Thursday, 26 December 2013

Where's My Comfort Food?

What does the future hold?

This is a question which people throughout our green and pleasant land are asking, as 2013 slowly disappears from our calendars, to be replaced by another year, and another - in most cases - twelve months of what we've just gone through.
You may well want to telephone a clairvoyant, at sixty-five pence a minute, to be told that you've got to keep an eye on your health, or you may already have a gut feeling that next year is going to be YOUR year.
Well, MY guts have nothing to say, and as for Mystic Marion in Basildon...
The future, my friends, is in our hands, and whilst fate can play a part in what's to come, I reckon that all the while I've got my comfort food, my cans of lager and my gambling addiction, life can throw as much shit my way as it likes, because quite frankly, what's to be will be.
Resolutions? Ah, yes! That's a list of things we jot down on the back of an envelope on the last day of the year, knowing there's more chance of it raining chocolate bars in Swindon than there is in us actually sticking to that stupid, bloody list of complete and utter nonsense.
Resolutions for 2014, you cheerfully write, include guzzling vast amounts of Perrier, eating tons of iceberg lettuces and turning your back on the biggest vice of all - the lottery. You may even, you convince yourself, start going to church every Sunday morning and you will certainly not be watching any more porn movies. Your addiction to the internet will be overcome and your use of foul language will be a thing of the past. You will get to like your neighbour, even if you really think he's a bastard and you will send money to charities throughout the land. You will know longer spend hours watching football on television, but instead take up an interesting hobby.
Oh what a joy life will be, you believe, as you wonder why you didn't think of all of these life-changing things earlier.
Perrier and iceberg lettuces? Come on now, a juicy cheeseburger and pint of lager sounds so much better, doesn't it? And no more spending hours on the internet? And stamp collecting instead of Arsenal versus Liverpool? What a load of bollocks your list is, and what a waste of time writing your list has been.
So think again before you give up sex and let Jesus into your life, for whether or not you give up all of those nasty habits, hoping that it WILL lead to a better life, WHAT'S TO BE WILL BE!

Monday, 16 December 2013

5 GREAT Christmas gift ideas

Fizzy drinks have never been so much fun

With the number of shopping days to Christmas rapidly running out, that last-minute search for ideal gifts will soon become a mad rush, before it's too late.
So, if YOU still don't know what you're going to give the love of your life on the 25th December, thanks to Ryman, Cooper and Joy, the problem is solved.
Sir, your wife would appreciate an appliance which puts the fun back into fizzy drinks, and brightens up the dullest of kitchens. A fizzy drink maker gives you the opportunity to make exciting and original drinks, whilst draining your bank account. Yes - it may be fun to make cola which is as appetising as stagnant rain water, but by the time you've paid for the expensive syrup, bought a cartridge of gas and filled the machine with water, the cost of your glass of cola will be fifteen times more expensive than a can of soda bought from your local supermarket.
This is one crap gift that you shouldn't even offer to your worst enemy.
Ladies, how many times has your man complained that your DVD player no longer delivers sharp and crisp images? Hundreds of times, you cry, wondering how such an irritating problem can be solved.
Well, thanks to a DVD lens cleaner, grainy images will soon be a thing of the past.
Simply load the disc into the machine, hit play, and smile as your DVD player is given a new lease of life.
And what's more, this little beauty is cheap and made in China, and if it doesn't work, who cares?
Sir, your wife has been recently complaining about her tired and swollen feet. What, you ask, is the remedy?
How about a plastic foot spa, which massages the feet by sending thousands of bubbles whirling around in warm water, whilst tickling your other half's toes.
This is one gift which is sure to bring a smile to your lady's face, in the same way that constipation always leaves her rolling around with laughter.
In terms of crap, this device is right up there with fizzy drink makers and DVD cleaning kits.
Only if you want a divorce should you choose this as an ideal gift.
With winter on the way, what man wouldn't appreciate a winter car kit, on a cold and icy morning?
This wonderful kit hails from China, and comprises of a can of de-icer, a bottle of winter screen wash, a plastic thing to scrape away at the windscreen and a rectangular sponge. Finally, to make the interior of the car smell like a Norwegian pine forest, there is a cardboard-scented tree, which should be hung from the rear-view mirror, so the overpowering odour of Scandinavia can fill the nostrils of all concerned.
A great gift for the motorist in your life.

And finally, what about a leather passport-cum-credit card holder?

It smells great and allows travellers to keep their passport with their credit cards, so that in the event of being pickpocketed in Turkey, a thief will be delighted to find all he needs to help himself to a poor bastard's life savings.

Never keep your credit cards and passports together, says the warning on the packaging in which this item of useless crap is wrapped!

Enough said!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Meet Boring Peter & His Friends

Boring Peter Doing His Boring Job

Yep, Christmas is almost upon us, and so throughout our green and pleasant land lots of office workers are preparing themselves for their annual office party.

Oh what fun boring Peter from accounts is going to have, hoping that at the table of the local Harvester pub and grill - a fine venue for an office party - he'll be sitting next to shy Jenny from the shredding room. Then there's John from the mail sorting room and Alison from reception. And let's not forget Sarah from the claims department, Paul from the filing room and Tanya from downstairs. The boffins from the I.T. department have been invited, the regional director will be making an appearance and the office manager and the two trainees are also coming along to join in the Friday night fun.

This Will Be The Place To Be

Now, if you've ever stepped foot inside of a Harvester restaurant, you will know that the chance of having a good time - be it at Christmas or in the middle of summer - is slimmer than an anorexic teenager, and that not even sexy Tanya from downstairs will make the evening one to remember.
But smiles on faces and good manners are the order of the day, because even if it is the end of year party, there is no way that the regional director wants to see any of his minions even mildly drunk, and neither does the bastard want to hear Peter's one and only "dirty" joke.
No, No and No! You WILL arrive on time, in an attire which - if you are of the female variety - covers your white and lumpy flesh, and if you're a man you should really wear a shirt and tie - and have a shave.
Peter is upset. Shy Jenny has been placed next to Paul. Tanya is between the guys from I.T. Alison is at the end of the table, and Peter - the sad and lonely Peter - is at the other end of the table, with the two trainees and the bore from security.
But don't be sad, Peter. Sit back and enjoy your exotic cocktail, and share details of your dull and uneventful life with Graham - the former soldier who now spends eight hours a day in a wooden hut, letting people in and out of the company car park.
The roast turkey is shit. The vegetables are cold and the waitress is Polish. None of the spineless bastards at the table dare to ask for a pint of beer or a glass of white wine, until Jenny...
 ...well, until Jenny has the audacity to ask for a glass of Chardonnay.

A look of horror fills the regional director's face. A GLASS OF CHARDONNAY! Jenny has committed a crime worse than child murder - and her career in insurance is surely going to end this very night. But then comes Paul's request for a pint of lager and Tanya's demand for a vodka and coke.

The office manager looks down at the floor, and wishes that the stained carpet would open up and take him down. He knows what vodka and coke can do to a young girl, and he knows that Jenny won't be satisfied with only one glass of Chardonnay.

The director doesn't hang around for the Christmas pudding. He bids his lowly slaves a happy Christmas, and reminds all concerned that if they intend to get merrily drunk, don't forget that Bairstow & Co Insurance is proud of its reputation, and that careers are at stake if the evening at the Harvester pub and grill turns into a drunken orgy.

Once the miserable bastard has gone, and the office manager has slipped away, the rest of the invitees decide to let their hair down, order lager by the bucketful, Chardonnay by the barrel and vodka by the gallon.

Jenny reveals her white flesh to Paul. Tanya slips her tongue inside of Graham's mouth. Alison disappears into the car park with a guy from I.T. John does his fine impression of Adolf Hitler. And Peter...

...well, Boring Peter vomits his Christmas dinner over the Polish waitress, after a double whisky proves to be a double whisky too much.

Bairstow & Co's reputation has been shot to pieces, but in the words of Sarah from the claims department: WHO GIVES A FUCK!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Cheeseburgers, Kathryn Erbe & ...

Kathryn Erbe: Tough on crime and sexy with it.

Over here in France, where life would be a lot better if the president wasn't Francois Hollande, the natives have always eyed America and the Americans with a certain degree of suspicion.
This dislike of all things from the other side of the Atlantic is hard to understand, but probably comes about from the fact that the French consider themselves to be the finest race on the planet.
Yes, I can hear you all chuckling, and asking yourselves how can a country where idleness is a national past-time and where shops don't open on a Sunday be home to a people who believe they are a cut above the rest.
Well, don't ask me, because having lived here for so many years, I've given up trying to understand the French, and their peculiar habits. After all, if they're happy to work thirty-five hours a week, spend three weeks in an overcrowded campsite in August and eat snails in garlic butter, who am I to criticise them?
Okay, some things over here are good: the food, the wine and the countryside, but some things over here are positively shit.
Our French friends like nothing better to complain about the number of American series shown on French TV, but having watched the dross which French TV producers like to force upon the population, who can blame a hot-blooded male like me preferring to settle down on a Friday night with a bottle of wine and Kathryn Erbe, instead of watching a documentary about road accidents in Paris.
Kathryn Erbe is GOOD - French TV is NOT!


 Then there's the dislike of American cuisine, which the French believe is all about cheeseburgers, pizzas and hot dogs. And after eating the finest fast food money can buy, it can only be washed down with coke, can't it?

The French may detest cheeseburgers and all drinks fizzy, but drive past a McDonalds where I live on a Friday night, and you'll see the youth of today stuffing their faces with all things good to come out of America. And as for me - what can be better way to cure a Bordeaux-induced headache by drinking a can of coke the morning after?

The problem here in France is the fact that most French people believe that if it isn't French, then it isn't good. But as the older generation fades away into the next world - where cheeseburgers, coke and Kathryn Erbe are certainly not welcome - at least the next generation want to break free from the shackles of all things European, and embrace anything and quite possibly everything from the land which gave us good fast food and the sexiest female cop on the planet!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Rosa's Story

Depressed, from southeast London

One day my husband never came home, and when I rang the company where he worked, a kind woman said that he hadn't been to work for a few days, and if he did eventually turn up he would be fired. I felt angry and confused, and I needed to talk to my husband to see why he had stopped going to work, and how were we going to pay the rent and put food on our table. He never showed up that night, so I rang his brother, who said to me that I had completely ruined his brother's life, and because of that he had returned to Portugal, to try and salvage his life. He then said that I wasn't to call any more, and that I only had myself to blame if my life was falling apart. That was the last time I ever spoke to my brother-in-law.
There is a church at the end of my street, and although it's not a catholic church, it's a church all the same, and it's a place that provided me with much comfort in those early days of despair, when I was alone and abandoned. The old priest soon took an interest in me, and when I recounted my terrible life, since my husband had left me, he said that I had every reason to feel lonely, although God was always with me. I remember that I smiled, and because I was no longer sensitive, kind or naïve, I thought to myself that I had no interest in what the old man thought, and that I was getting stronger every day, and that I only went to the church on days when my resolve was temporarily broken by a sudden and unexpected bout of depression. The old man then said he could help me get a job, which is what I needed, if I was to avoid living like a dog on the the streets.
He found work for me in a factory, where I was expected to make small toys for a poor wage, whilst having to work long hours. The factory was within walking distance of my flat, and through rain and snow, five days a week, forty-eight weeks a year, I would take the same route to work, where I would position myself behind my table, and spend eight hours of my day making playthings for children, whilst trying not to injure myself with my tools. At first, I was useless, but as time progressed I became more experienced, and I soon became expert in my job.
To start with my colleagues were cold towards me, because I was a foreigner, and most of them were English. But one of the girls was Spanish, and in no time we became the best of friends, and started to see each other out of working hours. Maria was just a few years younger than me, and she was married to a kind Englishman, who owned a garage in north London. I was jealous of her, and I wanted her life.
Knowing Maria made me happier than I had been for some time, and through her I met other people, and started to socialise for the first time in years. I was hardly ever at home in my tiny flat, but for all of the friends I made, there was never a man who wanted to take me in his arms, and tell me that he loved me. And if that wasn't enough to make me sad, and make me want to weep, the day Maria died was the day when everything I had started to build came crashing down around me.
She was too young and beautiful to die, and I asked myself that if there was a God, why hadn't he taken me – old and ugly – instead of such a popular and loving girl. The friends I had made through Maria soon forgot about me, and even though I tried hard to block out the feelings of utter sadness and loneliness, I found myself heading down into a pit of depression, from which I knew I would never emerge, because I was too tired to fight, and past caring.

There are no trees where Rosa lives.

Rosa appears in "The Londoners" trilogy. Her life is not worth living, but on she goes...
If you want to read about her, and some of the other characters drifting through life in southeast London, get your copy of "The Londoners" trilogy today, via Amazon for Kindle.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Clash Of The Titans

Arthur Scargill in the arms of the police. But was he all bad?

If decades are defined by individual years, then Great Britain in the 1980's must surely be all about what happened in 1984, and an event which could have easily brought Margaret Thatcher's government to its knees.

Flashback to 12th March 1984, when the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Arthur Scargill, faced up to Thatcher's reforms of the British mining industry, by instigating a strike which would eventually last almost a year, and in turn make him an icon of the 1980's.

It's nearly thirty years since images of striking miners battling with police poured from our televisions, and filled the pages of the tabloid press, and it's nearly thirty years since Scargill almost destroyed Thatcher's government.

Hated by those who mirrored Thatcher's anti-union stance, and idolised by those very men he represented, Scargill was seen as a leader who wasn't going to give up the fight easily.

But how can I imagine that this man is an icon, when most people believe that he was just an inciter of mindless violence, keen on promoting his own image?

Margaret Thatcher: Is she worthy of icon status?

Well, even today, Scargill is still seen as a man whose beliefs and principles are something which must be admired. Here is a man who is still held in high esteem by his band of loyal followers. And this respect is something which we can sometimes show to men like Scargill, even if his battle to save our mining industry was eventually a lost cause. Unlike Thatcher, Scargill is truly remembered for what he wanted to achieve, and not for what he did achieve. His desire to achieve was just as great as Thatcher's own will and determination, even if the outcome of his efforts was failure.
If only Arthur Scargill, as Neil Kinnock quite rightly pointed out, had brought his men out on strike during the winter of 1984, instead of the beginning of spring, the outcome to a bloody and brutal war may have been completely different. Thatcher would have been in no position to call the shots, because a winter without coal-fired power stations wasn't something she would have wanted to force upon her adoring public.

Yes, Scargill incited trouble, and yes there were terrible scenes of violence. There was death and there was misery. They were certainly the worst of times if you were part of a mining family. But coming from a town just a few miles from a typical mining village, the pride which the mining community displayed, and the belief in the leader was evident for all to see.

I am certainly not saying that Scargill was all good, but a man who has principles and a passion to achieve something positive is certainly worthy of a degree of respect.

Richard Branson and David Beckham may well be adored and idolised by millions of people, but what have these shallow individuals ever done to achieve such status? Branson is far from the great man he would have us believe, and Beckham has never spoken a meaningful sentence in his entire life. But how the public love such people, and how the public love to loathe those people who perhaps deserve better.

Luke Ryman is the author of "The Londoners" trilogy - a series of books about two men who will try anything to better themselves.


Monday, 4 November 2013


Can you see what I can see?

Now this is fucking great! The best room in the hotel – overlooking the wild Atlantic Ocean – and the best champagne money can buy. And then, stretched out on my bed, there’s the girl I met on the beach.

I think she said that her name is Valerie, and that she’s a student from Bordeaux. Mama and Papa are quite well off, and they have a holiday home not too far from my hotel. But Valerie is of a difficult age, and because she has no brothers or sisters, spending two weeks with her parents is hardly a holiday worth writing home about.

Enter Dave Cooper - a man who can bring happiness to the lives of those who are feeling depressed. A man who will make Valerie laugh, and who will make her realise that two weeks on the Normandy coast isn’t such a bad thing after all, even if her friends are probably having one hell of a time in resorts where there are bars and nightclubs to satisfy their insatiable appetites for beer and loud music.

But this must be our secret, because I’m a lot older than Valerie, and what’s more – and much worse than my age – I’m English.

Dave Cooper having a strange dream - or is he really in bed with Valerie?
Extract taken from "The Londoners 3 - No Turning Back" & "The Londoners Trilogy - 4 Years In London"


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

But Bloody France!

You can almost smell the steak and fries...

...and you can see that Clare, Deano, Sarah and Phil aren't having a great time in Normandy. So who can blame Clare for not regretting a night of passion with a hot-blooded male of the French variety?
"I’m not a slut!" Clare said loudly, as she walked along the beach, back towards the village. She had just spent one of the most enjoyable hours of her life, during which time she had experienced two orgasms, and had come to realise that Deano was a hopeless lover.
"He’ll have to go!" she cried out loud, laughing to herself when an old man walking his dog gave her a strange look.
"You’ll have to bloody go, Deano," she chuckled to herself, as she finally arrived in the village, and found herself at the bar where the previous evening she had dined on a terrible steak and soggy fries. Jerome had made love to her in a way which she thought wasn’t possible, and so she thought that from that moment on, she would never have sex ever again, so as not to ruin the memory. Deano was a bloody lousy lover – in and out before you could blink an eye, but Jerome…
"Hey! Baby, over here!" came the voice from the far table. She looked up and saw three familiar faces. It was Deano, Phil and Sarah, all stuffing their faces with croissants. Her heart dropped as far as it could go, without shattering into a thousand pieces. The great sex she had just had with Jerome now seemed like a very distant memory. Reluctantly, and after forcing a smile, she joined the others.
Extract taken from "But Bloody France!" A short story by Luke Ryman, out now on Kindle.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Have You Seen My Inflatable Wayne Rooney?

Roy Hodgson: He's done a great job, but at what price?

So now that England, after their hard-fought victory against Poland, have qualified for next year's world cup in Brazil, bosses of British supermarkets across our football-loving land will no doubt be rubbing their hands with glee. But what, you ask, has England's success got to do with your local Asda or Tesco supermarket?
Well, the answer is merchandising, and the opportunity, thanks to Roy Hodgson, to bombard a football-crazy public with anything from "I LOVE ENGLAND" mugs to cheap and tacky plastic flags to attach to the top of your battered Ford Sierra.
And don't forget the Decorate Your Bin stickers, which should be plastered liberally over your wheelie bin, and which have the added advantage of being weatherproof. Then there's the flag and horn, which comes free with a packet of razor blades, the "GET BEHIND ROY & THE BOYS" tube of toothpaste, plastic bunting to adorn your lounge with and the limited edition cans of lager.
The choice will be endless, and if husbands have always avoided the weekly trip to the supermarket , come next spring, when the merchandising hits the shelves, grown men throughout the land will eagerly be joining their partners on the Saturday outing to Asda, so that they can salivate over the England supporters' packs.
I must confess that limited edition lager is of interest to me, but the England World Cup patio set - comprising of a crap table, four crap chairs, plastic plates with beakers and a plastic ashtray, all bearing the England flag, and of course all made in China - will not be making an appearance in my garden. And as for the inflatable Wayne Rooney...
So don't forget to get your wheelie bin stickers, while stocks last, sit back in your "I LOVE ENGLAND" armchair, enjoy your can of limited edition lager and GET BEHIND ROY & THE BOYS!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Where Will It All End For Cooper & Joy?

Here is where it will end. But where is here?


Tony looked down at the bar when I mentioned the violent thugs we had known. He looked down and thought about Glen. Tony had worshipped Glen. He had idolised Glen. He had always said that Glen was the brother he had never had. But now Glen was gone. Dead. Cremated and scattered. Gone from our lives, because he had played with fire. Tony finished his second drink, and getting the attention of the barmaid, he ordered more drinks. He then said that we had to think about the future.

The future? If it was to be anything like our past, then I reckoned that we were doomed, because people like Tony and me are on a downward slope from the day we are born, until the day we die. And if there is the occasional day when the sun brightens our lives, and warms our tired faces, there are so many more when rainclouds hang over us, and the only sky we can see is dirty and grey. No, we have no future, and as the pretty barmaid with yellow teeth slammed down our glasses of whisky on the bar, I could see from the corner of my eye that Tony knew what I was thinking, and he knew that I was right.

Tony grunted. His glass was stained with lipstick. He had been served whisky in a dirty glass. I can’t say that I was surprised. The pub was dirty. The lads fooling around in the corner were dirty. Their language was dirty. The barmaid with the yellow teeth was dirty. I imagined that the toilets were dirty. The bar was dirty. The ashtrays were dirty. The street in which the pub was standing was dirty. The people who made their way to and from the shops were dirty. We had left southeast London – which is also dirty – to find ourselves in another part of the world which was just as dirty and depressing. If the future was here, and we had turned the page, I reckoned that we had made a false start.

Tony slammed his fist down on the bar. A few of the lads looked at us, and then the barmaid with yellow teeth made an appearance. We may have been down and out, but we were entitled to clean glasses. She flashed us a forced smile, and taking the glass in her small hand, she held it up. Tony sighed. In our favourite pub, in southeast London, we had never once been served a drink in a dirty glass. Never! Never! Never! And now, in Brighton, we were expected to drink from glasses stained with a slag’s lipstick.

Tony stood up and wanted to say something offensive. I knew what he was thinking. Our favourite pub in southeast London was no longer our favourite pub, because we had finished with London, and so we had finished with our favourite pub. Dirty glasses and dirty pubs were all we had to look forward to, as we drifted aimlessly through life, until we found another safe haven in which to rest our weary bodies, and reconstruct our lives.

There were too many lads in the corner giving us evil stares, and when one of them told Tony that he was a fucking cunt, we realised that perhaps it was time to move on. Of course, such insolence would never have been accepted back at home, because Tony commanded respect, and if there was a problem to be resolved, Glen could always be relied upon in Tony’s hour of need. But we were a long way from home, and Glen was gone. Tony just muttered an obscenity, and turning as fast as his overweight frame would allow, he walked out of the pub.
It's almost all over for Cooper & Joy. They've come to the end of the line. Penniless, homeless and not a friendly face on the horizon. But don't shed tears for these two bastards, for they deserve all that they are about to receive.
Extract taken from "The Londoners Trilogy - Four Years In London" Out now on kindle via Amazon.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Those Were(n't) The Days, My Friend...

What is better than a trip down Memory Lane, when one is overcome with misery or just feeling nostalgic? Well, you could get hammered on cheap lager and even cheaper vodka, but by flicking through your mind's bulging photo album, and by reaching back into the deepest corners of your memory, you can smile and laugh about how life was once, before you got older, and childhood finally abandoned you.

Growing up in Kent, in the seventies, life to me seemed just fine, and nothing, I imagined, could have been better. Of course, that was forty years ago, and thinking back to that period of my life, I can't help but chuckle when I recall how everything seemed so easy.

And so I've decided, in no particular order, to list a few things which epitomise the seventies for me.

So come on - all aboard, for a trip down Memory Lane...

This is as good as fast food got.

...when fast food was a trip to Wimpy in Dover High Street. Appetising it wasn't, nor colourful or exciting, but in a time when double cheeseburgers and bacon wraps were nowhere to be found, what else could one expect?

The BBC back then was churning out good programmes at a reasonable rate. Home-grown productions ruled the airwaves, and Strictly Come Dancing and other such dire examples of modern-day television programmes weren't to be found. Sadly, whilst fast food has improved in this country, the BBC has gone rapidly downhill.

And now I'm thinking about that wonderful institution - mocked by so many but secretly loved by so many more - and its warm and soggy sandwiches. Of course, I'm talking about British Rail and its buffet cars, where scalding tea could be bought and overpriced sandwiches could be ordered. How I loved walking to the back of the train, as we headed to London for our annual day-trip, to marvel at all of the goodies available in the buffet car. Now it's all waiter service and trains travelling too fast for one to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Before package holidays became affordable, school holidays would be spent visiting local towns, or in the garden - if the weather permitted. One trip which was a must was a train ride to Margate, to enjoy the sandy beach, stuff ice-cream down one's throat, eat chips out of a paper cone and take a ride on the rollercoaster in Dreamland - which was then one of the first amusement parks in Britain.

In the seventies, parks such as Dreamland held a special kind of magic for a young boy like me, but thinking about it now, this amusement park was about as amusing as a day-trip to Baghdad. The chips were great, the ice-cream was fantastic, but that f*cking rollercoaster...

But I didn't have to go to Margate to get my dose of the seaside, because in Deal - where I spent all of my childhood - there was a stony beach and a raging, cold sea within walking distance. Okay, I loved the train ride out of town, but in Deal there was everything one ever needed to spend a happy school holiday.
Walk to end of the pier and you could almost touch France. Sit back and watch the fishermen try their hardest to get a decent bite, as they poured tea from their flasks, and turned their backs to the severe, summer wind which seemed to permanently roll in from the Channel. Cross the road and get an ice-cream from the parlour (it's still there to this very day) and then take a trip down the High Street (which was much better then than it is today). Then there was the cricket match in the park and the rolling down the sides of the bunkers on the local golf course. Then there was a bike ride on a bicycle which had seen better days and a trip to the sweet shop, to buy Spangles and those flying saucer-shaped things which tasted of carton and were filled with sherbet.
My grand-parents lived in Norwich, and so every summer, for one week, a fun time was spent in their home, during which time my brother and me were treated to trips to the city (Norwich no longer has the allure which it once had) and the regular trips to Great Yarmouth. I was always excited about my trips to Margate and Broadstairs, but Great Yarmouth, with its long, sandy beach and its noisy amusement arcades was something else. Here, if you closed your eyes, and you had a really good imagination, you could have believed that you were in paradise on earth. Sadly, like so many seaside towns, Great Yarmouth has now become a dumping ground for refugees, and paradise on earth it certainly isn't.
Dad was never a heavy drinker, but a trip to our local pub was an occasional Sunday treat.
To get to the pub, a walk through the country lanes linking Deal and Sholden would have been necessary, and once at the pub, father would have taken his place inside, whilst my brother and me amused ourselves in the pub's delightful garden, with the rest of the abandoned children. If we wanted a drink, which was always the case, the landlady would serve us from a window which overlooked the garden, because back then - and it's a shame that the law has since changed -children weren't allowed in pubs. So after shouting out our order, a few minutes later we would be served, through the back window, with our bottles of Coke and packets of crisps.
Of course, life in the seventies seemed great because I was a small boy growing up in a world of trips to the seaside, bicycle rides and packets of crisps. Everything was seen with a child's mind, and so everything appeared to be less grim than what is actually was. After all, in England, the seventies was a period of strikes and disharmony, and a time of uncertainty.
But when you're not even ten, and a trip to Wimpy is on the cards, do you really care that the government is in the process of destroying the country? Not really, but as the next decade came into view, most people were hoping that a change was on the way.
Coming next: The Eighties.
Luke Ryman is an author of ebooks about all sorts of people doing all sorts of things - some good and some bad.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Picking Pockets

Look Out! Cooper & Joy Are About.

The train to Lewisham was free of tourists, but as the two middle-aged women talked amongst themselves, I had spotted a perfect opportunity.

Crashing down beside them, I engaged Tony in conversation, as he stood before me, preferring to stand, instead of dirtying his t-shirt on the seat's soiled upholstery. The conversation coming from the women was incredibly dull, and as one of them spoke about her son-in-law, the other woman gave the best advice she possibly could.

Opposite us was a black youth, who stared at the women, as he listened to the music filling his ears. The din of the music hissed above the noise of the train, and although Tony was annoyed by having listen to such a sound, he managed to refrain from telling the youth to turn the volume down.

At the next stop a few other passengers filled the carriage, and when the black youth saw a face that he recognised, he gestured for his friend to come and join him. A few moments later he was in deep conversation with a black girl. Tony glanced at the girl. I knew what he was thinking, but even if he had only hatred for the girl, I told myself that she was someone's daughter, and that being made of flesh and bones, she was just like the rest of us. I then chuckled and looked at Tony. For one moment I had shown no animosity towards a black person. Tony – if he could have read my mind – would have been horrified. Perhaps I was too weak to hate people.

At Lewisham station we stepped from the carriage and headed towards the exit. The women were still talking about marital problems and the previous night's television programmes. The more attractive of the two hadn't seen me take her handbag, as I had stood up to leave.

There wasn't much cash in the woman's purse – forty pounds – but Tony agreed that forty pounds is forty pounds, and to two poor men like us, forty pounds is enough to buy a few hours of pleasure in the pub. There was, however, a mobile telephone in the bag, which Tony reckoned, as he fingered it with his chubby fingers, would probably make twenty or thirty pounds.

I tossed the handbag into a bin, and laughing out loud, I told Tony that I was really beginning to enjoy myself.

On the train to Crayford we eyed our next targets with joy, for God had delivered to us a group of French students, who like the Canadians earlier in the day, were clearly lost, and in need of guidance. What's more, as Tony glared hard at the back of one of the group, I knew that stealing from the French was something which Tony took great pleasure from, because to him, the French are a very odious race.

I can speak a little French, and trying hard to listen to what the girl with the glasses was saying, above the noise of the rattling carriage, I understood that they wanted to visit Harrods, which she referred to as chez 'Arrods. I laughed to myself, with the reason for my good humour stemming from the girl's inability to pronounce the name of the shop correctly. I wasn't quite sure what the group was doing between Lewisham and Crayford, but because I saw it as my duty to help my French friends, I approached the girl and asked her if she was lost.

Looking at the girl, I found myself falling in love. Her face was naturally beautiful, and with the smell of her perfume filling the carriage, I wondered if I really wanted to pick her pockets. A boy then spoke, and talking at the girl as though she was a dog, he asked her to ask me how they could get to Harrods. I assumed that she was the only one who could speak a little English, and that she was the group's unofficial leader. I looked at the boy and saw before me a very disagreeable young man, who, unbeknown to him, was being relieved of the contents of his jacket pockets, by a very over-friendly and helpful Tony.

I looked at the girl's map, and realising that there was now no place in my life for sentiment, I baffled her with directions, instructions and the names of places which she had never heard of. She then smiled, as I suggested that if she followed my advice, she and her friends would soon find themselves at chez Harrods. I think she liked the fact that I threw the occasional French word into the conversation, and whilst she and her friends listened to the advice I was giving, Tony was picking pockets like he had never picked pockets before.

Extract taken from "The Londoners" trilogy - an ebook about two bastards who enjoy ruining lives.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

An Extract From "Four Years In London" - An Ebook By Luke Ryman

"The world has gone f***king mad!"

This is one of Tony's favourite expressions, and as our favourite pub becomes less recognisable as every day passes, I can't help but think that my fat friend may well be right.

When we first arrived in London four years ago, our priorities were finding somewhere to live, getting a job and finding a decent pub, where after a hard day's work we could reward ourselves with a well-deserved drink, share some light-hearted banter with the pub's other regular customers and enjoy some time in what is a favourite retreat for millions of men like us.
There are literally hundreds of pubs in the south-east of London, and as can only be expected, some of those pubs are less desirable than others. Fatal stabbings, violent outbursts and frequent police raids don't do much to create a warm and friendly drinking environment, and if Tony may seem like a football hooligan, with his bald head, fat stomach and constant use of expletives, even he steers clear of such establishments, saying that he didn't come to London looking for trouble. What he wants, like me, is a quiet, backstreet pub, where the beer is good, the conversation is interesting and the risk of being stabbed is zero.

Fortunately, we didn't have to look too far to find a pub where we felt safe to drink, without the need to be constantly looking over our shoulders, hoping that we'd see it through the evening without getting murdered. In fact, the pub is just at the bottom of our road, which means that our second home is only a few minutes away, and that we don't have to rely on public transport to get us there.

We've been going to the same pub since we arrived in London, and although it's hardly going to make it into The Good Pub Guide, it may well be a contender for The Nearly Good Pub Guide. Still, as Tony says, all we're interested in is decent beer, and somewhere warm to go in winter, because it's cheaper to spend a few hours in the pub, drinking, than it is to heat our damp flat with our highly inefficient electric heater, which consumes enough electricity to probably light a whole town, yet generates very little heat. Of course, being so fat, people often tell Tony that the layers of blubber that cover his upper torso provide him with ample protection against the cold winters, but whilst his obesity may be a barrier against the cold weather, it isn't a perfect defence.

Sid, the landlord of our favourite pub, has been running pubs for the last thirty years, and whilst he manages to earn a steady income from doing what he does best, he says that a landlord's life is not as good as it used to be, and that running a pub has lost all of its appeal, as the country moves steadily along in the twenty-first century. Tony and me just laugh whenever Sid starts to reminisce about the good old days, because as Sid was born and raised in south-east London, and has spent all of his adult life here, Tony and me often ask if south-east London has ever had any good old days. After all, having spent the last four years of our lives here, we both think that with very little employment in the area, kids running wild in the streets and dog shit lining the pavements, in our own time here, we've hardly seen anything that makes us think that south-east London is THE place to be. And if our four years here have given us an insight into how depressing life can be, you've only got to surf the web to see just what this part of the world was like in the eighties and nineties. It was, as it is now, utter crap.
But if Sid is happy to think about how great life was before, and bore his customers with uninteresting anecdotes about his life behind bars (the pub variety), most of the people who go into his pub do so to enjoy a quiet drink, and not take a trip down Memory Lane. We, like a lot of people, use the pub as a shelter against the pressures of modern life, because within its four walls we are relaxed, as we drink our beer, and eat our peanuts, in a stress-free environment. All we want is a place to go for some peace and quiet, and not to be surrounded by annoying office workers, spotty youths talking utter drivel and worst of all, foreign tourists who can't speak a word of English, but who insist on bothering us with their stupid questions and peculiar habits. That's not the sort of pub we want to be drinking in, and whilst Sid may be a nostalgia freak, he has always managed to run a pub that meets our requirements, by concentrating on doing what he does best – selling reasonably good beer, and making sure that his customers get to drink their beer in peace and quiet.

Well, that's how it used to be – but not anymore. The big-screen television was one of his better ideas, meaning that football freaks like Tony and me can watch our favourite sport on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, whilst sitting at the bar, getting merrily drunk. Showing live football matches now means that weekends during the football season must be spent in the pub, with all of the other regulars who have appeared on the scene, since Sid decided that whilst quiet conversation may be what some of his customers want, live football is so much better. And with the pub bursting at the seams on Saturdays and Sundays, Sid has noticed a huge growth in takings, which in turn has managed to bring a smile to his otherwise cheerless face.
Tony thinks that watching football and drinking beer were made for one another, and even if he has come close to laying into a couple of customers, because they didn't share his point of view about why his team (Arsenal) are in a class of their own, most match-days are friendly affairs, with very few punches being exchanged and very few beatings being given. There was once a stabbing incident, but that had nothing to do with the outcome of a match, but instead a jealous husband who had finally caught up with his wife's lover. However, after the police had made one of their very rare visits to the pub, the culprit was taken away, whilst the victim was attended to by a paramedic, who happened to be watching a match at the time. Of course, football isn't played all year long, so when the season comes to an end in May, the television shows other sports such as cycling, cricket and golf, although there are fewer people in the pub at weekends, than there would be during the football season, because watching cyclists going around a track very fast isn't as enthralling as watching your favourite team giving the team you hate the most a good thrashing. But overall, Sid's television has been a real boost for the pub, and although we seem to spend more time there than before, it doesn't really matter, because apart from drinking, we don't have much else to do in life. Sadly, after the big-screen television made an appearance, Sid's next idea to reel the customers in wasn't so great, and has left Tony and me wondering if Friday nights will ever be the same again. 

Sid reckons that love is what makes the world goes round, and thanks to his foresight and vision (they're his own words), romance is alive and kicking in south-east London, because Friday night is "romance night," where single men can meet single women, and what's more, those single men and single women can enjoy half-priced drinks all evening, in a warm and friendly atmosphere (they're also Sid's own words).

 Personally, the idea of using pubs to bring men and women together has never really appealed to me, although the sight of seeing grown men trying to snare their prey with cheap alcohol can be more amusing than some of the crap that appears on television. However, Tony is all for using the pub as a mating ground, and he has been known, whenever he's desperate for sex – with no strings attached – to woo some of the dogs, of the two-legged variety, who have now started to regularly appear on a Friday night.

Tony's latest catch was Debbie, twenty-seven, from just a few streets away, who is the mother of four children, all of whom have different fathers. Debbie, like Tony and me, and indeed like most of the pub's customers, is long-term unemployed, and has very little going for her in life. She is so ugly that if you passed her in the street you would carry on walking past her, thinking to yourself that it would be difficult to come across a woman even uglier than her. But for Tony, and hundreds of other men before him, Debbie is there to fill a void on a Friday night, when there's nothing much of interest on the television and you just want some rough sex, with no questions asked.

  Luke Ryman is the author of "The Londoners" trilogy and other ebooks.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

3 Things Which You DON'T Want To Hear

Swindon: It's hell on earth.

It's three weeks since you entered the phone-in competition on your local radio station, and although you desperately wanted to win the first prize - a brand new Ford Mondeo with all of the options - the polite girl from the publicity office tells you that you've missed out on the car of your dreams, but have instead won second prize.
You excitedly jump up and down, slightly downhearted, but happy in the knowledge that this is the first time in your life when you have actually won something.
And what is the second prize?
You ask the girl if she said SWEDEN, but no - she definitely said SWINDON.
You slam down the receiver and want to cry. And you have every reason to feel like this, because forty-eight hours spent in Swindon, you know, will probably be the death of you.
Some places in England are bad, but here it is REALLY bad.
Dangerous council estates, dodgy nightclubs, ugly girls, foul-mouthed boys, violent pubs and a crap football team is Swindon in a nutshell. And then there's the Magic Roundabout - see above photo - with it's numerous mini roundabouts all joined together to form one huge roundabout. Negotiating this requires nerves of steel, and death by flogging would be too good for the evil-minded bastard who invented it.
This, you say to yourself, is the last time you enter a competition.
"I think you should have gone south," says your other half, as she realises that she's told you to go the wrong way on the motorway. You smile and laugh, telling her that you'll do a u-turn a little further up the road, and you'll be back on the road to Brighton in no time.
It sounds an easy solution to a minor problem, but sadly, and as you soon discover, the buffoons who dreamt up this particular stretch of motorway made sure that the earliest opportunity to do a u-turn is a hundred miles further up the motorway.
You feel ill as you are forced to head further away from Brighton, because after making another series of wrong turns, in the vain hope of getting on the right road, you find yourself heading towards Bradford.
Your wife laughs, and as she chews on a toffee, she jokingly says that she's never been to Bradford before.
You look at the love of your life and want to kill her, because you know that Bradford has all the charms of a mining town in deepest Siberia.

There you both are - your wife and you - enjoying a wonderful time in the countryside. The sun is beating down, the white wine is perfectly chilled and the picnic table is set up.
Out come the wine glasses, the napkins and the cutlery. Then come the plates, and as your wife reaches into the cool-bag, she pulls out some sandwiches.
You look up to the blue sky, and taking a sip of your Chardonnay, you look forward to dining on your bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.
"They didn't have any bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches," she then announces, as she hands you an egg and cress sandwich.
Suddenly, your appetite has abandoned you.
You have been dreaming of this moment all week, and you rightly believe that wanting to picnic on bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches is hardly asking for a lot in life, is it?
But no! Marks and Bloody Spencer have buggered up your picnic.
You look at your wife and sniff. Bloody egg and cress!

Of course, there are other things in life which you'll never want to hear, but I haven't got all day to write bloody lists!

Luke Ryman is an indie author, and is the creator of Cooper & Joy - two of the oldest teenagers in town.

Friday, 13 September 2013

When Day Trips To France Were FUN!

Sealink: Sadly missed on the Dover to Calais route

One of the finest pleasures in life must come from living by the sea, as opposed to living in a landlocked city, miles inland and far away from even a simple stream or brook. What joy it is to stroll along a seafront, breathing in the wonderful salty air, and taking in the aroma of fish and chips. And then, if this isn't enough to get one's juices boiling, how about a day trip to France?

The Channel port of Dover is only a few miles from where I was born and raised,  so therefore the opportunity to get away from it all - if only for a few hours, and by going nowhere further than Calais -was always available to me. So whenever the urge took me by the throat, out came my passport, into the car I got and off to Dover I set, dreaming of another Saturday to be spent bobbing up and down in a floating rust bucket, whilst learning my French and drinking my lager.

And this was a time when day trips to France were fun, and enjoyed by millions of people every year. For this was a time when smoking was permitted inside of the ferry, duty free was just THAT, and a decent English breakfast could be had, whilst being tossed about on the open sea, for just a few pounds.

Arrive at Dover at eight o'clock in the morning. Board the ferry at nine o'clock and wave goodbye to England at half-past nine. Get to the bar, and see before you hundreds of fat Northerners guzzling lager whilst talking loudly. It was impossible to get to the bar, because waiting to be served were fifteen coach-loads of tattooed men from Leeds, desperate to get as much English beer down their throats, before being forced to drink the foreign crap which they feared so much, and which would be waiting for them on the other side of the Channel. So, thirsty, and with not even the chance to get a cup of coffee, a trip to the duty free shop was the only way to kill the time.

But shit! Here we go again, because another fifteen coach-loads of Northerners are busy buying all of  the cigarettes and every can of Fosters lager. The sweat is rolling down my cheeks and I start to feel very ill. I've been bobbing up and down for at least an hour, and I haven't had anything to drink. And the English breakfast I promised myself? Well - you guessed it. The self service cafeteria is bursting at the seems with Northern beasts in search of bacon, sausage and eggs.

I go back to the bar and find a quiet corner to rest my weary body. I look out of the huge window, and smile as I see the French coastline coming into view. I plan to find a restaurant, in some quiet corner of Calais, and enjoy a fine French lunch and a decent glass of wine, away from the forty-five coach loads of Northerners I've sailed across the Channel with. 

When I get to Calais it's raining hard, and what is already an extremely depressing town takes on an even darker image. I think about the time when I once spent a Friday night in Herne Bay, and as I try and find a quiet bistro, I wish that I was somewhere else - except Herne Bay.

Quiet bistros are thin on the ground in Calais, and as my tummy rumbles and the effects of lager deprivation start to kick in, I walk into a grotty restaurant, in the middle of town. I just want something to eat, but more importantly, I need something to drink.

I look at the tatty menu and choose something quintessentially French - a four seasons pizza with extra pineapple topping. I tell the garcon that I'm more thirsty than hungry, and that I would like a large beer straight away, and half a bottle of red wine with my meal. The spotty bugger notes my order and leaves me, returning a few seconds later with a foaming glass of French beer. I light a cigarette and all is well in the world.

Outside, in the heavy rain, a coach pulls up beside the restaurant, and as I drain the last of my beer, and light another cigarette, I'm disappointed to see a coach-load of tourists making a beeline for the restaurant. I look at the side of the coach and sigh. J. M. ARKWRIGHT CONTINENTAL COACH TRAVEL. LEEDS. SOUTH YORKS.

And then THEY come tumbling into the restaurant, in search of anything served with chips and pints and pints of beer. They can't help but shout when they talk, and their bastard children complain that they don't understand the menu. I finish my pizza, pay my bill and run as fast as I can, away from the day-trippers from hell.

Back on the ferry I manage to get served by a very irate barman, who seems to have had his fill of our Northern friends. I enjoy my pint of lager, and as I smoke my cigarette, I remind myself that in a little under two hours I will be back at home, in front of the television, where I will enjoy the wine and cheese I bought at the hypermarket. I then decide that I want a second pint of lager, and as I look around me, at the forty-five coach-loads of day-trippers from hell, I hope that whilst I will be enjoying my supper, those bastards will be stuck in a sixty-mile tailback, on the M25, and that they won't be home until midnight.

Luke Ryman is an author of books about nasty men and harmless people. The last time he sailed across the Channel he was sad to see how times have changed. Gone are the Northerners, gone are the cheap cigarettes and gone is the pleasure of it all.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Nice Seafront, Shame About The Shops

Deal Seafront: Very nice, but what lies behind all of this?

Nice isn't a word I often like to use, but Deal seafront on a summer's day, or even in the midst of a harsh winter, is just that - nice. And I should know, for having spent all of my childhood and early adult years in this seaside town, I feel that I am qualified to highlight the town's good and bad points.
The seafront IS what makes Deal worth a visit, with its ageing pier, its stony beach and its charming facade. Then there are the various seafront pubs offering local ale and fine lagers, all to be enjoyed on a Saturday night whilst listening to live music and the cries of agony, as two drunken, teenage girls decide to fight to the death for the boy of their dreams, as the boy in question laughs about it all, and gets merrily drunk on strong lager.
But move behind the seafront and you'll find another side of Deal. And it's here, in the High Street, where you'll be reaching for the Prozac, because things aren't like they once were.
This is a High Street which desperately needs a kiss of life, before it's too late. This is a High Street which is grey and cold, when before it was worth a visit on a Saturday afternoon, with mother, when father would be back at home, glued to the racing from Kempton Park. This is a High Street which had toy shops, record shops, greengrocers, ironmongers and Woolworths. But now, what have we got?

 Well, Woolworths is dead. It has gone to the Maker of all shops in the sky, who doesn't care about history or tradition, because the Maker will pull the plug on any of his babies, if he feels that the time is right. But Woolworths IS missed, because it was only at Woolworths one could find the latest Dire Straits album, pic-n-mix sweets, Lego, a new frying pan and a watering can. And what have we got now instead of our departed friend? We have a shop which sells everything for a pound. Books which no-one wants to read, scented bits of cardboard to make your car smell of Norwegian pine forests, candles which sing Happy Birthday and plastic boxes in which to store your cornflakes.

Further along the High Street there is a charity shop, selling second-hand clothes and china plates. Then, next door, there is another charity shop and another and another. Then, there is one of what seems like seventy-five estate agents and a shop selling wooden furniture.

And if you're hungry, you're in luck, because nestled between these wonderful shops you'll find someone selling French-style bread and pastries. Yes - you're rolling your eyes up to the sky, because we all know that it's only the bloody French who can do bread and pastries.

The good High Street pubs have all gone - as have the book shops, the toy shops and the record shops. But all is not lost, because there is a Costa-lot coffee shop selling expensive coffee and disgusting muffins.

Mercifully, the Maker of all shops in the sky hasn't completely pulled the plug on the High Street, as Marks and Spencer is still there. But even here, a name which once promised quality is playing with fire. My last visit to its store in Deal left me feeling sad and irritated, for it now resembles a junk shop selling poor-quality goods at inflated prices.

I wish Deal well for the future, and hope that it can resist the power of the out-of-town shopping centres and the allure of Internet shopping. It is true that things aren't like they once were, but it would be a shame if this town died, because it is a town with history, and it is a town with potential.

Luke Ryman is an author of ebooks. Seaside towns, just like Deal, appear in "The Londoners" trilogy and "Dave Cooper Is Unemployed."