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» Random Acts of Kindness

Chased around Piccadilly Circus
At the top end of Piccadilly near Piccadilly Circus, there is a moneychanger's shop which used to have a 24-hour Western Union terminal. My girlfriend was in Australia at the time of this story, and I'd finished work around 2am and wanted to send her some money urgently to keep her unwholesome landlord away from her door.

Sitting on my bottom for years to work in the picture business had made me fat and lazy. So I withdrew my whole day's allowance from the bank opposite, and waddled over the road, almost breathless having walked from Greek Street, to fill out the forms on the public side of the thick glass window in the moneychanger's shop. At that moment, out of the darkness appeared a skinny little man who looked like he'd not eaten, but he probably owed someone a lot of money for whatever made his skin look like the Moon's crust. My hands being occupied with pen and paper, he saw his moment and, before I could register his nearness, he whipped away my wallet with my girl's safety-money inside. And then he ran. Oh crikey, did he run!

It was like a flipping Keystone Cops film. The scrawny guy sprinted up toward Piccadilly Circus with me following him shouting, "Stop! Thief! That man has stolen my wallet!" It was worse than The Goodies. None of the road maintenance folk around the statue of Eros seemed to care; and I was too slow for the thieving little gazelle.

But a huge, dark figure overtook me: the guy who was behind me in the queue for Western Union. He was tall, wide, and very VERY quick. As the thief approached a bus stop in Regent Street, the gravitational field of the big fellow appeared to suck the crim into his iron grip as the brave stranger fought the little man for my money. Never have I seen a face so frightened as the skinny fellow's mug. He released my wallet exactly as the tall guy, in deep West African tones, instructed him; and I remember telling the snatcher never to come back, because his face was on every CCTV camera around. I may even have said to the criminal, "You've been let go tonight, you thieving bastard; now, fuck off."

The fellow who caught the thief talked to me on the way back to Piccadilly. He wouldn't accept a penny of reward. He told me he was a professional footballer who played "for a team around here", and he was sending some money to Ghana, last-minute, for a family wedding. But in the early hours of that morning, with his exceptional speed, strength and bravery at the service of a stranger, without even being asked, he saved my girlfriend's house and her dignity; and prompted me to stop getting so fat, and start running four miles a day. Brilliant man. I've no idea who he was.
(Fri 10th Feb 2012, 15:52, More)

» Messing with people's heads

I'm on a f*****g TRAIN
It was the early years of truly portable mobile telephones, but noise-cancelling microphones weren't included. So people really *did* have to shout, "I'm On A Train" to be heard and understood.

On the long rail journey to Gobowen from London, the man sitting only one row from me, but facing away, was constantly using his mobile phone, loudly braying to anyone he could call about his City deals, bonuses and the girls he was going to seduce as a result of increasing his cut on his clients' investments. Perhaps he was heading to Shropshire to steal some country land from the locals in order to build a golf course?

I, too, had my shiny new Orange phone with me, on the cheapest plan, £15 a month -- the year was 1994. And the idiot in the next row read out his telephone number, clearly and loudly, to someone he'd called.

Even in those early days, dialling 141 hid the number you were calling from. And Orange did not charge for any calls lasting less than two seconds. Oh! How I enjoyed the rest of the journey!
(Mon 16th Jan 2012, 15:51, More)

» Absolute Power

And the pub dog bit me.
This is a morality tale about biting off more than you can chew.

A very long time ago, before Sid and Jolene seduced each other in the shower, and when Cif was Jif, I was packed off to university to study for a degree in music which mysteriously (to my parents) took five years instead of the four they expected. But it began with the traditional "Freshers' Concert" where all the shiny new first years were expected to play their party-pieces. Though I had been a church organist for a few years before going up to university, choral conducting experience was not mine. But when the tutor asked the first-years, "who has been a conductor?" and no-one responded, my hand timidly went up.

I was poo. They threw motets and madrigals at me with time-signature changes throughout (mostly to accommodate hemiolas q.v.), and even some Gesualdo, and I carved like a man trying to sculpt wet candy floss. And so the concert came and went.

Afterwards, the traditional visit to The Ram, a cider house, took place. The Ram served cider, and cider only, and was way out in the countryside, reachable only by rail and a long sobering walk. But the final-year students felt it their adult duty to introduce the freshers to real drinking, so I sat down in the garden in a chilly autumn evening, with my regulation pint of Bulmer's medium-dry.

Three more pint glasses were plonked onto the table in front of me, by final year students. The reckoning was approaching.

"In honour of you conducting the freshers' choir, we offer you these gifts for your immediate consumption!" The more boorish students, including first-years, were by now chanting, "In One! In One!" and a church organist isn't unused to drinking with his thirsty bellringers, so I obliged.

These glasses did not contain medium-dry cider. They carried a half-pint of "Bulmer's No. 7" (long since discontinued) topped-up with a half of Special Reserve and probably some spirits too. These, they called "hand grenades" (and are still remembered on a Romany discussion forum run by the BBC!)

I did not know this. I pleasured myself and my fellow students, but then the hand grenades started to come to the end of their fuses. After giving a speech from which photographs were posted, one by one, upon the music department noticeboard by a man who now runs the very best audio gear maintenance business in the country, I fell over. The shite conductor of the Freshers' Choir was now about to pass shite himself, it felt. My last memory is of vomiting so fulsomely that the brook running through the garden of this pub was changing colour, and I wanted to laugh at the funny gurgling noises. Then the pub dog bit me.

I remember nothing now. Apparently, one of the students (who now runs the very best classical recording business in the country) brought a white Escort van, and ran me back to campus. A bunch of students dragged me upstairs feet first, and I was relieved of my clothing before they caught my bed for long enough to put me in it.

At 2.30pm the next day, I awoke to a knock on the door. The conductor had paid his price, and my first visitor was a final-year student who is now chairman of a Very Important Industry Association, arriving to see if I was ok. He'd already apologised to my tutor in advance, apparently! I was taken to the bathroom where my clothes lay in water whose colour resembled the brook in the pub garden.

A diner does not have to farm cattle for beef to know a good steak from a bad one. And a singer does not need to be a conductor to know when a lunatic first-year student is overstretching himself!

Length? About 64 bars plus The Ram.
(Fri 9th Jul 2010, 12:58, More)

» Caught!

Monkey's bones
Like the bone twirling overhead in "2001 A Space Odyssey" transformed into modern technology, my indiscretion was found out.

I had begun a marriage which wasn't quite right. We'd known each other nearly seven years but a long-distance relationship with someone from the other side of a very large ocean doesn't perfectly reveal all the tiny irritations which can lead to an insurmountable problem. About three months into the marriage, for which I moved away from Blighty, leaving everything behind except memories of a career, we could hardly bear to be the in same room as one another. It wasn't anything malicious: just two people who shouldn't have been married at that time.

The mind plays tricks, under such pressure. It perceives anything on-line to be the emotional equivalent of real life. My mobile telephone never left my side unless it was locked (and my spouse and I didn't habitually check each other's phones) and a flush familiarity with certain types of dating websites brought me some relief, even though my co-conspirators lived some two hundred miles away in a very rural area of a vast country considerably larger than Britain.

The fruitiness of secret conversations, very secret pictures, and some verbal contact, exceeded most people's wildest boundaries. Some of it should be recycled into a book, for the prurient interest of course. Never did I reveal my real name or location; but my grumpiness with some elements of the instant overseas family made no disguise of my married status, and I explicitly discussed certain issues with the family which seemed not to be resolvable by the people directly concerned, especially my stepson who was a violent, petty criminal.

Work arrived in the UK so, with a hope to clear things up between my spouse and me, for neither of us wanted things to be so badly wrong, I left to earn some income, taking my phone with me, of course.

About a week later, the prime female correspondent in all this, a very adventurous, filth-obsessed, but mostly-responsible person, was involved in a minor road accident while she was travelling some hundreds of miles from her home. No-one was hurt, but her own telephone was flung out of her car in the accident, wheeling through the air like the bone thrown by the ape in "2001 A Space Odyssey", coming to land by the roadside for anyone to discover it. However, that large, mainly rural, country does not have a tradition of "lost property" offices especially so far from civilisation, so the phone, being capable of really very good photographs, was found and fenced.

The accident occurred ten minutes from my marital home. The eventual fence was my wife's son, the violent one, who still lived in the same house as her.

Can you imagine what he thought when he looked at the telephone's contents?

About a week later, at four o'clock in the morning, the telephone rang in my London flat. My wife's voice asked, "Who's Rebecca?"

So, I was caught. Day by day, each and every message found on that telephone was drip-fed back to me via email. Along with the photographs. Both sides.

Oddly enough, my spouse and I are in good contact now. Sometimes, you never expect to be caught...
(Thu 3rd Jun 2010, 14:52, More)

» Random Acts of Evil

Just to look at him, after all these years...
This is a Random Act Of Evil which is still to happen. Let's just route this through the wavy-lines visual effects bus and take out the chrominance...
The year is 1969, I am five years old, blessed with truly glorious copper-coloured hair, and sitting in primary school in north London for storytime. A completely evil bastard child called Simon, in the same class, had developed a severe need to destroy me in any physical way possible based on the colour of my hair and, over a period of several months, had beaten me, kicked me, given me bloody noses, and been utterly crap toward me, to the extent that his extreme bullying in deeds and words had once made me shit myself in class. The teacher, by the way, did very little even after my parents complained about Simon, because Simon's mother was a teacher of another class in the same primary school. The last straw was that, while sitting cross-legged waiting for storytime to begin, the scum that was Simon walked over and kicked me in the teeth, with a wallop that splattered blood over the mat. Luckily, my parents knew a good dentist. The kid was eventually moved to another class. But I never forgot. Ok, move the wavy lines fader again, chrominance back up...
I've found Simon on 'Friends Reunited'. He's quite open about running a company that hires out stage kit in west London. Well, I never. My own work often involves hiring that kind of thing.

So I'm going to hire something from him. Nothing too fancy; something that will be hired and returned without a problem. But when I return it to his company, I'll make sure he's there: his company isn't so big that he can't handle the return paperwork himself. And I'll face him, and see his name on the paperwork, and he'll see mine. And I'll say,

"Thanks for the hire. Worked perfectly. Oh, Simon, do you remember Suburban Primary School, Class 2? You wrote about it on 'Friends Reunited'. [Pause] I was the red-headed kid, in the same class before you were moved in 1970. I remember you. [Pause] Must go: the parking ticket's up."

And then I'll leave. Straight away. He'll have my email and phone number if he needs to say anything.

I forgive easily if someone is sorry. I've done too many crap things in the past to be short on forgiveness. But I shat myself, and was crying in the mornings, scared to go to school sometimes because of the bastard that fellow was, back then when he was little but vicious. I'd like him to have some time to think about what he did. Perhaps he already has.
(Mon 20th Feb 2012, 13:14, More)
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