News clipping. Sunday 23/03/2008

Solicitors in England and Wales are complaining over a new scheme which sees accused persons bailed to the legal representative’s home address in failed remand applications.

Members of the Law Society took a petition to Downing Street to have the initiative halted claiming that it put solicitors’ lives at risk.

The pilot scheme was trialled in Yorkshire for three months towards the end of 2007. Rules laid down by the project stated that any accused person who was given bail at court had to live for that period of bail with the solicitor who represented them and supported their bail application.

From its implementation the scheme saw solicitor’s challenges to remand applications at court fall by almost a hundred percent. The only challenge lodged during the test period was in the case of a young male accused of soliciting gay men for sex.

Plans are now being put in place to have the scheme rolled nationwide before the summer.

Rufus Broadback, a solicitor in Skipton said: ‘It’s outrageous. Totally unacceptable. They’re expecting us to take home people accused of all sorts. Only yesterday I woke up to find a registered sex offender playing squash on the Nintendo Wii with my daughter. I’ve got two shoplifters in my box room and a man accused of glassing his brother dossing on my sofa. You should see the milk they’re going through.’

Former woodwork teacher, Jim Stevins, a magistrate at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court shrugged. ‘If the solicitor thinks the accused is no risk of offending during the life of the trial and genuinely believes their client to be innocent, I can see no reason why we can’t bail them to go home together. If they don’t see a problem, then we don’t. Otherwise we’ll remand them.’

On Thursday in York a woman accused of harassing her family with text messages and ‘phone calls of an obscene nature was offered bail by the presiding magistrate. The woman’s solicitor declined the offer politely stating: ‘I’m not having this bloody nutter in my house.’

Concerns have been raised following a number of incidents at solicitor’s homes. Ninety-five burglaries, forty-seven serious assaults, nearly three hundred instances of criminal damage and one buggering have been reported. A tearful Scarborough solicitor of twenty years Pat Flugger said: ‘I live in constant fear. My bedroom door has locks on it. These people are scum, we shouldn’t have to put up with them. I’ve lost three plasma TVs and my pedigree dog, Bumper, was sold to gypsies. I’m sure someone is dealing crack cocaine from my kitchen. My house reeks of cannabis and urine. I’m using five cans of Oust a day. They were defecating in the fire place.’

‘Lives by the sword…’

The scheme was championed by controversial Barnsley MP Simon Peace. The National Socialist stated: ‘It’s a simple case of he who lives by the sword…’ It’s about time some of these liberal bigots had to live with the consequences of their own actions. I’ve got no sympathy for them.’

Peace, who has implemented public birching and restorative justice whereby complainants are given the opportunity to ‘physically remonstrate’ with offenders in specially designed ‘Straightener rooms’, stated that the scheme had been a resounding success. ‘We’re keeping criminals off the street or placing them in the care of the people who want to see them at liberty. It’s working a treat. A few people have had their rose-tinted spectacles taken off.’

‘Solicitors are angry, they are beyond angry, and many have said that if this continues they’re going to do more conveyencing’ – Ben Digest, solicitor

When asked about the incidents of criminality at solicitors’ homes Peace said: ‘Hey, eggs and omelettes.’

Diary. Saturday 16th December 1989

I’m working the Christmas tills at ASDA, Old Mill Lane, Barnsley. Contracted to thirteen hours a week I’ve done fourteen point three five. Net pay £32.02. After Margaret Thatcher has taken her slice that means I’ve been grafting away for £2.23 an hour. Ding dong merrily on high. I do the early evening shift, ten minute bus ride from the Four Lane Ends in Mapplewell. It’s dark and snowing. Santa Claus has got pissed in the grotto and been carried out unconscious by two blokes from the warehouse. A sign hanging over the sleigh announcing an emergency trip to Greenland re some ‘Ninja Turtle’ figures. The brass band in the foyer is playing ‘Silent night’ and I’m wondering how much these odd looking vegetables are per pound.

I’m here for beer money, plain and simple. Still towing away at my A-levels split between Darton High School (English Literature and Economics) and Barnsley Technical College (Biology). What am I going to do with these when I get them? Earn a fortune writing a novel about the nutrition system of a Giant Redwood?

Andrew Guest, my mate from the Tech, is working the cooked meats. Stacking shelves. I’m being chatted up by some older woman with a sun bed tan from Monk Bretton who supervises the checkouts. Black hair, work smock buttoned temptingly low. She insists on resting a manicured hand with bright red talons on my thigh as she goes through the cash drop box routine and instructs me on the electronic scales with a couple of ripe melons. Carol, can you just talk me through that one more time…? Another, more matronly woman, sits at the other side of me.

A green clip on tie and green smock have been supplied by ASDA. A white shirt (my own from Burton’s) completes the corporate ensemble. My hair in curtains. Big earring. Madchester and the baggy look. Big black leather shoes that fasten with a buckle and some bleached jeans.

What have I learned? Always to arrange my notes with the Queen facing the same direction. And did you know that ASDA stands for Associated Dairies?

The Lizard King

Diary. Friday 11th May 2007

I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps ‘Oh,look at that.’ Then – whoosh, and I’m gone and they’ll never see anything like it ever again, and they won’t be able to forget me – ever.

– Jim Morrison

I’ve often harboured a vague belief (or perhaps hope) – vestigial, unspoken – that 1960s Shamanic Doors’ front man Jim Morrison was still alive. It makes sense. His Parisian death faked so he could hide from fame, dodge the Rolling Stone cover sessions, the groupies, the parental attentions of the police department, and concentrate his attention on poetry (he writes peculiar, fractured stuff – I have a copy of The New Creatures and The Lords. My judgement is reserved). Such is my hope that I thought I saw him once – still wearing battered leathers, in the Chicago Rock Cafe, Salisbury, Wiltshire, September 2001, tucking into a burger. I approached him for a celebrity squiggle on my soiled paper napkin. Understandably he was perturbed. Upset. Confused at first he became angry. Suddenly I felt guilty that I’d blown his cover. Nervously I imagined CIA assassination squads in the shadows, pretending to examine Status Quo gold discs on the wall, Rick Astley’s mounted tie, Bono’s charity auctioned sense of modesty beautifully framed against red velvet. All the while greedily fingering service revolvers in their black suit pockets. They still hunted this man: the perverter of the American Dream. The singer who masturbated live onstage in front of Hippy teenagers. Listening to Jim’s outburst of filth in Chicago Rock it was strange to discover that since he last bawled his way through the L.A. Woman album – while Britain was struggling to come to terms with decimalization and Marc Bolan’s glittered face – he had developed a disconcerting West Country accent. Perhaps now I will have to accept that the man I interrupted mid-bite of his fat-sodden cheeseburger really was called Derek and he was indeed a rough cider brewer from Taunton, not a lost icon of the Counter-culture. I say this because I was sat in the Black Bull at Midgley outside Wakefield yesterday afternoon, having lunch, when I heard Will Young’s take on the Doors’ classic ‘Light my fire’. I know it was released some time ago but I can’t say it registered with me before. Surely if big Jim, the Lizard King, surely if he were still alive he’d have to seek Young out and give him a serious towelling for that absolute aberration? It nearly put me off my gammon.

Since Morrison’s death he has been seen in San Francisco, the Greek Islands, an obscure midwest radio station and working in a video shop in Salford, wrestling with a Manchester accent – The Guardian, Wednesday December 8, 1993

Diary. Sunday 3rd September 2006

I’ve been lounging in front of the telly for most of the day. Don’t you just love digital TV? I don’t mean Sky 1, Rupert Murdoch and all that rich man’s telly – which just seems to be the Premier League everyday, with The Simpsons on at halftime and some shiny new American drama that’s all style and no content – but the free channels that come through a digi-box. I think they’re great. I remember the massive adrenaline rush of excitement surrounding the launch of Channel 4, when as a nation we all gathered ‘round the small highly reflective glass screen to watch Arthur Askey play the spoons. I mean FOUR CHANNELS. FOUR BLOODY CHANNELS! We were spoiled for choice. Now a mere twenty odd years later there are dozens upon dozens of channels to watch thanks to the binary wonder of digital TV.

Of all the channels available through that magical little box my personal favourites are UKTV History, More 4, and ITV 3. Not because they offer anything new – the so-called new comedy on BBC3 is routinely appalling – but rather because they bring comfort and cosy familiarity through repeats. Bloody hell, I say to myself, I remember this episode of ‘Lovejoy’, it’s the one with the antique silk Kimono worn buy the Prince Regent! Blimey, look at the size of those mobile ’phones on ‘Chancer’! For fuck’s sake, did people really wear those Diana Princess of Wales shoulder pads like in ‘Howard’s Way’?! This is TV as a time machine. A portal to a world that’s gone – that slowly dissolved away. It’s like seeing a well-cherished Ford Sierra Cosworth hammering down the M1 while you’re driving your CO2 emission friendly computer controlled automatic people carrier – each programme represents an era that vanished without you noticing; and that lost time only becomes apparent through comparison. Digital TV allows me to step back inside that world – into safety and reassurance. To walk again with Tinker and Eric around the musty antique shops of rural Essex in 1985, looking for Oliver Cromwell’s typewriter, to get the horn to Susannah Harker in black leggings (‘Chancer’), and re-dig all those barren fields of mystery with cider-quaffing Phil from ‘Time Team’. It’s amazing. Sat comfortably on my mint green leather settee, a ginger tea and a half-soaked hob-nob in hand, I have become a Time Lord. I stride chronology like a Colossus with my remote control.

However, it’s not all good. Linked with the invention of the remote control, this massive glut of channel choice positively encourages a short attention span. In the good old days you HAD to watch a bloody programme through to its final credits or it meant a power struggle for whose turn it was to switch over, or even worse getting up off the arse and brain cradling comfort of the sofa to turn over yourself. These days it’s flick – Montel Williams talking to reformed gun-land pipe-smoking crack addicts who now deliver an anti-drug message through the soul-saving melody of a barbershop choir; flick – Alan Titchmarsh skiing down a glacier explaining how the Pennines were created and the best time to plant Nasturtiums; flick – Ainsley Harriot conjuring up a Sunday lunch from road kill; flick – former Tory cabinet Minister and jail bird Jonathan Aitkin spreading the word on the cholesterol busting effects of Tantric sex (‘I haven’t ejaculated since 1988, it’s served me better than a truck load of Oil of Olay…’). And on and on and on and on…

There’s no encouragement to watch anything through to a conclusion anymore. Repeats and the option to record have devalued the viewing experience. Who shot JR? Who gives a fuck? They’re making lemon flambeau crispy duck using Fairy Liquid on UKTV Food! I’ll watch it later. We’ve lost that shared community of TV that we once had. We can now watch all we want when we want – all you need is a limitless amount of free time and a TV. And thanks to the encouragement of a lax social security system (and, in my case, prolonged sick leave) millions and millions of people have wonderful opportunities for slackness. But is it healthy? Is it a good thing? (“I’m here live in Norwich to discuss this phenomenon…” so says another Kilroy-Silk genetic clone, surrounded by pasty individuals). This slow breaking down of the ability to concentrate? Through a kind of reverse evolution brain sizes will dwindle to until the average British unemployed man will have a cerebrovascular system that wouldn’t look out of place surmounting a walnut whip – the rest of the skull will be filled with an amniotic fluid consisting of Special Brew and Pot Noodle. Or perhaps even shrink all together so that the head looks like a sock puppet fist bobbing about between two shoulders.

Being off work for so long I’m feeling the effect myself (believe it or not). Due to endless free time undermining my ability to recall facts, figures or even simple words, I can now barely memorize a three item shopping list and have to confess that I have totally – and I fear irretrievably – forgotten my own middle name. I’m fairly certain it begins with ‘A’, and that it’s not Adrienne. Some days I might as well be drinking lead laced coffee or liquid mercury, such is the debilitating effect of idleness and TV.

The strangeness of this fractured viewing experience isn’t helped by the persistent irregularity that the programmes are repeated. I sit there thinking, ‘surely I’ve seen Fred Dibnah knock this chimney down today already?’ (“Did you like that?” – Bloody hero) or ‘Isn’t this the episode where Jim Rockford (dew-dew-doo-doo-diddle-iddle-doo-doo-dew-dew) gets hit over the napper with a shovel? Wasn’t that on this morning?’ There’s no system to it all. It’s all a bit disorientating, especially to someone to whom the change from Monday to Tuesday, Wednesday to Friday, and so on, means very little in real terms anyway. To see Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes crack the same case on three separate occasions in a single day can be a little bit disturbing. Even more worrying when I can’t remember how he solved it the two previous times. ‘My God, Watson! The deadly South African Pit Viper! My cane!’

One of the strangest things on digital TV are the multitude of games channels. All populated by ‘phetted-up, bubbly big-titted blondes with a years supply of Clarins make-up on their glistening faces, speaking a deranged and potentially infinite monologue to a single camera for hours and hours and hours on end in an attempt to make the viewers – sad, lonely anti-social misfits masturbating fruitlessly in their homes between syrupy cups of tea and microwave meals – call premium rate telephone numbers in the anorexically slender hope of huge cash prizes if only they can solve the piss-takingly easy conundrums, anagrams and spot the difference photos lifted straight from the ‘Bumper Book Of Puzzles For Boys Aged 6’. I find myself watching them just to see what tangent the presenter will come up with next to keep the momentum going. It’s like watching someone’s personality unravel in front of your eyes. ‘Oh, I need a caller, I went shopping for milk this morning – such a selection! I need a caller! Come on, cash prize! Spot the difference! I need a caller! Do you think that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was right in his assessment of the characteristics of genius – both Absolute and Commanding – as exemplified in his poem ‘Kubla Khan’ and further elaborated on in Biographia Literaria? I need a caller! Cash! Cash! Cash!’

And then there’s the wonder of reality TV. Real lives ripped to pieces. It’s like watching laboratory mice bumping around a big maze. Except it’s not real lives – it’s either lives that are dysfunctional to start with; e.g. ‘23 year old single Mum of ten, Kylie from Wolverhampton deals with day to day life as a trans-gendered heroin addict while trying to trace her long lost father who was a gay man in debt who sold his sperm to Kylie’s 25 stone, ganja tootin’ Rastifarian 65-year-old mother’. Or potentially ‘normal’ lives put under pressure – ‘we see Weston-super-mare Conservative Counsellor Jan live six months with Gypsies, this week Jan sells heather and learns how to make new VIN plates for Mitsubishi Shoguns, then gives blowjobs to sales executives in the car park of the Birch Service Station on the M62 for a fiver a go.’ I remember an episode of Alan Partridge years ago when Alan was desperately pushing increasingly inane outlines for programmes to a BBC commissioner – ‘Youth hostelling with Chris Eubank!’ That warped future is now here. Who knows, perhaps today’s TV programming is a massive, sprawling exercise in post-modernism.

And never before has our own nation’s rancid, chapped arse cheeks been so championed as in the British versions of the Jerry Springer format – Trisha, Jeremy Kyle and their psychic-blood-sucking ilk. Lard heavy chavs from some cancerous breeze block housing estate charging onto the stage, Elizabeth Duke golden clowns swinging like the tiger teeth on a tribeman’s ebony chest, fingers pointing with the absolute certainty of those who from birth have been relentlessly poisoned by E numbers, screaming: ‘he’s my brother and it’s our baby, so back off Dad you only ever tupped me up my arse so it can’t be yours!’ And so TV justifies and perpetuates their ugly lifestyles by even considering them worth showing.

Thankfully help – of a kind – is at hand. Since I’ve been ill and off work for almost nine months it’s only by watching ‘Judge Judy’ that I’ve been able to keep in touch with reality. Something that I’ve had a slender enough grip on at the best of times. But Judge Judy’s is a world populated by selfish, egocentric morons caught in some ugly behavioural spiral who desperately want restitution and public vindication over the ownership rights to a dead gerbil. Just when you’re in your own safe, friendly little world and start to think – aren’t people great! – because the only ones you deal with are your own cuddly friends, devoted other halves and supportive family – some redneck with a huge ginger goatee appears on screen demanding $2,000 for a scratched fender incurred when he clipped a limping Grandmother on a pedestrian crossing. Judge Judy Sheindlin bitch slaps those inbred, selfish motherfuckers down with her deadly common sense! Go, Judy! Go, Judy!

TV – I love it.

Anyway, I’d better go, as I’m ready for another syrupy cup of tea and I think I’ve just heard the microwave ping.

Gordon Brown and schools

Is it just Barnsley or are new schools going up everywhere? Every village I drive through it’s the same story. The existing building torn from the map and a new one in its place. Great Houghton [1]. Darton [2]. Darfield [1]. Hoyland Common [1]. Mapplewell. Bolton-on-Dearne [2]. Brand new schools. And what’s even more shocking – overnight. No messing about. No hanging around. One minute there’s elaborate stone work or glazed red brick Victoriana, where for over a Century generations of children have been force fed facts about the Battle of Hastings and Richard the Lion Heart. German verbs beaten into their backs with canes. Where they have benefited from the character building experiences of exclusionary team sports and compulsory bullying. The mental torture of long division. Then… Whooshta. All change. Old building ripped down and a new one unfolded in less than twelve hours. Straight out of the box. Connect flap A to socket B, a quick twist with an Allen key – away you go, brand spanking new Secondary Modern all ready to be burnt down in the next half term.

I blame Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown whose media approach as Prime Minister in the wake of Big Tony is to adopt the sly, professional oily grace of undertakers when they’re craftily flogging you the more expensive casket. I met him once, at a tea and biscuit drive for left-handed awareness. The Staincross St. John’s Church Hall. Gorged himself on jammy dodgers and those iced biscuits that no one ever seems to know the names of. The marbly-looking things. He carries with him the faint aroma of embalming fluid and the sub-zero temperature of the mortuary. Anti-septic. I sat there, nervously dunking a bourbon and chocolate buttercream sandwich into an over-sugared milky coffee, fixed to my wooden chair by his impenetrable glass eye. And then that smile. Chilling. Tom Sharpe’s The Throwback. It is the smile of a hastily reanimated corpse. A nervous tick. It’s not a smile at all, it’s the automatic reaction of a poisonous sea anenome when it’s poked with a sharp stick. At best a polite social response without any emotional context. Always accompanied with that hint of embarrassment at being caught doing something so frivolous. Levity. Is this Scottish Presbyterian guilt or an automaton struggling with an unexpected procedure? And then there’s the frantic way he digs his tongue repeatedly into the side of his mouth as if he’s trying to dislodge grainy biscuit crumb that’s worked its way down behind his gums.

You just know that his handshake is ice cold.

It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open…

But to get back to schools. The quiet scandal of new school building appals me. I mean, look at them aesthetically to start with. Flat pack from Ikea. They come in two types. The wood cladded primary schools (Ercöl) and the secondary schools with the funny purple tower near the reception (Breestå). Identical. It’s the Tesco approach to education. The appalling, comfortable homogeny of it. Victorian buildings dragged down and replaced with balsa cladded chipboard. Bastards. And then we have to consider that somebody somewhere is making a bloody fortune. And as usual it’s the tax payer that’s forking out for it. All of these new buildings are knocked up under the auspices of Private Finance Initiatives. A 1992 Conservative idea. In 1997 New Labour re-branded them ‘Public-Private Partnerships’. A government license to print money for dodgy firms. These schemes are used not only schools but also hospitals, road building, prisons, everything. The system works simply – private firms build the school and then we the tax payer ‘rent’ it back from them over the next few decades. The pay back rate on the cash is astounding. It’s the equivalent of a bloke going into Dixons to buy a 96 inch flat screen TV. Advertised at £2,500 he obviously can’t afford it outright. However, if he makes a small regular payments of £90 over the next 360 months he can easily spread the cost and go home with his shiny new gadget here, now, today. And the TV will ultimately cost him £32,400. And have stopped working at some point in 2009. Sound like a sensible approach to public spending? It’s a financial time bomb ticking away. A typical primary school – complete with swings, a really big chess set and a hopscotch grid painted on the playground tarmac – will end up costing £200,000,000,000 by the time it’s paid off. By which point the gerry-built structure will be on the verge of collapse and will need to be replaced by a new one. Why didn’t they ring Ocean finance? Or those friendly people at Picture? Gordon Brown on the ‘phone from number 11. ‘How much do we want to borrow? Twenty-five billion.’ Shields the mouth-piece and silently queries the sum with Tony Blair who’s putting together an Airfix model of a Harrier jet to play out the bombing of Baghdad on the lounge carpet with Jack Straw. John Prescott stood on hand with the enamel paints. A steaming choca-mocha. Tony nods, an enthusiastic thumbs up. Gordon beams brazenly. ‘Yes, twenty-five billion,’ he confirms, rictus smile. ‘And that will cost us how much to repay in 30 years…?’

A fucking fortune, mate, that’s how much. A fucking fortune.

And will these new school buildings make the children who occasionally see fit to attend them any better educated? It’s doubtful. Let’s face it – extremely doubtful. E-numbers, bad and disinterested parenting, TVs in bedrooms, hooded tops, the rise of the X-Box and the text message assault on basic spelling and grammar stand in the way of a decent learning. And what about the insidious influence of hip-hop, I hear you say? Too right. The Wu Tang Clan and the baggy, fluorescent homies that float in their wake have kicked the seven shades out of erudition. Ho’ chasing motherfuckers. Bring da ruckus. The Panda Pop trash culture of reality TV and Jeremy Kyle. A new Dark Age looms. Illiteracy and misogyny. No respect unless it be for wealth and third rate celebrity. The year zero of 1977 perverted and turned up until the white noise of 50,000 screaming Lorraine Kellys is deafening. School buildings are the least of education’s problems.

And another thing. Why am I pushing my long irons, what’s that all about?

I blame Gordon Brown.

[1] Ercöl
[2] Breestå

Diary. Saturday 2nd February 2008

Studies indicate that regular shift work shortens your life [1]. The rapid, gut-sickening alternation between days, afters and nights alters the state of consciousness and mucks about with the internal rhythms of your body. It’s not healthy. It’s not good for you. There’s plenty of evidence supporting this fact. Enough examples. Take the police, for instance. Bobbies completing their 30 years service, big retirement dos in the Police Bar, faces flushed with cheap subsidised lager, a fine spread of award winning pork pies and organic cheese laid on. Leaving present of a gold carriage clock. Framed presentation memento of handcuffs arranged between a pair of numbered epaulettes and a wooden truncheon. Stories from half-remembered night shifts, leathering some prisoner in the back of a Vauxhall Senator. A life of freshwater angling and a bleach white holiday home on Cyprus stretches before them. Three years later they’ve kippered it. A brief mention in General Orders. It’s with regret that… Name spelt wrongly. Over and out.

It’s all down to the shifts.

I’ve just finished nights. A guest appearance out in the sticks up at Rivendell. 2100hrs through to 0700hrs. Heartbeat. Blue shirts, tunics and gentle queries from concerned pensioners about the legalities of organizing a raffle in aid of the PDSA, all to a 1960s soundtrack of Herman’s Hermits and the Monkees. I wasn’t expecting much activity. No calls came in. We toured the high lands out towards Rohan and then retreated back to the station. The weather was atrocious – as we fully discovered when we finally looked out at 0100hrs after some serious online gaming. A good two inches of snow had fallen in between my last peek outside and killing Nazi stormtroopers on ‘WW2 Sniper’. So it was out onto the bleak beauty of the Kirith Pass towards Mordor in a blizzard, closing the road. It was bad. In true Heartbeat tradition I was anticipating a life or death moor land emergency. Some nubile blond hiker (Swedish) had become separated from her party of walkers. Alone, down to her last bit of Mars bar, scrounging in her pockets for broken flakes of Kendall Mint cake. And she’s Bi-lingual!!! gasps a woolly-hatted nature geek with beaded raindrops on his glasses. Leave it to me… I reassure them. With no other preparation than turning up the collar of my coat, I set out. The hero, pushing my way through a blinding wall of hail, snow and sleet, across snow sodden heather to the stranded rambler, cradling her wet, cagouled body to mine as Aretha Franklin screams out ‘Save me’, played through the atmospheric Banshee wails of hurricane force winds.

But no.

The gritters came. Orange hazard lights through darkness and the picturesque dreamscape of falling snow. The road ploughed. We re-opened the Pass and it was back to the warmth and the faded Victorian certainty of Rivendell nick playing games on miniclip.com.

Finished at 0700hrs, going off duty back at my home station in Gondor. In bed by 0720hrs after some orange juice and a squint at BBC News 24. Gales, ships floundering in the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic, people being chopped up with machetes in Kenya. Heating racked up to full. Deep asleep, swaddled in my duvet, then up. 800 calories on the cross-trainer and some weights. I was soaking in the bath by 1400hrs under the luxurious glare of the ceiling lights. Cobalt blue Radox ‘Muscle soak’ in huge perfumed clouds rising over my semi-submerged head.

I’d left the door open so that I could see John Lennon. He was leaning in black and white against the wall next to the cross-trainer, looking at it with suspicion. He was just at the tail end of his Fat Elvis phase. Between Help! and Rubber Soul, heading towards 1966 and Revolver. Sat at home in Weybridge, scoffing Quality Street and Fish suppers. Bottled Bass and marijuana. The top button of his white Levis surreptitiously un-fastened. A black polo neck sweater hugging his body.

And then it happened. I was staring vaguely into space, thinking over something Lennon had said about writing ‘You’ve got to hide your love away’, a revolving riff in my head, all 12 string Rickenbacker and Paul McCartney melodic bass, when the brushed steel door handle on the bathroom door evolved itself into a face. It was a definite transformation. From inanimate object to living thing. No mistake. Without making it obvious I peered closer. It had a long rectangular head, circular surprised mouth, two small eyes which a moment before had been screws and a long nose that from my vantage point resembled a pipe that was nipped down at the end.

I stared at John, John stared at me. The face looked for all the world like one of the emotionally ambivalent characters from the animated film Yellow Submarine. Relieved, we agreed that it wasn’t a Blue Meanie. We were in trouble, but things could be worse. It definitely wasn’t a Blue Meanie. I was partially comforted by the fact that I’ve experienced this sort of thing before. The Renaissance head of an old man used to regularly appear in the Artex swirls on the ceiling of my bedroom at my mother’s house when I was tired or daydreaming. A Da Vinci cartoon in plaster and brilliant white gloss emulsion – the peevish, avaricious undershot chin and menacing brow with wiry eyebrows. So I wasn’t phased by this, naked and lacking a testicle, though I was.

John munched the comfort of a Caramel Keg and searched his pockets for Rizzla papers. He hoarded those soft centres.

A short burst of electronic chatter. It was speaking. The sound was coming down its nose. A nose that looked more and more like plumbing work the longer I stared at it.

Lennon raised his eyebrows, a cigarette paper on his bottom lip. ‘I think he’s talking to you,’ he said.

The buck-passing Scouse tunesmith.

I could see the door handle’s beady eyes spin on their threads and turn towards me.

The electronic noises slowly acquired coherence. I strained to hear.

Trumping sound down its nose, the door handle said: ‘You look bloody knackered.’

Grinning, Lennon pulled out a Zippo ‘Sgt. Pepper’ commemorative lighter. Bought for £29.99 including postage and packing from the back of the Radio Times. He lit up.

I turned on the warm water.

‘And this,’ I thought to myself, sinking lower under the bubbles, ‘is what it’s come to…’

[1] BBC News, 20/04/2005