How To Stop A Bully


I was skinny and quite reserved, only really chatting to the English and a few Spanish friends. One morning, before the summer heat rose, everyone waited to be called into class and I sat on a wall by the smaller upper yard. I was pushed and fell over the edge, a drop of about five metres. I landed awkwardly on an ankle. Marky was first to make sure I was alright and helped me to my feet. We looked up and there were loads of Spanish kids peering over the wall. The bell rang for lessons, so I limped over to queue up in our respective years. In the queue, a boy behind shoved me, leaned in and said in Spanish, “Did you enjoy your fall?” It was the bully of our year group. He’d picked on a lot of the Spanish recently, including my friends. He was much bigger than me and I’d tried to keep my distance. Continue reading

Franco Is Dead


One morning, I was listening to the local radio when the news declared General Franco had died. I didn’t understand the magnitude of the end of a dictatorship, the hopes for democracy and a new King. No, all I was concerned about was the bus driver announcing school would be closed for a week. I was so happy on that cold November morning, walking around, taking in what was going on. The Spaniards were subdued, dressed in black. Flags were at half-mast. It looked like this was a big thing, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. No school meant more fun. Continue reading



We had a brief stay in a hotel and soon moved to a third floor apartment in the centre of Huelva. It had a balcony overlooking the crowded, bustling street below and a newspaper kiosk on the corner. Marky and I used to sit on the balcony floor and laze away the heat of the summer, catching an occasional breeze. We spent hours shelling and eating sunflower seeds, as well as eating green olives and pleasantly spitting the stones over the edge of the balcony to the pavement below. Five points for hitting a passer-by and ten points if they looked around without spotting us giggling on the balcony. Continue reading

England Again

Post12 copy

Dad changed jobs once more so we moved back to England and settled in Billingham. Initially, I went to a Church of England School there, but didn’t like it much because the reading was all based around religion. In one lesson, a teacher showed us cards demonstrating jobs with pictures of a teacher and a policeman, things like that. We had to pick a job we would like to do when we grew up. I considered two pictures for a long time. One was of a binman and the other a wigged and gowned barrister. I chose the binman. Continue reading

Kid In America

Post11 copy

I’m awake and think about the early influences in my life. My parents met when Dad was a University student. They married young. Big brother, Marky, was born in Scotland and, two years later, I was born in London. Not long afterwards, Dad landed a job in the USA, so we upped sticks across the water. First, we lived in New York State and then moved over to Massachusetts. Home was a town called Plainville and, in time, I went to kindergarten there. My recollections are hazy. Continue reading



With the scan appointments booked, we collect the kids and make our way to the car. I will have to let some people know what’s going on. And I’m supposed to be going out tonight for some beers. As Michelle gets the kids in the car and closes the doors, I telephone my mate Rick from the car park and tell him I can’t make it out this evening because I have cancer. It’s a surreal and brief conversation. I keep it together and drive home. On arrival, I’m dazed. Michelle sorts the kids out for bedtime. Continue reading



Michelle and I leave the room. I feel spaced out. I don’t remember talking as we make our way back to the kids. I think Michelle must have asked the receptionist to mind them while we arrange the scans. I’m numb as we walk to the scan reception area. Every step feels like my last. We wait behind an elderly woman who’s booking an appointment. Continue reading

The New Normal Is Not Normal


We turn right and go to the end of the corridor. Mr Hogan leads the way to his room. Still no one speaks as the blue carpet drifts by. He stands holding the door open and clicks it shut as we take a seat. The atmosphere is tense. Mr Hogan sits behind his desk and looks at me for an uncomfortably long moment. Continue reading

Goodbye To Life As I Know It


Michelle and I enter the waiting room as Lucy and Jack run to the play zone in the corner. I let a receptionist know I’m there, while Michelle gets the coffees in. We sit down, chat and watch the kids. There is a glass atrium over the central reception. I look up at the yellow, white and turquoise triangular sails that flow down from left to right and then upwards in a gentle arc. There are white zen-like pebbles lining the floor by each wall. The waiting room is about half full of patients. Our kids are excitedly playing in the plastic house, which they turn into a fort. Continue reading

Morphine Is Good


I arrive for the consultation a week later and Mr Hogan performs an endoscopy. A quick spray of anaesthetic and the fibre optic tube is inserted into a nostril. After a few moments, I’m asked to sniff and it goes in deeper. I close my eyes and try to control the urge to retch. Afterwards, Mr Hogan sits behind his desk and looks serious. The silence is uncomfortably long. Continue reading