Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spate River 

“My brother used to sleepwalk. He’d have been ten or so. Mum and Dad would be talking in the kitchen or watching telly or something and they’d look up and there he was, this pale young ghost in his pyjamas. I must have had sleepwalking envy because I tried it once. I don’t even know if I was really sleepwalking or just pretending. Yes I do. I was pretending. I must have been. I remember standing at the top of the stairs for a while, waiting for interestingness to descend upon me, then going back to bed when nobody came and looked.”
“Ever the attention seeker,” said Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader.
“And then other times, I’d stand at the top of the stairs making myself dizzy by looking through my Dad’s binoculars the wrong way round. They took me to a doctor who prescribed putting glucose on my Ready Brek and I haven’t looked backwards since.”

Outside my window, I could see the traffic rowboating it’s way along the bypass.  Smudged red lines for those heading home, smudged white lines for those coming into town. It hasn’t stopped raining for weeks. We might as well be in Seattle.

“It’s just the two of us now,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Stella. “Well, no actually. Not exactly. Not at all, in fact.”
“Seems that way though.”
“Tabs says Terry’s got an interview next week. Some company in Blackburn.”
“Oh that’s good,” I said. “They’ll love him in Blackburn.”
“And it’ll be handy for…” she hesitated. “Handy for everything that Blackburn is so handy for.”
“Mike still at that dodgy place in Manchester?”
“Last I heard. I hope they’re paying him well. They’ll never find any one else so suitable as Mike.”
“I can’t believe there’s even a market for that sort of thing. The mind boggles. Everything boggles.”
“Horses for courses, Tim. But he was certainly a strange one, was Mike.”

The going home bell rang. A few soggy souls started to wade their way across the car park. Some trod gingerly, some surrendered themselves to the water and practically swam to their cars. The bypass beyond resembled a river and the river resembled a different kind of entity altogether.

“And what about you?” I asked. “Hardly ever see you these days. How’s the wife?”
“The wife’s wonderful, thanks,” Stella smiled. “She’s great.”
“And the kids? You must be run off your feet with them?”

She didn’t answer. I looked out of the window and Stella was already halfway across the car park, dancing around the puddles and headed for the gate where Becky sat waiting in the family tank, radio blasting, kids singing their little heads off in the back, indicators flashing in an entirely random fashion, like a space capsule signalling weather reports back up to the mothership.

“Preston. More rain. Gales expected, becoming mental later. Delays likely, avoid travel where possible. Keep your loved ones close. Storm’s a-coming but keep the faith and we’ll get through this in the end. Send umbrellas.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

Some Enchanted Evening 

My little album launch was a good night, I believe.

We gave away biscuits and mini-Easter eggs - what with it being Easter night - and though I did see one less than satisfied "review" online, I think most of a respectfully quiet audience of forty or so had a pleasant evening.
Put it another way - I sang my little heart out for over an hour and everybody seemed very pleased when I stopped. That's a good thing, right?
Here's a video a friend kindly recorded of me in full throttle.

And while we're in a YouTube state of mind, here's a video I produced myself for the opening track of the album. I'm quite pleased with it. It's one of those time lapse tilt-shift jobs that's very popular among discerning filmmakers, don't you know. It's filmed around Lancaster and hopefully demonstrates my affection for the town. I'm still very glad to be here.

And here's a link to the album itself, should you be gracious enough to want to buy a copy.

I'd be grateful beyond words, I really would. When things have settled down a bit I'll bring you up to speed with Stella and BP and Creepy Keith from Accounts and all your favourite Company X characters, I promise.

Oh, and one more thing - if iTunes is more of your bag, here's a link.

Sorry for how it's all gone a bit "LOOK AT MY STUFF! BUY MY SHIT!" round here at the moment.
To be honest, I do struggle with the business of trying to draw attention to my musical efforts somehow, so this is me trying not to be too In Yer Face about it. But, yunno, it's a fun thing and something I enjoy and other people appear to like it too, more or less, so... *peters off, inconclusively*

Anyway, as you were. Spring is here. The pub's open. Haven't you got something you're actually *supposed* to be getting on with?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Live. In Concert. 

Never one not to keep my promisings, I'll be singing for your delight at Lancaster's world famous Yorkshire House on Easter Sunday, March 31st 2013. Doors will be open from 8.00pm and entrance is yours for a mere £3.00.
I'll be selling copies of my latest CD, man, and old ones too. There'll be free chocolate biscuits too so you'll want to get there early to have a chance of scoffing the lot before someone else does.

I would be extremely happy to see you there. How 'bout it?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Girl Whose Time Has Come 

Following on from the runaway smash hit that was 2010's Girl On A Train EP, I've donned my Idiot Johnson hat and ventured outside, once more, into the cold, cold light of Show Business.
Here's the video for the next Idiot Johnson next single.

The tune itself is available for free right here and you may download it with my full blessing:

There are two other tracks which may be downloaded for a wonderfully reasonable retail price, thus:

 and thus more:

For thems that prefers CDs to downloads, your desires are catered for too. Click on one of the images above and then look for the Compact Disc paragraph. 

Once the inevitable kerfuffle has died down, there'll be a full length album on sale in April.
Darlings, it's even more exciting than I can say. Thank you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Twas The Night Before Christmas 

“Twas the night before Christmas when all through the office not a creature was stirring, not even Charlotte, who is usually bat shit hyper like a monkey on Red Bull. The stockings – mmm, stockings – were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. St. Nicholas is Santa’s full name. You’re not expected to know that, what with this being your first Christmas. But FYI, St. Nicholas is what posh people call Santa. Like Bill Surname, CEO. And his nanny.

Anyway. The children were nestled all snug in their beds – awww! – while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. And Mummy Becky in her kerchief, and me, Mummy Stella in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap. Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, we sprang from our lovely big bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up outside. LOL. No I didn’t. My throwing up out of the window days are behind me. You don’t look convinced, Baby Phil. But think about it. We’ve got you now, BP, and you can throw up plenty enough for all of us, can’t you? Yes and we still love you. So I threw up the sash, not out of it.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, gave the lustre of midday to objects below, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, with a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. ie. Santa, of whom we spoke earlier. Yes, we did. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Now Mike! Now Tim! Now Neil! Now Terry! (ie. Kirsty’s dad. Uncle Terry and Auntie Tabs and cousin Kirsty? Clever boy.) On Creepy Keith from Accounts! On Neil! Did I already say Neil? You should have seen him yesterday, Beep. Neil came in wearing a onesie just like yours. Ridiculous. You’d have laughed. To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

Wonder if Mummy Becky is looking at onesies right now? She saw some in Primark the other day and she had that twinkle in her eye. Expect onesies for Christmas, BP. Oh, I can’t wait. Our first Christmas. Hope it snows. Oh God, you’ve never seen snow, have you? Never seen snow! Imagine that. You’re going to love it. It's going to be brilliant. We’re so lucky to have you, you know?

Where were we? Dry leaves, hurricane, toys. Right. And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, bloody hell, it was only Santa, coming down the chimney!
“Alright Santa?” said Mummy Becky. “Watch where you’re treading that soot! Those carpets are new and we want to keep them that way, thank you.” Mummy Becky says it like she sees it, doesn’t she? She won’t be long now. She popped up to town and that’s why you’re helping Mummy Stella in her office. Got those silly spreadsheets done double quick, didn’t we?

Anyway. Eyes, dimples, merry... Droll little mouth, beard as white as snow. Sounds a bit like Rex the Security Guard. Bloody hell, do you think Rex might be Santa? He’s handy with a chainsaw.
Chubby and plump - a right jolly old elf - and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself. Well, I would, wouldn’t I? “Rex? Santa? Is that you?”
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, filling the stockings and that.
“Oi! Rex! Only one person goes in Mummy Becky’s stockings and that’s me! Got that? Never you mind tapping your finger on your nose! Icy tonight and that car park won't grit itself. Stick to your core skills.”

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. Wish my team had a bit more of Santa’s reindeer about them. A whistle? Give them a rocket up the backside, more like.

Oh, you’ve fallen asleep. You’re so beautiful, Baby Phil, have I told you that? I still can’t believe you’re here. We both can’t. Mummy Stella and Mummy Becky are going to be the best mummies a little boy could ever wish for.
I know sometimes I get a little bit, you know, well… I go a bit mad sometimes, don’t I? But I’ll always love you and that’s why you have Mummy Becky to look after you too. And sometimes when Mummy Becky finds it all a little bit much, well, that’s why I'm here. Your family is a bloody good team, like Santa’s reindeer. We just work.
Now Baby Phil, any moment Mummy Becky will turn into the car park with a boot full of all the onesies and then we’ll go home and have us tea and be safe and warm and snuggly.

Safe and warm and snuggly. Oh Jesus, I love you both so much.

He - ie. Santa, remember? Or possibly Rex the Security Guard. Too close to call - sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a…? Correct. A thistle. Good boy.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.””

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Hawks Of The Great Interior 

Charlotte, Bill Surname's loyal PA, stands stock still in the doorway, her helpless face frozen with the anguish of horrors past and humiliations yet to come, like a beginner sado-masochist who's only gone and forgotten the safety word.
Poor Charlotte – it's a difficult time for her, what with the triple dip recession that just comes around and around and never stops, worldwide economic collapse, irreversible global warming if we don't sort it out by teatime, and now this: Bill Surname, the only man she has ever loved – if only he knew it! – says if we don't get the turkeys out by Friday then we're all for the chop. Christmas will have to be cancelled which hasn't happened since, well, ever.
She's been there all morning. We're going to decorate her with tinsel and Christmas tree lights if she's not moved by tomorrow.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, bounces into the office, all legs and teeth and Saturday night hair on a cold, wet Thursday. She's taking her friend Becky out to lunch later to celebrate.
“Never mind Higgs Boson. Has anybody seen Mike?” she asks.
I look at my watch.
“It's 10.30,” I say.
“Oh right. Course it is. Well, when he gets back from his wank, can you tell him he's needed upstairs on the helpdesk. Neil's on fire again.” 

Neil, our former team leader, has taken up smoking. 
He started on electric cigarettes, just because he enjoyed the camaraderie of the smokers' shelter, the 'outsiders all together outside in the rain' thing.
He's been with us on Earth since his so called mates abandoned him at Charnock Richard after a sightseeing holiday. He'd only gone in for a pee and to look at the crisps and when he came out the Flying Saucer was gone. He maintains it was an oversight, which we're less sure about, but it explains this longing to belong, I guess.
Anyway, the electric fags proved to be a gateway drug for the real thing, and now he smokes thirty a day. It doesn't agree with his Martian constitution, and Mike, who was raised repairing fruit machines, seems better qualified than most to come to his rescue each time he catches alight.

Late afternoon now. It's dark by four, but on days like this when the rain clouds hang over you like, say, a hangover, it feels like the day's over before it began. Hey Sunshine, I haven't seen you in a long time.

“Keith?” asks Stella. “Are you wearing your lucky pants today?”
“I'm always wearing my lucky pants.”
“Eeeww. I think there's your problem.”

She and Tabs laugh. Tabs is huge now, ready to drop any moment, you'd think. She sits on a beanbag in Stella's office, Stella sat close behind, plaiting her hair and rubbing her back. “Not long now, beautiful baby girl, not long now.”
These past few weeks Tabs looks like someone has paid her a slightly saucy compliment and she can't stop herself from blushing.

Outside, Rex the Security Guard busies himself with leaf clearing and the milking and drainage issues, but he's not been himself since Geraldine the Company X goat passed. We're going to Secret Santa him a new one. Hope that goes ok.
A sparrowhawk circles above. A flock of, I don't know – sparrows, tits? - trembles in the tree tops beyond the Sunken Heart Rose Gardens.
Creepy Keith from Accounts looks on, captivated. 

“How's Becky?” asks Tabs.
“Oh, you know, she's just... beautiful. So beautiful.”
“That's nice,” says Tabs.
“I'm so lucky, Tabs. Both my beautiful girls,” sighs Stella. “Both beautiful and both knocked up.” 

“Life and death everywhere you look,” says Keith, and the girls glower back at him. 
“What? What have I said now?”

“Word of advice,” says Charlotte, suddenly thawing. She'd been stood silently for so long we'd forgotten she was there. She brushes bits of mince pie off her sleeves. “Think before you speak, Keith. Think before you speak. And then don't speak.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Get Through This 

Summer’s here and the grass is high. So are the nettles and foxgloves and the oxeye daisies with their smiley upturned faces – the car park embankment is brim full of them, bending in the breeze as one, like a shoal of fish at a rave - and so too are the help desk staff who are off their faces on Red Bull and Youth, horny as hell, hyper with carnal urges, stupid with the breeding imperative, with love or its closest equivalent.

Preston skies are sullen and low, listless as goths, going nowhere, doing nothing.
The theme of this morning’s team meeting with Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, was of reaching for the stars, following your dreams, never taking no for an answer – “Tenacity, Tim! Tenacity!” - but by lunchtime she was slumped in her chair, maudlin, messy, furtively slipping a little something in her coffee to take the edge off. A half bottle every couple of days, not that I’m counting; brandy usually, sometimes vodka. She keeps one in her shoulder bag and an emergency bottle in her desk drawer, hidden beneath the paper cups and baby magazines. I wasn’t snooping. She asked me to look one time when she couldn’t find her phone. It turned out she was talking to me on it.

I go up to the roof for some air, to look for my mojo, to just get away from it for a bit.

“Ever killed a man, Tom?” asks Bill Surname, CEO.
“Not so far as I know.”
“Ever wanted to?” and before I can say “It’s Tim. It’s not important,” he has thrust his rifle into my hands and is going through the naming of the parts. Lee Enfield No. 1, Mark III, ten round magazine, bolt action, sliding ramp rear sights, fixed post front.
“See that Vauxhall? Racing green. See it, Tom? I’ll give you fifty quid if you can take out its headlights. A tenner for the windscreen.”
“Isn’t that Robertson’s car?”
“He’s on his final warning. Best salesman in the North West my arse. He’s inside the building so it’s quite safe. Now remember - safety catch, then gently squeeze the trigger. Don’t lunge at it. Gently does it, Tom.”
I look around the car park. There are several shot up company cars. Vehicular carnage everywhere.
“Wasn’t there an ambulance here earlier?” I ask.
“That was Jones and Jones. Shouldn’t have been at it during office hours. Entirely unforeseeable and I told Charlotte not to blame herself. Bloody good shot, Charlotte. Wish I’d known that years ago.”
“And they’re ok?”
“They’ll be tweezing glass out of their backsides from now until Easter.” He laughs. “Never did me any harm. Shouldn’t have bloody been there in core hours.”
I take aim, pull the trigger as carefully as I can, gently, gently and hit the car four down from Robertson’s. There’s a tinkle of windscreen, followed by the dull clang of personalised number plate on tarmac. Bill Surname is delighted, reaches down to where I’ve fallen over and hands me a twenty pound note.
“Did I hit it?” I yell, deafened.
“You tried!” he yells back. He takes the rifle, adjusts the sights and gives the doomed Vectra both barrels, so to speak.

“Hey Tabs, look at this one,” says Stella. “It’s got sports wheels, an iPod charger, 3G and GPS so you always know how far to the next changing station.”
“And twin G&T holders,” replies Tabs. “They’ve thought of everything.”
“Duh? Gin and tonic?”
“Oh. Yeah. Right,” says Stella. “God, it’s amazing isn’t it, Tabs?”
“Sure is. Eight hundred quid of amazing.”
“No, I mean, you know – the ‘having a baby’ thing. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”
“Yeah,” Tabs sighs. “I know you are.”
Outside my window Rex the Security Guard is forking over a clump of ragwort. Geraldine, the Company X goat, nibbles contentedly on his gooseberries, which they say are almost ready now. Somewhere a radio crackles and Murray is worrying Centre Court. The clock tick tock ticks. A distant water cooler glugs.

“You’re going to be a great mum, you know?”
“Ha! I’ll get back to you on that.”
“No, but you are. Seriously you are.”
“Aww, thanks mate. We’ll see.”
“And what about Terry? Is he excited?”
“Yeah, course he is,” says Tabs. “He doesn’t show it here much, but at home, you know... Yeah, he’s been a complete star. He’s well excited.”
The going home bell rings and the building shakes with the low rumble of young executives pissing off.
“I’m completely made up for you Tabs, God’s honest truth, yeah? But I’m so frightened. I want to reach out and help her and I don’t know how.”
“Hey, baby girl. You’ve been a star too. Becky couldn’t wish for a better friend.”
“I feel useless, Tabs. She wanted it so badly. She was so happy.”
“It sucks, Stella. It totally sucks. But you’ll get through this. And when you’re both ready, well, you know, there’s nothing to stop you trying again. Me and Terry were starting to think it’d never happen and now look at us, shopping for buggies and painting the spare room. Look at me, Stella love, look at me. You’ll both get through this. You will. Listen to me. You will both get through this.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Away In A Manger 

We had a lovely, long Autumn, the yellows and oranges and reds magnificent, as if taken from a paint manufacturer's colour chart, and the leaves seemed to cling to their branches like they would never let go, but when Winter came it did so rudely and abruptly, like someone dropping a sack of logs on your foot and feeling no need to apologise or explain.
Only Rex the Security Guard was unsurprised to see snow in November. He'd smelled it in the air the week before, brought in the last of the spuds and the purple sprouting brocolli, oiled his tools and was sitting pretty on a fresh delivery of grit before anyone else had an inkling.

Charlotte, Bill Surname CEO's loyal PA, is back now from her extended sojourn in the Company X Decompression Home.
The trouble started when she was up some ladders draping England flags on the datacentre walls at the start of the World Cup and Neil, my former team leader, passed by rehearsing for his audition with the Company X Vuvuzela Orchestra.
The orchestra never really took off, which can't be said for poor Charlotte, who thought she was being visited upon by a swarm of angry bees and tried to make good her escape by jumping off the ladders and crashing into the rhodedendrons, only narrowly missing, unlike England.
Doc. Stethoscope, the Company X general practioner, ordered her to take two months off for her arms to reset and a further six years to settle down from her anxiety, which he said was lethally high, the kind of stress levels you only normally see in fighter pilots and public sector workers. Charlotte managed to negotiate that down to six months and the ripple of applause that went round the office on Monday when she screamed incoherently into the crackly bing bong public address system for the first time since June was truly heart warming.
We'd been scraping along on email without her.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, is having a bad build up to Christmas.
“Oh my God, Tabs. This job at Debenhams has got my friend Becky really broody,” she confided this afternoon over sort of lattes and cake type things from the wonky vending machine.
“It's only until Christmas, isn't it?” replied Tabs sympathetically.
“Right,” said Tabs. “Of course it is. Sorry, I wasn't really thinking.”
“She's surrounded by bloody kids every day and IT'S SET SOMETHING OFF. I don't know what to do, Tabs.”
The office fell silent, but for occasional slurping. The clock tick tock ticked. Terry and Mike were both out on jobs. Outside my window, Rex and Charlotte were setting up the Company X Christmas Crib in the carpark.

“Do you know what she said the other day, Tabs? She said if she'd known she was going to be out of work all this time she could have used it to have a baby.”
“I see. And she's never... You've never talked about...”
“She's never said anything about babies. Now it's babies all the time. Babies babies babies. She comes in late from the grotto every night after a hard day's elfing and all she wants to do is tell me about the babies they've had in that day.”
“But that's just work talk. She used to talk about, I don't know, savings accounts or whatever when she came in, didn't she? Now she talks about that day's kids. It doesn't mean...”
“It's killing me, Tabs. What if she decides... What if she doesn't want to be my, you know, friend any more? What if she wants to go off and have bloody babies and there's nothing I can do to stop her?”
Stella burst into tears, huge gulping sobs, and I could just see Tabs put a comforting arm around her and shushing her gently.
“There, there. Sshh Stella, it'll be alright. Sshh now, or you'll upset Tim.”
“What am I going to do if it's not alright, Tabs? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?”

Mary and Joseph and a bunch of shepherds and kings and donkeys took their places in the manger, the happy couple stage left, the wise guys to the right, and there in the centre of all things, the object of their attention, the reason for their being there, the tiny Christ child lay, the little baby Jesus, sucking his thumb sagely, thinking his profound and Godly thoughts, backlit with a 100 watt bulb, covered in straw and saw dust and a crisp packet the wind had left.
Away in the distance, lines of cars shuffled slowly along the bypass like a holy procession.
Preston shimmered in a blessed neon glow, while high up in the dead black sky a single star, brighter than all the car headlights combined, brighter than all the dazzling lights of Tesco Express and Poundstretcher and Greggs and HMV and Wilkinsons and Debenhams, blazed it's brilliant, lonesome trajectory across the heavens at a million trillion miles per second, always going nowhere and always coming back.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Live! In Concert! 

Fans of the whole Idiot Johnson phenomenon (ie. me singing with a guitar or piano but never both at the same time) may be mildly interested to know that I have a gig coming up.
A gig!

It will be on Saturday October 16th at the Yorkshire House, Lancaster.
It's a cracking venue – previous superstars to have graced it's stage include Rachel Unthank And The Winterset and that bloke out of I Am Kloot – so you'll appreciate I'm quite excited by this.
Other acts on that evening will be Ottersgear, The Low Countries and someone I don't know called Sam who plays the banjo. The running order has yet to be confirmed. I expect I'll be playing for 30 minutes or so, maybe 32.
Admission price will be £3, I think, and the fun will probably start at 8.30-ish or thereabouts.

It'll be pay on the door and the place holds about 100 people. Whether that many show up is very doubtful but at the same time if you are thinking of coming along – and I'd genuinely love it if you would– you might want to bear that in mind.
If you're in the vicinity and can make it along, do come and say hello. Yorkshire House gigs are always good entertainment and I'll be glad of all the support you can muster. There's a car park just across the road too.

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Monday, August 09, 2010


A steady morning, not too much work and not too little. The minutes tick tock ticked away, quiet and contentedly as a timebomb.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, was in her office remodelling her eyebrows with the help of some app she's got on her iPhone, and Tabs was taking a break from carrying armfuls of photocopying up and down the corridor when we heard the bad tempered hobble of Creepy Keith from Accounts approaching.
"Watch out Tabs, here comes Casanova," said Stella. "He'll have your knickers off faster than you can say Marks and Sparks."
Keith grunted into the office.

"Hi Keith," said Stella. "Take a seat."
"Very funny. I've got your panini."
"How did you get on at the doctors?"
"She said if it hasn't come back out by Friday they'll have to operate."
"So if somebody rang you now, Keith," asked Tabs, nibbling thoughtfully at a sort of cake thing from the vending machine called Blueberry Supposedly, "would we actually hear it?"
"No," interupted Stella. "He put it on vibrate. That was the point."
"You can probably get an app for that," said Tabs.
"I told her to keep the change," said Keith, slamming the panini onto Stella's desk and hobbling out again in a painful direction.
"What's got into him?" wondered Tabs. Nobody felt the need or desire to answer.

The lady at the gate with the dreamy soft white baps has branched out into paninis.
Stella, who froths into a lather at the very idea of anything entrepreneurial, is wildly enthusiastic.
"That woman is doing more to advance the metropolitanisation of Preston than..." she said, wiping rocket and molten Garstang Blue from her chin, "...well, everyone else put together. Ouch, that's hot! She'll be selling cocktails next. It'll be just like Mad Men and I CANNOT WAIT."

Everybody here has gone panini crazy. It's the new sudoku, but delicious and tasty.
Everybody except Mike that is, who has taken to bringing in his own fishfinger sandwiches in an act of defiant contrariness.
"It's just a nose cut off spiteface thing," Stella tells him, but he mumbles and stares at his screen like he can't hear her, which in fairness he can't as he's always listening to happy hardcore at full volume on his headphones.

Later on, after the going home bell had rung and the carpark had all but drained empty, and she was waiting for her lift and me for my train, Stella said, "Actually Tim, I'll let you into a secret: my friend Becky makes the world's best fishfinger sandwiches. They're amazing."
"Oh," I said.
"Promise you won't tell Mike?" she asked.
"My lips are watertight."
She folded away her laptop and stared dreamily towards the datacentre where Rex the Security Guard was urinating on his hostas.
"No word of a lie, Tim," she sighed, "there's no better feeling in the world than when I've got my friend Becky's fingers slipping around inside me."
"Any luck with the jobhunting?" I asked, but when I looked up she was already halfway across the car park, skipping towards the gate where her good and true friend Becky was waiting in neutral to transport her away from all this.
I packed my banana back into it's special compartment and headed off for the station.

People who enjoyed this blogpost may also enjoy - ahem, pauses for breath - my CD, available now on iTunes and from Idiot Johnson Direct. Thank you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Girl On A Train 

It's finally here!
Only thirty odd years in the making but my first ever CD – or should I say “debut release?” - is finally up for sale. And I can honestly say I'm pretty pleased with how it's turned out.

There were 500 of the blighters piled up in my Attic Studio Complex at one point. I've got it down to 471 now, following some purchases by friends and lovely people on Twitter. I've also given a few away as freebies.

I've always enjoyed the idea of music as a cottage industry and it's exciting to think I've now got one of my own. But it's also a bit troubling. At what point does “ridiculous and expensive vanity project” become a “bold putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is statement of artistic intent”?
On the one hand I'm not too worried, because it sounds pretty much how I wanted it to and the feedback so far has been generally more than favourable.
But all the same... in the wee small hours, the sound of 471 unsold CDs taunting and whispering “You bloody fool! You should have kept hold of your money! Or spent it on cheese or something worthwhile” isn't something I'd wish on anyone.

Here's the embarrassing sales pitch bit: I need to shift 200 to break even. Then and only then might I allow myself to make another one, which I'd love to. I've some way to go. So in the spirit of artistic patronage, I'm not so much inviting you to purchase or download one of my CDs, but begging you. Even if you've no interest in music at all, it would be the compassionate thing to do. Please have mercy on me, for I am singer/songwriting buffoon who doesn't deserve your pity or money but is asking for it anyway, especially your money. Your soul will rest more easily tonight, etc.

There are five songs – Girl On A Train; She Is Gone; Oh Come On Beautiful; Happiness; and A Free Man In Preston (hmm, that name sounds familiar) - and they're available as downloads across all the “iTunes territories”.
As an aside, Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader squeals with delight whenever I say “all the iTunes territories.” Just saying.
They cost 79p in the UK, 99 cents in the US, likewise in Canada, 99 cents in the Eurozone, $1.79 in New Zealand and so on.
Check your local iTunes store for further prices. You'll need to search for “Idiot Johnson”.
Here's what it looks like at the UK store.

Alternatively – and how exciting is this? - you can buy the physical CD for £4 plus postage and packing (rather attractively packaged in a jewel case with some nice photos taken by yours truly) and get a free download while you're waiting for it to be delivered, straight from Idiot Johnson Direct.
The additional benefits of taking the Idiot Johnson Direct route are
1) that you'll get a handwritten letter of pathetically grovelling gratitude from me personally, and I will be your bitch for all eternity
2) you'll be helping to reduce the mountain of CDs in my room
3) I get to keep more of the money myself, rather than Apple taking a generous slice of your cash. Which would be appreciated.
Click here to purchase a CD directly from me. Thank you.

As if your appetite couldn't be any more whetted, here are a couple of videos that the outrageously talented Lucy Pepper has made.
Sorry for the more than slightly spammy nature of this post, but I trust you'll understand that knees must, etc. Just think of 471 CDs whispering unkind remarks in my ear while I'm trying to sleep. Thank you in anticipation of your amazing generosity. And tell your friends. It means all the world to me, so cheers.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pop Musik 

The Friday morning meeting – basically a post-mortem for that week’s dead Service Level Agreements – was drawing to a close and everybody’s mind was turning to the lady at the gate with the dreamy soft white baps whose Tandoori Parsnips have become quite the talking point recently, when Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a leader said, “So before we finish, Tim has got a very exciting announcement to make.”

“Have I?” I asked.
“Yes. Remember what you told me last night? About your thing?”
“Oh Jesus.”

Everybody stopped tidying their papers and stared at me. An entire career of trying to be invisible felled with one swift blow. Even Ivan the Terribly Thorough, who is normally in and out faster than you can say “Oh look, my bin’s been emptied,” stopped in his tracks and leaned inquisitively against the doorframe.

“Tim’s got a CD coming out and is going to be on Britain’s Got Talent,” Stella beamed. “Isn’t that brilliant?”
There was a minor commotion, a low level drawing of breath. Somebody rubbed their eyes like you would if you were in a cartoon and you’d just seen a pig in a bikini flying around handing out fifty pound notes.
“Tim is going to be the Preston Susan Boyle!” Stella babbled. “I can’t wait!”

“That’s only half right,” I said. “Yes, there’s going to be a CD. But I’m not going on the telly. It’s not really a Britain’s Got Talent kind of thing.”
“How do you know that?” said Stella. “You said you’ve never even watched it. Why do you always have to put yourself down?”
“I just don’t think, well…”
“You don’t think anybody’s going to actually like your CD,” said Mike.
“Exactly,” I said. “Thank you Mike. It’s going to be available on iTunes and Amazon and stuff, and I sort of think it’s fairly, you know, almost quite good, but I don’t think Simon Wots-his-name will come beating a path to my door.”
“Cowell,” said Tabs, her arms loaded with photocopying.
“There’s no need to be rude,” said Stella.

Later on, after the going home bell had rung and everyone had cleared off, Stella asked when this CD of mine was coming out.
“Not for a few weeks yet,” I said. “It’s at the manufacturers now. Then it needs distributing and all that stuff.”
“Sounds like you need a manager. My friend Becky could do it if she’s not found a new job by then.”
“No luck yet then?” I said.
“Not yet. She’ll be fine though. I know she will. People will always need bankers.”

Outside my window, Rex the Security Guard was putting his tomatoes away after having them out all day for hardening off. I made a mental note to do the same. Geraldine the Company X goat nibbled devotedly on his turn ups. A couple of help desk staff slinked sleepily out of the potting shed in a post-coital haze to make way for his grow bags. Away in the distance, the hopeful city of Preston shimmered in the Spring sunshine. All looked golden, all looked good.

“You will let me know when I can buy one of these CDs, won’t you Tim?” said Stella. “Because I know what you’re like. You’ll keep it to yourself and the moment will pass. I want to help you.”
“Thank you,” I said. “That’s very sweet. Letting you know when and how you can buy my CD is the least I can do for you after all this time,” but when I looked up she was already up and out of the building, halfway across the car park in fact, skipping joyfully like a child, to the gate where her good and true friend Becky was waiting with her engine running and her top off.

I put away my Hob Nobs and made my way to the station.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Figure 8 

A White Christmas, then an even whiter January – the whole country become a skating rink, everybody waddling like penguins and realising “Oh, so that’s why they walk like that” – and now Valentine’s Day has been and gone and there’s still no sign of a let up. Daffodils? Not-bloody-likely-dils.

“Did you get a Valentine’s card from Advantage?” crows Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader.
“Nope,” replies Creepy Keith from Accounts.
“Aww, that’s a shame, Keith. She stole your heart, then she stole your telly and most of your furniture.”
“She didn’t steal them. She asked if she could have them and I said yes.”
“Same difference.”
“Her need was greater than mine,” says Keith.
“There’s a lot you don’t understand about women’s needs, Keith.”

Outside my window, Rex the Security Guard is sawing fallen branches from the beech copse then wheel barrowing them to the wood shed. A cheeky little robin perches on his chainsaw. Geraldine the Company X goat gambols playfully behind him, her dainty footprints in the snow resembling one of those illustrations you’d use for learning to dance, the Tango or maybe the Cha-cha-cha, if you were a quadruped.

The crackly bing bong public address system fizzles and pops into life and all work stops while Charlotte, Bill Surname’s loyal PA, lectures us on the energy crisis, on the importance of closing windows, of opening doors only when strictly necessary. Persons wishing to exit the building should only do so in groups of three or more, likewise re-entry, and especially at the rear.
Poor Charlotte – it’s a difficult time for her, what with the never ending recession and the death of all hope, and now this: Bill Surname CEO, the only man she has ever loved - if only he knew it! – says he wants to see a 10% reduction in heating bills or she’ll be in hot water.
“It’s the lobster pot for you Charlotte, splish splosh,” and clinging to his every utterance as if they were lifebelts and her life was a frozen lake that she’d just fallen through, frantic, gasping for breath, she believes him, poor stick.

Later on, after the going home bell has rung and everybody else has scarpered, Stella asks if we ever did come to a decision over the central heating question.
Keith had said he has his central heating on all day, even when he’s out. He said it’s more efficient to maintain a constant temperature than repeat an intensive cycle of heating and cooling, heating and cooling.
Everyone disagreed. No, no, no, the heating goes off before bedtime and only comes on in the day at weekends. That’s bollocks, Keith.
Debate raged for, oh, a good twenty minutes, until Keith played the “That’s What Hitler Would Say” card, as he always does, bringing the discussion to an abrupt end.

“Wouldn’t it be weird though, Tim? If Keith was right about something?” asks Stella, as she puts away her laptop and gathers her stuff.
“About having your heating on all the time?” I reply. “I don’t know. It seems unlikely.”
“He’s talking rubbish. When I stay at my friend Becky’s we have it off all night, and we’re always toasty.”
As if on cue, Stella’s phone bleeps and she puts on her coat and scarf. “That’ll be her now.”
“Probability would say he can’t go on being wrong forever,” I suggest, but by now she’s outside, figure skating across the car park in the dusk, lighter than air, joyful as a child, to where her true and good friend Becky is waiting in the car, engine ticking over, idling.

There’s a new moon in the sky and it looks like a smile.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mistletoe and Wine 

“Tabs darling?” asks Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader.
“Yes, Stella babe?” replies Tabs.
“Can I ask you something, Tabs darling?”
“Course you can, Stella babe. What is it?”
“I was wondering… I’ve noticed, Tabs darling, that whenever you’re walking around the office, you’re always on your phone. Who are you talking to all that time, babe?”
“Oh. Well let’s see. Sometimes I’m on the phone to Terry, Stella babe. He’s my fiance and I love him loads mostly.”
“Aww, that’s nice. Did you hear that Terry?” Stella calls across the office. “She says she loves you loads mostly. What do you think of that?”
“Yeah. That’s great, that,” he mumbles without looking up from his electronics catalogue. It arrived fresh this morning, so it’s been micro-components all the way with Terry today.

“And who else do you speak to, Tabs darling?”
“Oh, you know. Sometimes my Mum. And my Dad as well. That sort of thing.”
“But you can’t be on the phone to them all the time, can you? Not all the time?”
“Well, Stella babe, it’s… It’s embarrassing. And a bit sad, actually. I don’t…” says Tabs.
“Tabs darling, what is it?”

They're both wearing elf costumes and Stella is platting Tabs’ hair. Bill Surname CEO has enlisted them for some Company X charity thing. Bill Surname himself is going to be Santa, after the fiasco last year with Neil, my former team leader. Stella examines her work, undoes it again, allows Tabs’ Rapunzelesque hair to tumble to her shoulders and down her back, then brushes once more. Girl smells and Christmas smells, hairspray and perfume, mulled wine and mince pies waft around the office. A heady concoction. All is quiet save for the hissing of hair straighteners.

“The truth, Stella babe, is most of the time I’m not talking to anyone. I’m just pretending. See, I said it was sad.”
“Oh baby, shush. No sad.” Stella begins platting again. “Not today. Not ever.” It looks like they're weaving a rope, as if they’re hatching an escape over the filing cabinets and out through the first floor window.
“I pretend so people think I can’t hear what they say about me,” Tabs says. “I hate it. I really hate it, Stella, you know? They think I’m on the phone and can’t hear them talking about my boobs.”
“Oh, Tabs darling,” Stella whispers. “Is that what this is about? Oh baby. You’ve got lovely tits. You have.”
“Do you really think so?” sniffs Tabs. “Not just saying that?”
“Honestly babe. Absolutely. If you weren’t with Motherboard Monthly over there, and you know, obviously, my friend Becky and everything, I’d totally be, like, yeah. When we were at high school I always hoped… Oh, I’m sorry. You’ve heard this all before. Sorry, babe, I'll stop.”
“That’s okay.”
“No, but I am sorry. I must really freak you out sometimes,” says Stella.
“Do I look freaked out?”
“No. No more than usual anyway. But honestly, Tabs darling, baby girl, don’t you ever let anybody get you down. Ever. Do you hear me? You’ve got beautiful tits.”
“Aww, thanks mate,” sniffs Tabs. Her voice breaks into a little laugh. “And so have you.”

An easy calm settles on the office. The clock ticks. A distant photocopier hums its lonesome song. Watercoolers glug while my colleague Terry tap tap taps at his keyboard, dreaming of Zigabits and graphics cards. The afternoon trickles along like leaky non-volatile RAM.

“Hey Tim,” Stella calls across the room, eventually breaking the tranquility. “Who’s got the nicest tits? Me or Tabs?”

I panic and reach for my headset, pretending not to have heard her, pretend to be on a conference call to Japan or somewhere, no, the States, it would still be morning in the States, knocking over my yoghurt in the process, rhubarb and ginger glooping into my lap in pornographic slow motion – this isn't just any rhubarb and ginger yoghurt, this is Marks and Spencer Rhubarb and Ginger Yoghurt, drizzled suggestively into the trousers of a half-witted systems administrator.

Outside my window the world is heavy with winter. I can see LEDs twinkling through the datacentre window and the reflection of Christmas tree lights down in reception.
Rex the Security Guard and Charlotte, Bill Surname's loyal PA, are putting the finishing touches to the Company X minibus, all done out like Santa's sleigh.
Poor Charlotte, it's been a difficult time for her, what with one disastrous bloody catastrophe after another, the bungling incompetence, the sheer blind panic of the year gone by, the night terrors, the sleeplessness, and now this: Bill Surname, the only man she has ever loved – if only he knew it! - says there must be laughter and joy in every children's ward and hospice tonight or she'll be for the fish tank, splish-splosh, and she's so utterly, completely drained, she doesn't know how she finds the strength to go on from one day to the next. She thinks that if she starts crying she might never stop.

The going home bell rings. I wipe down my crotch, switch off my PC and pop my head round the door to wish Santa's elves good luck.
Tabs is brushing Stella’s hair now. When they see me they stand to attention, sticking out their chests in a comical, exaggerated fashion, their four bosoms primed and pointed at me through their T-shirts like nuclear warheads. “Well, Tim?” they giggle. “Well?”
I reply that I’m very well thanks, just a little wistful occasionally with the inevitable this and that, but only now and then, nothing worth stressing over and nothing I haven’t come through before, better than it was, and I thank them for asking. I’m basically good, better than good in fact. Then I wish them luck, ask them to pass Santa my best regards and head out in the wrong direction to look for my train.

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