bourbons on your desk every time you come off lunch probably just means you have a secret admirer or something. Any girls on your floor showing an interest?’

‘They’re not on my desk, Dave…and it’s not a pack. I’m talking about a single Bourbon biscuit on my doorstep every morning when I first get up.’

I just stare at him.

For a long, LONG time.

Then a terrible realisation dawns.

‘You’re not f**king eating them, are you?’

‘Of course I am.’

‘WHAT?’

I sit bolt upright in the chair.

‘Are you bloody crazy? What’s WRONG with you? They could be poisoned, dude! Who eats something they find on the doorstep? Who DOES that?’

‘Eh?’

‘You never – and I mean positively not EVER – eat something you find on your doorstep.’

‘Why?’

‘Because it’s disgusting, mate…and proper bloody weird. I mean, even if you dropped it yourself…well, okay: you might pick up a biscuit you dropped, but just opening the door in the morning and eating a biscuit…is mental. I assume it was, like, totally unwrapped?’

‘Oh, yeah…it was bareback.’

‘I’m scared for you, mate. I’m actually scared for you.’

‘Seriously, Dave? I can never tell if you’re messing about.’

‘I’m NOT MESSING ABOUT, dickhead. How many have you eaten?’

‘Three.’ He looks down for a bit, and mutters: ‘One, two, yeah, three. I…er….I waited up on the second night, but nobody came through the front gate. So then I just forgot about it, and on the morning after the third night, sure enough: there’s another one.’

‘…which you ate?’

‘Yeah. I do feel sick, actually: I’ve felt rough for a while now.’

‘For about a week, you mean?’

‘About that.’

‘You complete TIT.’

I sit for a while and try to think about everything that’s happened to Mike since he moved out of his mum’s in 2008.

Then it hits me. ‘What if it’s that girl from Spain?’

He looks up, sharp. ‘Emily?’

‘Yes, that’s her: Emily! She told you that she hated you, dude: that she’d get her own back on you no matter how long it took. She even TOLD you she was going to poison your drinks! Remember?’

‘No way. You don’t think it’s her?’

‘Well….it’s a long shot, admittedly. I can’t quite see a bitter girl who’s upset about a failed holiday romance waiting two years and then leaving a series of poisoned bourbons on the doorstep of her lost love, but I guess it could happen. I mean, it’s a bit Scooby Doo….but the world is going to hell in a handcart: so who knows? I don’t suppose you have her number?’

‘No, but my SISTER does….because there was all that fuss with the police and-‘

‘I remember.’

‘Should I call her?’

I nod. ‘Do it, mate: do it NOW.’

While Mike calls his sister, I order another mocha (and a tea for him). When I return to the table, he is just getting through to Emily, a girl he met on holiday who is now living in Oxford. Unfortunately, Mike decides not to ask an honest question of her and chooses instead to be ridiculously over-friendly about the whole affair.

‘Em? Emily? Is that you? Ha! It’s Mike: Kelly’s little bro….from Spain. Yeah! Hi! How’s it going? Really? Great! How’s life in retail? Fantastic! I’m really glad. Listen, I’m only ringing to ask you a bit of a crazy question. Sure, sure. Well, I just wondered: do you like biscuits? Yeah, packs of biscuits! Hahaha! Brilliant, brilliant. What’s your favourite biscuit, Em? What’s that? No, I’m sober. Honestly. No, really: don’t be silly. Whatever: can you just answer the question? Why not? What’s your favourite biscuit? Why are you getting funny about such a simple question? You don’t have anything to hide, do you? Just answer. What IS your favourite? Ok, fine: cool. And your second favourite? Er….say your second favourite again? Yeah: I thought that’s what you said.’

His expression suddenly changes, and he gives me a sinister ‘thumbs up’. Then, without any word or preamble, he suddenly growls into the phone: ‘I’m not stupid, and I never did anything wrong by you. We were never together when I met Rita, and it was only two FECKING days…so you can stop leaving your pathetic little biscuits outside my door. I’m going to the doctor this afternoon, and if I’ve been poisoned I’m going to the police right afterwards. Do you hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME?’

He hangs up the phone and slumps down in the seat.

I put a cup of tea in front of him, and take a sip from my mocha.

‘It might not be her, mate: you should have waited a bit, maybe?’

‘No way, Dave. I’ve got to go to the doctor because of this girl: can you believe that?’

‘It was just an idea, Mike: you don’t KNOW it was her.’

I lean back in my own chair and quickly cover a heavy yawn.

Mike puts down his tea. ‘Are you okay, Dave?’

‘Me? I’m fine.’

‘You look a bit tired, mate.’

I let out a deep sigh. ‘Yeah, well….I’ve had a lot of late nights, recently, and I can’t lie: leaving bourbons outside your door at two o’clock in the morning has really beaten the shit out of me.’

 

Can You Both LEAVE, Please? You’re Upsetting the Other Customers

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I’m actually worried that we might get kicked out of Marks & Spencer. The security here is top notch and, despite the fact that we’re not actually doing anything wrong, we are drawing a lot of unwanted attention from the other customers in the restaurant. I guess it’s because we’re being quite noisy.

‘The blonde! The blonde!’

‘NOT the blonde: go for the old lady, Jay!’

‘You said THE BLONDE!’

‘I changed it to the old lady!’

‘What? WHY?’

‘She’s weak, Jay: she’s WEAK!’

My buddy (and fellow blogger) Jaylord is sitting next to me with two fingers held to the side of his head. He’s concentrating all his willpower and mental focus on random people in the Marks & Spencer store at Westwood Cross: at least, the ones we can see from our table in the restaurant.

Mostly importantly of all, Jay is holding onto the lead of the Joystick I’ve given him, an old Spectrum one from the eighties.

The idea I’ve had is quite simple. Jay will channel all his focus on individual people, and I will then try to control those people with the joystick.

Naturally, we’re going for girls….not because we’re trying to score (I’m married and Jay is taken), but because we’re testing out our god-given psychic abilities to attract women….with the power of our minds (and a joystick).

Unfortunately, I’ve given up a bit on most of the attractive women, and I’ve now decided that an elderly woman might be our best bet.

The NOISE is coming from the fact that I’m shouting a lot and tapping the fire button on the joystick frantically…..because it ISN’T the fire button. I’ve mentally decided that it is – in fact – the ATTRACTION button…..so in order to get the people to approach us, I’m hitting the button REALLY hard and trying to move them as if they’re characters in a computer game….but Jay is now getting upset.

‘Dave – people are looking over here. Big time.’

‘Just keep focusing! I moved the old lady just then!’

‘You DIDN’T move her: she was on her way over here anyway! Look: she’s finished trying on the hats and now she’s coming into the restaurant!’

‘I did that! I’m moving the joystick TOWARDS us. She’s coming to me like a fish on a hook: I’m reeling her in! Look! She’s moving really fast because I’ve got the setting on AUTO!’

‘You’re NOT controlling that old lady!’

‘I totally AM! Just watch for – oh, no – she’s going to hit the table! I’ll try to make her jump….’

It doesn’t work. At the very last minute, the old dinosaur veers off in another direction entirely and heads for the toilets.

I lose my temper at this point, and smack my hand on the table.

‘You’re NOT concentrating, Jay!’

‘Me? Did you ever think that maybe your CRAPPY IDEA IS JUST RIDICULOUS AND DOESN’T WORK?’

‘It DOES work. I saw it on Derren Brown.’

‘That’s a LIE: this is all you. Why did you change to the old lady anyway? You were moving that blonde girl around just fine!’

‘Yeah, but I was going MENTAL on the attraction button, and she just looked over at us with an eye full of evils, as if we were crazy or something.’

‘Dave – you’re sitting in M&S hammering a Spectrum Joystick, and I’m holding the end of the bit that should be plugged into a computer. People are giving us funny looks because you’re creating a two-man freakshow over here.’

I roll my eyes.

‘Let’s just pick someone else, dude: let’s give it ONE more go.’

‘Fine…but then we’re done. Okay?’

‘Deal.’

We both look around the restaurant until our eyes alight on a rather attractive young girl working behind the counter.

She looks over at us and smiles, politely.

‘Jay-‘ I whisper.

‘I see her.’

‘Let’s do this.’

Maintaining eye contact with the girl, who only glances away from us briefly to serve a customer, I begin to hit the ATTRACTION button. Hard.

After a few seconds, I’m really going hell for leather on it.

I can FEEL Jay’s mental energy charging through the restaurant.

It’s SO exciting.

‘Go, Jay!’

‘Keep hitting the button!’

‘I am! My bloody finger is killing me! Just keep concentrating!’

‘This is it, now!’

 

‘Ready-‘

‘Wait for it-‘

‘NOW!’

Continuing to smash the button, I pull the joystick towards me and the girl actually COMES OUT FROM BEHIND THE COUNTER AND BEGINS TO WALK TOWARDS US.

‘I told you, Jaylord!’

‘This is EPIC!’

‘Here she comes!’

She walks in a straight line, only once sidestepping a table (when I move the joystick left) in her journey towards us. She’s definitely giving us the eye.

‘Dave-‘

‘I know! I KNOW!’

‘Dave-‘

Suddenly, she’s right in front of the table.

‘Here she IS, Jay! Here she actually IS!’

I finally stop hitting the button and collapse back into my seat, breathing heavily and looking up at her expectantly.

‘Hi! I’m Dave, and this is Jay: is everything okay?’

She maintains her smile, but the humour is now gone from it. She leans over and whispers: ‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave the restaurant. Two people have complained, and you’re making an awful lot of noise.’

I want to explain, I want to make her understand that we’re not weirdos, but I can just about get my breath. I’m absolutely exhausted.

‘Hold on!’ I manage, as she begins to walk away. ‘Excuse me?’

She turns back. ‘Yes?’

‘Did you come over here by yourself, just then….or did you feel – sort of – compelled to come over?’

She folds her arms, looks down at her feet and then shakes her head, very sadly. ‘You’re not controlling people with the joystick. I’m afraid it’s a really, REALLY stupid idea.’

I want to say something else, but I can feel Jay’s angry stare burning into my neck.

This is all my fault.

We calmly collect our stuff and head for the escalators. I’m a bit disappointed on the way down, when I spot the old lady coming out of the toilets and Jay refuses to help me move her around a bit.

I can understand why he ‘s angry with me, but while – on the surface of it – a lot of my ideas might seem pretty mental, I swear this one was solid gold. After all, I used to know a guy who tried this trick a LOT. I can’t remember his name, but he once claimed to have taken complete control of Beyonce during a pop concert: he reckoned he even moved her offstage a few times and she came back looking confused.

From that moment, I was just crazy in love with the idea. See what I did there?