dubiously true stories and cartoons

Friday, January 24, 2014


Yes - it's that time again - my favourite night of the year - Burns Night. We celebrated the 255th anniversary of the birth of The Ploughman's Poet last night with another (our fourth) successful Burns Night Supper with almost a hundred guests in that little known corner of Scotland - Saudi Arabia. Those of you who have witnessed one of these special nights will know that I always do the Address to the Lassies and this year (as well as doubling up as The Laird of Castle McMitchell) was no exception.
When I was asked to do my first Address four years ago I looked on the internet for some ideas on what to do and what I discovered there were a few blokes stringing together a load of old, feeble, uncomplimentary jokes about women, culminating in a gushing of sentimentality about how great they were, thereby making redundant everything they had said previously.
I realised almost immediately that my personality prevented me from doing the same and so I decided to write my Address as a story about mistaking Burns' beautifully romantic poem A Red Red Rose with Neil Diamond's song Red Red Wine, which is all about getting pissed on (surprisingly) red wine (which I posted on here as Robert Burns - Diamond Geezer). For the next two years I spoke about sex and love (on here amalgamated as Love - With Wings) and so now here I am again in 2014 with an edited version of my final Address to the Lassies for The Causeway Club- speaking about lust.
I hope you enjoy it.
Four years ago my wedding anniversary fell, like it does almost every year, on the 25th of May. But that day was a special day for another reason – it was also the day my old boss decided to have his leaving do in Bahrain. It was our fourteenth anniversary that year and I thought that because it wasn’t an important milestone (like 25 or 50) it would be OK to attend my boss’s leaving do instead of staying in with my lovely wife.
I’d already arranged a get-together with some friends that weekend to celebrate our anniversary and so rather than just tell her that I was going to Bahrain I thought it would be right and proper to ask her if she didn’t mind.
“If you want to go to Bahrain,” she told me, “you go to Bahrain.”
I had no idea that she could be so understanding.
I took the day off so that I could spend some time with her and I bought her some flowers and chocolates and then at around three in the afternoon my colleagues and I all piled into cars and we left for Bahrain, where we would all get absolutely hammered and not return back to Sara Compound until the early hours of the morning.
Now, you can call me na├»ve if you wish, but I’m not that good at reading the signals women give off and it wasn’t until the following morning that I fully understood, obviously after my wife had explained it to me, the schoolboy error that I’d made the day before.
When she had told me that I could go to Bahrain if I wanted to, what she had actually meant was that she didn’t want me to go to Bahrain. Now, why didn’t she just say that instead of making me think that I could go to Bahrain and confusing my standard man’s brain (which is comprised of equal parts OCD, Asperger’s and ADHD)? 
The worst thing about it is that she has never ever let me forget it, and like most women she can remember every single thing I’ve done wrong or buggered up in all the years she’s known me, and because I have inbuilt compulsion to lie and make excuses to her when things go wrong she never fails to bring up these things if an argument is not going her way.
Women have an amazing memory recall for the seemingly inconsiderate or selfish things we men have done throughout our married lives. I can barely remember what happened in the past two hours, let alone what happened four years ago and so this year I thought I’d start planning our wedding anniversary early.
I went on the internet at the start of this week to look at the prices of confectionary on Hotel Chocolat’s website but I got side-tracked when I came across an advertisement for a site that claimed that it was better than POF. I didn’t know what POF was and all I could gather from the advertisement was that POF was full of UGGOS, whilst their site was full of HOTTIES. This was illustrated by a series of mildly pornographic photographs of scantily clad, oiled-up women of various ages.
And so after doing a bit of research I discovered that POF stood for Plenty of Fish and it was an online dating site that with the help of a team of PhDs it had created the most advanced matching system in the world that can tell you what you need in a relationship and where you screwed up (without knowing it) in the past. The site doesn’t, however, actually qualify what their team of PhDs majored in – but if I were to hazard a guess they would most probably all have certificates in clairvoyance gained from the University of I Just Made It Up.
The POF dating site has been advertised on magazine covers and even in The Daily Mail. So there you have it – you now know that anything you read on the site bears no resemblance to the truth because it’s been included in the pages of The Daily Mail.
So what kind of people does POF attract?
Well, all the people on there were pretty boring and desperate so here’s one I found in the marriage seekers column of The Indian Times instead:
“Excellent Sindhi girl, MBA from Cornell University USA. Beautiful, fair, honest, humorous, happy girl from highly educated family. Seeks highly qualified professional doctor or engineer or Financier or Industrialist or Enterpreneur Sindhi or non-Sindhi boy from USA or UK or India.”
Now, there’s a girl who’s set her sights on what she considers to be the perfect man/men, although somebody should really prepare her for a life of disappointment because (as every woman knows) the perfect man doesn't exist.
The thing is – Robert Burns would have loved Plenty of Fish. It would have been perfect for him. We all know that in his time Burns was a renowned philanderer and as famous for his numerous love affairs as he was for his poetry. He was married to a lassie called Jean Armour (who bore him a total of nine children), but he is also rumoured to have wed his lover, Mary Campbell, when his first marriage began to go on the rocks.
Here’s the first verse of one of his secret poems, which he may have written around that time:

Ye jovial boys who love the joys,
The blissful joys of lovers,
Yet done avow, with dauntless brow,
When the bonny lass discovers.
I pray draw near and lend an ear
And welcome in a frater,
For I’ve lately been on quarantine,
A proven fornicator. 

The poem is called The Fornicator and a collection of these secret poems were discovered after his death (probably on a top shelf somewhere) many of which employ the frequent use of the dreaded C Word. The title of one poem in the collection is Nine Inch Will Please a Lady, and that should give you a fairly good idea of its content (and it’s one of the cleaner ones in the collection).
What the poems show is that – yes, Burns did love women – but more than anything he lusted after them. And it’s not just men that are lustful – women can also be as lustful as men, if not more so.
Back in the dark ages, when I was eighteen and there was no such thing as internet dating,  like most young single lads in the seventies, or indeed throughout the ages, I only ever thought about one thing – sex.  I was stationed at RAF Coningsby at the time and I met a girl called Patricia (not her real name) at the Saturday Night Castle Club Dance and after only one date with her I quickly realised that there was something special about her – something that made her more desirable than all the other girls I’d been out with put together. Patricia, it turned out, was every single man’s dream woman. Not only was she a rich farmer’s daughter, she was also a raving nymphomaniac.
Now, I’d like to say that Patricia and I made love all the time – but we didn’t – we just had mad sex in lots of varied and interesting places. We did it anywhere and everywhere – in fields, in woods, under hedges, on riverbanks, by bridges, on bridges, under bridges, in her house when her parents were out playing bridge, in lifts, in garages, on the back row of the cinema, on newly-polished lino floors, on threadbare carpets, on rickety chairs, in her garden, in her neighbour’s garden, in sheds, on Black and Decker workmates, in her bathroom, in her bedroom, in my room in the barrack block when my mates were out, in the back of her car in dark, secluded lay-bys (which was often awkward as her car was a mini and I kept getting my foot stuck between the gear stick and the handbrake). 
She even demanded it once while we were sitting on the couch in the living room of her house watching telly. Now, I know that’s a fairly common place to perform an act of love, for both single couples and those who are newly-married – but what added a new dimension of urgency and terror to it for me was that her mum was in the kitchen at the time cooking the evening meal.
As I said, I was young and virile then – but as you get older and then get married and get even older and have kids your wife tends to go off all that kind of stuff. Women have got a sort of sixth sense when it comes knowing what’s on a man’s mind. At the end of the night, even before my foot has laid its first step on the stairs my wife knows that I’m thinking about the possibility of sex.
“If you’re thinking about sex you can stop it right now,” she usually tells me.
How did she know?
I suppose it’s probably because I’ve fluctuated between the ages of sixteen to eighteen ever since she’s known me. But that doesn’t stop me from trying because, like most men, I was born with a recessive gene that causes involuntary carnal perseverance, which means that I can’t help myself from making the first move. And let me tell you, when you’ve been married for a few years, making the first move can be a frightening and treacherous procedure – I’m never entirely sure whether my wife will respond to my advances or just get angry with me for waking her up.
I’m fairly convinced that when the kids came along they were put on this earth solely to destroy any remaining thoughts we may have had of having uninterrupted sex for the next twenty to thirty years.
Children change everything. There is a saying (that I just made up) that getting married changes your life, but having children destroys it. I live in Saudi Arabia and things are changing here too. Only recently the Grand Mufti has allowed the formation of a women’s rugby team. Apparently they’ll be calling themselves the All-in-Blacks.
Actually I just made that up, but what I didn’t make up is the advice given in the book The Joy of Sex, which gives some interesting advice about how to be more creative when attempting to make love. I tried this but it didn’t really help at all and in retrospect I can now tell you that making a Japanese Samurai helmet out of papier mache in the bedroom was probably not want they meant by being creative. I thought I might get some ideas by watching the film Ghost but that proved to be a very expensive and exhausting experience. You can only imagine the disappointment I felt when, after forking out a hundred quid for a potter’s wheel and then having to lug it all the way upstairs to the bedroom, I discovered that watching my wife making a Greek Urn, wearing only a front-loader bra and her best big pants, did nothing for me at all.
Obviously when the book used the word creative it was alluding to the use of sex-aids, but having them in a house that has small children scampering about can lead to some rather awkward and embarrassing confrontations.
“Look Daddy, I’ve found a pink rocket in your bedroom and it goes bzzzzzzzz.”
The book also suggested that dressing up and pretending to be other people was a good way of making your love life more exciting – and I can still remember those halcyon Sunday mornings that we spent cavorting around the bedroom – me as Superman and my wife as Wonder Woman – listening to our children screaming outside the door, unable to get in because we’d coated the door handle with Vaseline.
I must admit that frolicking around the bedroom in a Superman suit was a little embarrassing for me at first, but once I’d got used to the fact that my underpants were on the outside of my trousers everything worked out just fine.
What I’m trying to say here is that its lust and love that makes the world go around and Robert Burns knew this. His collection of secret poems weren’t published until 2009 because they were considered too lusty for human consumption.
But since then many scholars of Burns have always thought there was something missing from the collection and they were indeed correct. Following the rather shocking news that an ancient document was discovered revealing that the town of Doncaster was never formally signed back to England after the Scots were driven out (which means that, to all intents and purposes, Doncaster is actually still part of Scotland), a lost secret poem was discovered in a burnt out house in Paisley (and that was on one of the better estates).
You should consider yourselves fortunate indeed because Travels With My Rodent has been granted permission by the World Federation of Burns’ Aficionados (a society that I just made up) to be the first to publish it.
It is written in the Scottish dialect, so English people may find it a little hard to follow (unless, of course, you’re from Doncaster). And so, without further ado, here it is:

Noo we can gab aw nicht abit th' weaither
Teel ye 'boot mah friends oot oan th' coast
I coods ask a lot ay bampot questions
Ur Ah coods ask whit Ah pure want tae ken
Noo rain can faa sae soft against th' windae
The sun can shine sae bricht up in th' lift
But ma father aye tauld me, "Donae make wee talk" he said,
"Come oan oot an' say what's oan yer mind"
If Ah said ye hud a bonnie body - woods ye hauld it against me
If Ah swair ye waur an angel, - woods ye treat me loch th' devil tonight
If Ah waur dyin' ay thirst - woods yer flowin' loove come quench me
If Ah said ye hud a bonnie body - woods ye hauld it against me
Aye, aye, aye.

At the end of the day we all love the women that we have decided to spend the rest of our lives with. We can’t live without them. I’m finding it difficult to live out here without my wife because I’ve loved her from the second I set eyes on her, and so I’ll leave you with another poem by Burns (a real one this time) that all you lusty lassies should keep in mind when your menfolk come home from a hard day’s work. It’s called Supper Is Not Ready:

The master to his lady said,
“My honey and my succour,
Oh shall we do the thing, you know,
Or shall we take our supper?”

With modest face, so full of grace,
Replied the bonny lady;
“My noble lord, do as you please,
But supper is not ready.”

Monday, January 13, 2014


 My first book, a novella entitled Permanent Moments was published on the 15th December last year and it contains a revised version of one of the stories that have been posted in this blog. The story in question was called The Smell of Last Night’s Fingers and it raised a problem with the publishers because it features a scene describing two fifteen year-olds indulging in under-age sex. The reason why it caused a problem was because the publishers are American and the age of consent in the US is eighteen.

This is the front cover of the book. If you look closely at the picture in the lens of the camera
I'm the child with the long legs

After a few increasingly angry emails (all from me) I wrote to them explaining that the chapter takes place in Britain where the age of consent is sixteen and so if a reference to this was included I would change the age of the characters to conform to British law.

I thought that was fairly reasonable.

The publishers disagreed and it was at this stage that I threw my toys out of the cot and behaved in the most childish manner possible.

I told them that I was going to rewrite the second half of the chapter so that no sex at all was mentioned.

This is what I submitted to them.

These are the changes to the chapter ‘The Smell of Last Night’s Fingers.’

I have checked through the rules and it does fall within the requirements of the publisher.

“After line 36, I would like the word CENSORED to appear in Franklin Gothic Heavy font and in letters large enough so that the word stretches across the entire line, like this:


Page 76 – Page 80: Remove everything from Page 76 line 37 (Pete, who was . . .) to Page 80 line 8 (the final line of the chapter) and replace it with the following:

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately I can’t go any further with this chapter because of a caveat placed into the contract by the publisher, which I signed without reading properly and which states:

We do not permit any explicit or graphic descriptions of sexual situations featuring individuals under the age of eighteen. This does not mean that we are opposed to the characters in a story being involved in sexual situations for character development, because that does occur in real life, however, we want to make sure that all the details of the sexual situations are avoided. Avoid descriptions of the act entirely, specifically the following: kissing in a sexual manner; sexual touching; visible signs of arousal or sexual attraction; nudity of underage individuals; double entendre.

I never read contracts because I (wrongly) assume that they are sensibly written by sensible people. I am a British writer writing about British things that happened in Britain in the 1960s and aiming this British book at a British audience.

Unfortunately my publishers are American.

Because the characters in this chapter (and indeed, throughout the book) are under age and therefore still at school I was informed that I was only allowed to include a sex scene if I made the characters eighteen years old (the age of consent in the US being eighteen and not sixteen like it is in Britain). This is obviously ridiculous as the whole point of this chapter is the fact that the characters are under age. I tried to argue my case with the content evaluators, but to no avail, and they informed me with some finality that since they are US publishers “characters need to be eighteen.”

It strikes me as supremely hypocritical that a country where High School shootings are becoming more and more commonplace that a publisher would restrict the use of sex in a book because the characters are under age. If they feel that banning scenes of two under age people having sex will discourage other under age people from having sex, then, by using that same rationale, why not ban the use of guns in books, particularly guns that are being fired – at other people; surely that would discourage Americans from shooting each other on regular basis.

Recently I went to see the film Kick Ass 2, which had, unfortunately been cut by US distributors so that the film could be seen by a family audience. Every single word of bad language had been removed from the film, although, strangely, all the violence had been left in. The message that this version of the film clearly sent out, therefore, was this: It’s OK to stab someone in the eye with a sword but it’s not OK to use the word “fuck”. Also the original Kick Ass film had an under-age girl, not only stabbing people with swords but shooting them and using the word “cunt”.

These films were made in a country where, via music channels, children are exposed to soft porn disguised as pop videos; where disgraceful reality programmes such as Teen Mom – she’s a mom and a teenager, geddit – pander to an audience that’s all but dribbling into their TV dinners – but don’t worry, despite the fact that she was under age when she had sex, the network didn’t show the act that got her pregnant in the first place. It’s a country where rich criminals posing as evangelists roam the networks extorting hard earned cash from gullible poor people who are labouring under the misapprehension that God actually exists.

Ah, America, you are a land of contradictions.

Anyway, for those of you curious enough to find out what was missing from this chapter (you’ve read this far, so you must be showing at least some interest) you can read it by the going to the 25th entry of my blog Travels With My Rodent, where the chapter originally appeared. All you need to do is type www.travelswithmyrodent.blogspot.com  into your internet browser and then search for 25: The Smell of Last Night’s Fingers.

In case you’re wondering where title of the chapter comes from, let me just say that it ends with the line “And, of course, I let him smell my fingers.”

I hope you enjoy what you find there.”

So there you have it – a childish, knee-jerk, reactionary rant that was inappropriate, xenophobic and pointless all at the same time.

The Content Evaluators understandably rejected it as it must have seemed plainly obvious to them that I had quite clearly gone totally insane – or worse, judging from what I’d written I had turned into that most intolerant and despicable of creatures –  a Daily Mail reader.

I eventually got over myself and rewrote the chapter using a different situation and with the ages of the characters changed to eighteen.

And do you know what?

It actually improved the story.

So what the hell do I know about anything.

This is the back cover of the book. The rather arty back-and-white photograph is actually a selfie taken on my phone.

The book is available on Amazon as both a paperback and a kindle book. The kindle book is only £2.67 (cheap).

So that's my ruthless sales pitch over.

Have a Happy New Year!