Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Crowded House

I've been listening to Crowded House quite a lot the last couple of days. Whenever I say this to anyone, they usually say "aren't they the ones that do 'everywhere you go, always take the weather with you'?", or sometimes "hey now, hey now, don't dream, it's over". But oddly enough, I don't particularly like either of those songs (probably for the same reason I don't listen to 'Everybody Hurts' by R.E.M. that often).

Crowded House's songs (Neil Finn's output in general actually) has always been a little bit hit and miss for me. The Crowded House that I love is the more delicate, almost-on-the-verge-of-falling-apart-but-still-being-musically-beautiful one, and these elements aren't immediately obvious on their biggest hit.


Even as someone who writes songs, I'm not great with the musical theory side of things. This is probably why I got an F at A-Level Music Tech (hardly my finest hour). So I can't say what it is that makes Crowded House's so musically interesting, other than that there's something enigmatic and mysterious about them. 'Kare Kare', the opener from 'Together Alone', is a great example of this. When I first heard it, I kept thinking 'what's going on here? Why is this bundle of musical ideas holding together when it clearly shouldn't?!' Then it just clicked. First there's that slide guitar at the start that seems almost too lazy for Paul Hester's brilliantly idiosyncratic beat, then the bridge that seems to cut in a phrase ahead of where you'd expect, and then 'wait, that's not a bridge, that's the chorus!'. The end of the song is something else altogether. The rhythm becomes tangled and syncopated, almost like jazz, chattering voices whisper away in the background, and it seems like the whole thing's going to peter out, like it couldn't possibly all pull back together in time to bring the song to a satisfying conclusion. Except it does, emerging from a tangled forest onto a starlit beach. It doesn't sound it from that description, but this song is seriously beautiful. Musically, there's something wonderful and special going on here that very few bands could pull off. And the delivery of the phrase 'sleep by no means comes to soon, in a valley lit by the moon' gives me chills.

Then there's Neil Finn's lyrics. He writes about the human experience with an earthiness that few other lyricists can pull off (except perhaps Mike Scott, who I imagine will get his own blog entry on here at some point). He sings in colours ('no fire where I lit my spark, where your words devour my heart, and dust from a distant sun will shower over everyone') and articulates experiences with these obscure turns of phrase that seem to speak right from the soul, as though something ethereal is being drawn up from the Earth and using the human voice as a vessel. They're biblical, savage and, in the case of songs like 'Nobody Wants To' and 'Pour Le Mande' (both at least partly inspired by Paul Hester's suicide) utterly heartbreaking. When Pete Paphides and Caitlin Moran were putting together a campaign about the refugee crisis last year, they chose Crowded House obscurity 'Help is Coming' to soundtrack it because "it evoked with uncanny empathy the howling uncertainty faced by thousands of families arriving in Europe for the first time". How astounding to be able to write words so powerful.

I don't have too much more to say about this, except that, a few years ago, I tried to write my own song in the style of Crowded House's more weird numbers. It's called 'A Twist of Logic', and it sounds - at least in rough demo format - like this...

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Water Lilies Bloom

A few years ago, I wrote a song called 'Water Lilies Bloom' and recently stuck it at the end of my EP as a hidden track. It was meant as a demo and doesn't have the same production values as the other tracks. It's also the last track and isn't even listed on the CD sleeve, so it generally gets the least attention. But I really like it, and felt it deserved its own spotlight. This is a blog post about 'Water Lilies Bloom'.



There's a magnetic poetry board in Neal's Yard, a little cluster of shops and cafes in London's Covent Garden. You can arrange the words to say something profound. Or something silly. When we went there in 2013, I was listening to lots of early R.E.M...

Allow me to 'go off on one' about R.E.M. before we come back to that magnetic poetry board. They'd split a few years earlier, but we'd just seen a great tribute band in Glasgow called 'It Crawled From The South'. Not only that, another of my favourite bands, Editors, were recording an album ('The Weight of Your Love') and frontman Tom Smith kept citing R.E.M. as a big influence. This got me on an obsessive hunt through R.E.M.'s earliest (and best) material.

I don't mean to go all Patrick Bateman here, but there's something magical about R.E.M.s early music that they seemed to lose when they signed to a major label. I realise that's a real music snob thing to say, but there's a hazy, ghostly quality to those first few albums. The half-spoken words, driving rhythms and guitars that seem to really rock, despite being influenced by folk and country music, conjure images for me: dusky back roads, tumbledown buildings, spindly trees and lonely hives of activity, where motels, half-empty bars and petrol stations (or maybe I should say gas stations) exist in tiny, isolated clusters of prosperity, thriving on their unique location, but very far away from other people. I half-wrote another song all about this called 'Haunted America'. I hope it'll see the light of day at some point.

But back to 'Water Lilies Bloom' and that magnetic poetry board. I was playing about with words, looking for something a bit Michael Stipe; something that 'felt like' that bit of London. The words got rearranged into the phrase 'under which the water lilies bloom'. I thought that sounded suitably enigmatic, like the sort of thing that could have been on 'Murmur'. The rest of the lyrics - sparse though they are (and that was important too) - fell into place from there. It's a simple song really. It basically repeats the same section, building each time, with a middle 8 and picked guitar bit halfway through to break it up. I was going for something that seemed like a mantra, although feel free to substitute 'straightforward, repetitive song' for 'mantra' if it isn't to your taste.


I recorded what I thought was the demo (but which actually became the finished version) with Guy Pople at St. Annes Music, a lovely shop, studio and teaching space down the road from where I used to live. The simplicity of the lyric encouraged me to write counter-vocals and harmony parts. I love harmonies, but I usually struggle with them. This was one of the few times I didn't. Everything just fit. When I was recording the other songs for the EP, any ideas in that direction came from my producer, Rod Futrille. My partner, Roisin Brennan, will be taking more of a lead on the vocals in future, so I'm hoping she'll have some tasty harmony ideas. I reckon she will. She's good like that. My Mum also has a bit of a knack for them. I hope she'll chip some contributions in too.

I thought there'd be more to this song. It was never going to be a big, rock track, but I'd planned electric guitar parts, a bass, percussion, and a Hammond organ swell. But then I started working up some of my other ideas, and it was obvious that 'Water Lilies Bloom' didn't fit. Having a mood, or vibe, for an album is important to me with other people's work. But I've always liked hidden tracks, and it seems that they're allowed to be different... The black sheep, as it were. I remembered 'Water Lilies Bloom' right at the eleventh hour. I mastered it myself quickly, and it was added at the very last minute. A few years down the line from when I wrote it, I still have a lot of affection for this song. I'm sure most songwriters come up with something that they think's great for a while and then suddenly go 'what was I thinking?!' I know I do. So it's a real gift when something stands the test of time. To me, it captures that hazy R.E.M. sound I was going for and it brings to mind one of my favourite parts of London. I hope writing this means that a few more people will hear it.

You can hear the full 'Chasing Ghosts' EP on Soundcloud. There's also a free download, and the option to buy the CD version (with lovely artwork and lyrics) on Bandcamp.

Short and Sweet

I've decided to start using this blog again. I apologise, to its avid readers*, about the lack of content for the last 3 years. It's going to be a bit of a vanity project, but I really like making music and sometimes writing stuff too, and I wanted somewhere to document it.

*Yeah, sorry Dexter

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Unexpected Charity Christmas Single


A lot of people asked me what I was going to do next when I announced that I'd be taking a step back from poetry earlier this year. I wanted to do something different, but even I was quite surprised to find myself recording a dodgy Christmas single recently! In truth, I'd been trying to write one for ages. We did make an attempt some years ago at high school, and sure enough the unintentionally resigned sounding 'Christmas Time (Again)' got its debut outing at the Year 9 Christmas Concert, complete with a whistling solo just 31 years after Otis Redding pioneered the technique in 'Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay'. The fact there was a never a second outing for 'Christmas Time (Again)' - Christmas Time (Again)... Again?! - says all you need to know about that one.

The new track 'Every Day Is Christmas In My Heart' is silly, fun and a bit crap. Everything about it is very homemade. The song was recorded in a bedroom, so small that we couldn't fit all 4 musicians in the house at the same time (we came up with a complicated shift system, involving a winch, a signal flare and a dumb waiter). The video - such as it is - was put together in another bedroom. It's very simple, so if anyone fancies having a go at a better one, fire away! And the CD packaging will be hand-cut (like posh chips) with real scissors. But surely that's the point, because it's Christmas, and it's all for a good cause, with all proceeds going to The Christie Hospital.

The single also features 2 bonus tracks (or b-sides as they used to be called). I'm slowly working on an album at the moment (of marginally more serious songs), which I guess you'd call the natural successor to the poetry. Track 2, 'A Twist Of Logic', is an acoustic version of one of the tracks planned for inclusion. Whilst Track 3, 'The Devil's Picnic', is a song so old that I wrote the lyrics on the back of a till receipt whilst working behind the counter of my corner shop nearly 10 years ago. I'm glad it's finally out there, complete with a cowboy drama in the middle 8...

You can download all 3 tracks, and support The Christie's continuing good work, for just £0.79! Or, if you'd prefer a (very) homemade CD, it's available for £2 including postage!

Buy 'Every Day Is Christmas In My Heart' at: markcharlesworth.bandcamp.com

mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Charity Walk Photos


Sorry it's taken me a week or so to get these up, but here are a few pictures from the 'Sketches from the Journey Home' charity walk, which was completed last week in aid of Christie Hospital. Thanks to everyone who donated, and to all those who joined me along the way. It was great - even if we got absolutely drenched on the last day!

The route above is the actual one I walked, clocking up just over 76 miles, mostly in decent weather and with no serious injuries to speak of! Only the very end was slightly arduous, but it seemed kind of appropriate - if it had all been too easy, I might not have felt I'd truly earned the sponsorship for Christie.

I know there are still a few people who would like to make a donation, and there are still a couple of books left for the those who want a copy. I'm planning to send the total fund raised over to Christie in a few weeks, so if you'd like to send any money via the Paypal link at the top right of this page, or contact me (mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk) to send it by some other method, you've got a few more weeks. After that, the book should be available via Amazon etc. And then it's off to pastures new...



Thursday, 29 March 2012

'Sketches from the Journey Home' - A New Book and Charity Project

I'm writing with with news of a new book / charity project to be launched very soon.

People who've known me for quite a long time, or followed my work over the years, will know that I've undertaken several projects for Christie Hospital, where I was treated as a child. And this year could see the most exciting project yet, as I release my final collection of poetry (at least for quite some time) in conjunction with a charity walk, inspired by the ones I did a few years ago.

So, let's start with the book, which will be called 'Sketches from the Journey Home'. Wrapping up the themes explored in my previous collections, this set is divided into two parts: the first aiming to exorcise the darker subject matter of past writing; the second exploring a more hopeful trajectory. 'Sketches from the Journey Home' is a roadmap towards light, towards growing up, and towards finding a unique space in a world that all too often drowns out small voices and big dreams.

The book will be on general release later in the year, but initially is only available as a thank you to anyone who sponsors me / donates to the charity walk (suggested donation £7), with all proceeds from both ventures being donated to The Christie.

Previous fundraising campaigns for The Christie have been very well supported, and any donations for the walk / book this time would be very much appreciated. People are more than welcome to do so in person or by cheque (please contact me on mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk to arrange alternative donation method). But if you wish to make a donation online, please click the Paypal 'Donate' button at the right of this page, just below the banner (making sure a postal address is included for book delivery).

The walk itself is very much inspired by the writing of the book. As I found myself looking fondly to the past, knowing that I was moving away from childhood, I started to think more and more about the fundraising walks, and how important they were to me. It seemed symbolic that, if this was to be my last collection of poetry, perhaps I should try one more walk too. It may not be my longest attempt in terms of mileage, but it seems like it could be the most personally significant. Not least because I'll be reprising the walk that started it all. Only this time, I'll be doing it back to front.

In the first week of June, I set off from Windermere in The Lake District, walking (via a slightly twisty-turny route) the 75 miles back to The Ship Inn, my old local from Freckleton, the village where I grew up. Whereas my previous treks were about escape and adventure, starting from my own front door with an impractical rucksack (usually filled with clanking real ale bottles, a few cold slices of toast, and a copy of The Hobbit), this time I will, quite literally, be making 'The Journey Home'.

Books should be available for dispatch in a few weeks time. If you'd just like a copy of the book and are happy to wait, it will be available individually after the walk. Please consider postage cost when sending sponsorship, but remember that a donation of any kind will be received with gratitude and thanks. I've included an image of my authorisation letter from The Christie at the bottom of this post.

I'm hoping this might be a good excuse to catch up with some old friends too, so anyone that wants to get in touch, or meet up, it'd be great to hear from you. In the meantime, I'll leave you with an excerpt called 'An Affair with Mr. Blair', which is about the optimism of growing up during the Labour boom years, and what came next...

An Affair With Mr. Blair

I read your letters from the early days,
brimming with the promise of a bright new era,
a manifesto with a smiling press shot,
nationally broadcast as a lonely hearts advert,

chanting aspiration, and we all knew the words,
high on the tailwind of a major cataclysm,
ever present in the bold optimism
of England's greatest achievements to date:
Hugh Grant,
Britpop,
Euro '96.
Cue holiday photos on windy council estates.

You personally freed Deirdre Rasheed
in New-Labour-Constituency-Coronation-Street,
promised every pensioner a brand new hip,
a remastered Ugly Rumours 'Greatest Hits'.

It goes without saying,
we were the strangest of partners:
me, you, several thousand others,
documenting dreams from a damp little island.

But the sun shone for us that day in May,
1997 at the South Bank parade.
It's just a shame your finest hour
signposted decline, downfall, end.

Guess it all went to your head,
that infamous messiah complex
measurable in the quality of dinner guest.
I could put up with that Prescott chap,
the odd round with Brown,
it started to take the piss
when you had the bloody President round,
when you decided hardline opinions were unfashionable,
ditching left and right,
playing from centre,
like it was all a Sunday kickabout
beyond approval ratings and public attention.

You talked about counting sheep,
losing sleep over tactical necessities.
The first battle lost kept you up all night,
you chalked the rest to friendly fire.

It came to the point where you wanted to change the world.
I just wanted to change the channel
without casualties of war
on BBC News 24.

Once upon a time,
it seemed we sung from the same moral page.
Now all that looked like a power play,
which is why we had to go our separate ways.

Flicking through these love letters again,
back to a future preened by a marketing team,
much as I came to detest that grin,
I can't help but feel a tug on the heartstrings,
because all that fashionable spin,
that helped seduce the masses,
persuaded voters to elope,
resembles something like fond nostalgia,
at least compared to what we've got now:
sky-scraping scaremongering in The Daily Mail,
excuses for escapism in tabloid soaps.
It's only clear in hindsight –
that missing ingredient found.
Don't call it romance. Call it hope.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Remember, Remember...

...The fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason and... ROCK!?

But seriously, in between writing poetry and the sequel to 'Life Begins at 40', we've made some music. Click here to download the 'November' EP by Black Orchid. There's no set price for the download, so you can pay what you like. Those of you who read my last poetry collection, 'In Memory of Real Trees', may recognise a musical version of an old poem...

And if you're in Lancaster on Friday 25th November, you can see us playing live at the Oxfam fundraiser 'Oxtravaganza' in The Yorkshire House. More on that soon...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Readings

Hello,

It's been rather quiet on the blog/news front lately, but followers of the previous books might like to know that I'll be doing a reading this evening at Preston's 'Word Soup' which is held at 'The Continental' from 8pm. It's quite an exciting one for me: not only is it my first time reading poetry live for over a year-and-a-half, it's also a great opportunity for me to debut some new material from my forthcoming collection. I like to think this as-yet-untitled project ties up the loose threads of 'Sunrise and Shorelines' and 'In Memory of Real Trees' nicely. So it seems fitting that it will be my last collection of poetry for quite a long time. I will also be donating the entire proceeds to Christie Hospital for reasons that may be clear in 'White Pyjamas', a new poem included at the end of this message.

Also this week, myself and Chris Newton will be reading an extract from our Doctor Who inspired comedy, 'Life Begins at 40' (the sequel of which is currently in the works), at Ansdell library, this Friday, starting 10.30am. If any of you are local to the area and want to call in, it would be great to see you there.

As ever, anyone who wants to drop me a line is welcome to send me a message on mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk, with any comments or just to say hi.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this new excerpt:

White Pyjamas

I am having a recurring dream,
wandering through the hallways of my past,
seeing, at best, situations I was blessed,
at worst, occasions we were together cursed,
seeing childhood memories played as melodramas,
seeing the ghosts of you and me,
dressed in white pyjamas.

Our kitchens are repopulated
by the cast of old productions,
living rooms filled with laughter, tears,
neighbours from an avenue seeming so big,
their houses could simply disappear,
a flick-show of December twenty-fifths,
fast-forwarding through time around a sole constant:
teletext, Eastenders, white noise, mist,
a body immoveable, asleep on the sofa,
remote control limply in wrist.

Out of sight, uninvited, unseen,
treading the boards of places I've been
– but no longer belong –
I find myself at a summer garden party,
watching relatives from distant counties
tend skewers on a buffet,
a somersaulting girl with freckles and pigtails.

A boy who looks the spit of me
rises from the table.
He holds his mother's hand,
inclines his head.
The pair of them, wearing backless gowns,
walk me to a photo of a hospital bed.

In a wall-mounted gallery
of carefully-selected memories,
it seems an odd choice.
Family portraits chime with edited harmony.
Sorrow doesn't get a voice.

Our eyes meet with a knowing smile,
and I understand.
I've waited, for years, to tell myself
– a child of twelve with the cares of a man –
that everything will be okay,
to look at my mother, with clear hindsight,
and say that I love her.

Now, somehow, we're above that,
just being here is enough.
Some words are conveyed
without ever being spoken,
it's time to stir nostalgia
without sad ghosts being woken,
time to shake off the white pyjamas,
put the turmoil and dramas of the past to bed.

Monday, 31 January 2011

BOOK UPDATE: 'Life Begins at 40'

Well, doesn't time fly? The last time I sent out an update was a couple of months ago, but it seems like a few days ago. 'Life Begins at 40', which had started out as a blog on Pete and Jeff's Blog, had just become a book (or it had certainly taken its first tentative steps - things ended up taking a little longer than expected, but I'll come to that shortly) and gone up for pre-order. Pete and Jeff had made a bold move to become less socially reclusive and actually joined Facebook, where it was discovered other Doctor Who fans also lurked. And the website hit its first 1000 views. Everything was going swimmingly. And then - a few Christmas dinners, celebratory drinks and duff New Year fireworks later - it was the end of 2010! And now, somehow, it's nearly the end of January!

I'd like to offer my very sincere apologies to those of you who pre-ordered the book and were hoping to get it in time for Christmas, particularly to those of you who I haven't already contacted individually. Because this book is being released through Hirst Publications, I don't actually have a complete list of everyone who's pre-ordered. Any hold ups have been almost as frustrating to me and Chris as they have no doubt been to you, but any of you who follow Marillion and the like will know that it is often the way with pre-order campaigns.

The good news is that the book has now gone to print and should be with you shortly. Unfortunately, we've had to make a tough decision and lose Sophie Aldred's foreword, as it was the sole thing holding the whole process up: the general consensus seemed to be that people would rather have the book in good time rather than delay things further by waiting for it. To compensate, however, we've added various bits of new content, including some completely new sections! Having seen the final draft of the book, we have to say that we're really proud of it, and we hope you'll enjoy sitting down to read it as much as we will. At nearly 400 pages, we like to think it offers value for money too!

Once again, I can only thank all of you - especially those who are awaiting pre-order copies - for your patience and support. If anyone wishes to get in touch through 'mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk', I'll be on hand to answer any questions.

And should anyone wish to order the soon-to-be-released 'Life Begins at 40', you can do so at the following link: Pre-Order 'Life Begins at 40'.

I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback, and will be in touch again with more news shortly.

All the best,


Mark Charlesworth

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Excerpt from 'Life Begins at 40'

Here are a few more samples from the upcoming 'Life Begins at 40' book. If you like this, there's plenty more to whet your appetite on: www.peteandjeff.blogspot.com


And those who are still looking to pre-order a copy can do so at: Hirst Publishing

Saturday 7th August

I went for another coffee with Rachel, a little less nervous than last time. Although the perfume still got me.
“James loves Doctor Who!” She said. “He wants a sonic screwdriver for his birthday.”
“I've got a-” I began, rather enthusiastically, but then remembered I was supposed to be playing it cool. “...An idea where you could get one of those. Amazon.” I nodded.
“Uh-huh.” She mumbled. I had the feeling that my information hadn't really helped that much. “He's always asking mad questions. Maybe you'll know this one: why does the TARDIS look like a phone box?”
“Well, it's a chameleon circuit. It can change its form to blend in perfectly with its surroundings!”
“So... That's why Doctor Who looks human?” She looked puzzled.
“What? No...”
“So what does he really look like? Is he a green blob or something?”
“Green blob? No, that's the Daleks!” I shrieked.
“I thought the Daleks were robots?” She asked. I buried my head in my hands.
“The Daleks are not robots! They're the mutated remains of the Kaled race in a Mark 3 travel machine of bonded polycarbide armour!” I felt the conversation was slipping away from us.
“So... how many days now? Until the wedding?”
She fixed her eyes on mine. “D'you want a proper drink?”


Pete: Saturday 7th August

Where was Jeff?! He said he was only going for coffee. Coffee! How long could that take to drink? And what was he doing drinking coffee anyway? He was a pint man. Everyone knew that! I sincerely hoped he wasn't trying to pass himself off as a regular, functioning person again? Cause it takes a lot more than just switching your lager for latte to achieve that. It was that Rachel! I'd have to give him a stern talking to when he got in... But I couldn't do that on an empty stomach. I looked in the fridge: one carton of milk which had separated into a cooking oil-like substance; some margarine that had gone black; a tub of 'Athlete's Foot Remedy' (?); Daisy's organic yeast gloop; and an open tin of dry Spam with an even dryer teabag perched on top. Maybe if we had any bread in the freezer, I could use the athlete's foot cream as spread? But we didn't. The freezer was equally devoid of edible content. Which only left the... But no! Surely I couldn't eat the Doctor Who spaghetti shapes. Jeff might come home to find me having a spasm of some kind. I scrutinized the ingredients, however, and saw that they only contained 0.07% anchovy extract. Why did they even bother? Surely that wouldn't kill me...
Unfortunately, the tin was without a ring-pull and I'd never been able to master can openers. But this was the future, so maybe it was one of those tins where the lid gradually peeled itself off the hotter it got. They existed, didn't they? Dom had mentioned it. Yeah, course they did. So I stuck the whole thing in the microwave and turned the dial. 3 minutes. Great! Time to go to the bathroom.
When I returned, 2 minutes later, the microwave looked like it was about to take off into space-time. The inside was rippling with blue sparks – little lightning forks of radioactive electricity – at its epicentre, the Doctor Who spaghetti shapes. I didn't know what to do. Was this a unique feature to compliment the nature of the product? It did seem like an awful lot of trouble for the good people at The Mill to go to, just for a cheap snack-food, complete with smoke and... FLAMES! Shit! I ran to press the eject button, but just then there was a small explosion, and all the power went out.
Thank god for my numerous supply of sonic screwdrivers, which double as great torches! I inspected the damage. The base of the microwave oven had melted. I'd have to hide it from Jeff. If he asked, I'd just say we'd never owned one, and that he'd imagined it. I put the whole thing in a box, and hid it under my bed. It'd be fine down there. It couldn't be that radioactive...
The power had just overloaded. I threw a trip switch and it was fine. But we didn't seem to have any hot water. What if I had to call a plumber? I'd be required to stand around and banter with them, pretend to be a real man: etiquette demanded it. I'd have to worry about it another time. Jeff had just shambled through the front door, clearly pissed. He moved towards me as though he couldn't bend his knees, steadying himself on the furniture, and then my shoulder.
“Have you met the French?!” His expression was gleeful.
I shot him a stern glare. “What time do you call this?” He seemed to be having some difficulty lifting his hand from my shoulder to check his watch, then remembered that we had a clock in the living room. In fact, we had eleven clocks in the living room: one for each Doctor.
“Ah yes, got a bit waylaid. But it's all going to be fine, 'cause me and Rachel are definitely getting back together.”
“WHAT?!”
“Yeah, I know. Great, isn't it?” He threw both arms into the air and started singing “champions!” – football style – until he could no longer stay upright, and collided with the sofa in a roughly sit-down position. I perched on the arm, to one side, listening to Jeff twitter on about how fantastic he was, what a fantastic night he'd had, and how fantastic everything was going to be from here on in. All I could think was 'what about me?'.
“Obviously there'll be certain complications.” My ears pricked up.
“Oh yeah. Like the fact that Rachel's getting married?”
“A-ha! But she's not! There's no way she'll go through with it. She wants to start a new life with me, for sure.”
“Right... And she did definitely say that, didn't she?”
“Didn't need to.” Oh dear.
“Well, what exactly happened then?”
“Ah, you wouldn't believe it! We went for that coffee, and as soon as she walked into the room, she couldn't take her eyes off me. I couldn't blame her, of course. It couldn't have helped that the Jeffmeister here was socking it to her in the charm department.” So that was why his tie was loose. He seemed to be under the impression that undoing enough buttons to show a little chest hair in public was 'charming'. “Anyway, I was all like – you gonna go through with this sham wedding then, or do you reckon we should give things another crack?” He emphasized the word 'crack' as though it held huge comedic value. This was accompanied by an obscene mime. “And she was like – Oh Jeff, I want to get pissed with you and relive the glory days of your parents bedroom! To hell with the consequences!”
“She actually said that?”
“You bet your ass! So we went to the pub, and she was all over me. Her hand must have touched mine, like, four times or something. And you won't believe this, but when we were about to go, she leaned over, and it was obvious she was going to kiss me.” I raised my eyebrows, somewhat sceptical. “She didn't. Made some excuse about reaching over to get her handbag, which was obviously a lie.”
“Oh right. So her handbag wasn't actually behind you then?”
“Well, no... It was. But that just proves it, doesn't it?”
“Does it?”
“Of course! She deliberately left it in a position where she'd end up in an 'accidental' clinch with me.”
“So, let me get this straight. She said she wanted more than coffee...” Jeff slicked back his hair. “So you went for a proper drink; you talked about old times, 'cause that's what old friends who haven't seen each other for a while do; she touched your hand a few times, and was careless enough to leave her handbag out of sight, behind your back. And, because of this, you think she wants to get back with you? Have I missed something?”
“Yes. No.” Visible confusion set in. He had the look of a dog chasing his own tail. “Not just because of that. Because she said so.”
“But did she actually say words like, or to the effect of, 'Jeff, I want to give things another go'?”
“She didn't need to. It was clearly implied.”
“Okay. But what did she actually say?” He didn't answer me. I could see him going through his mental filing cabinet, racking his brains. Then his whole head tilted slowly downwards. I'd burst his optimism bubble... And I only felt a bit guilty. After a moment, he staggered up and, with some effort, made his way silently to the kitchen. Shortly afterwards, he called back “Didn't we used to have a microwave?”

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