Thursday, 17 January 2013

Train Station

“What are you doing?”
(Laughing) “What are you doing?”
“Why on earth do you keep doing that?”
“It makes you look stupid”
“And thoroughly ridiculous”


The door opens and a National Rail officer shudders as he catches a corpulent woman, curly and dishevelled, spread eagle with a brown Labrador wearing gold sunglasses positioned between her thighs.

The image of a panting pup and its tumescent tongue lingers in the National Rail officer’s mind that night as he lies in bed.

Needless to say masturbation is not an option. Yet he cannot sleep.

He tries counting sheep but each innocent aspiring lamb shank transforms into a guilt-ridden horn-dog tied to the pudgy woman’s leg.

The next day he confronts the CCTV operative but in his sleepless state he has forgotten to shave and neglected to wear any socks—he realizes this as soon as he enters the security room and loses the will to live.


The grinning guard looks up at the National Rail officer from a swivel chair and waits for an explanation. Visits from colleagues are infrequent to say the least and he is intrigued. To the guard’s surprise the unkempt National Rail officer leaves the room without saying a word.

‘Did he just have a minor stroke?’ The security guard thinks to himself as he flicks the camera switch to zoom-in on a voluptuous woman with big lips on platform nine.

“There’s a bluddy dog on the platform,” This time he shouts it aloud.

He decides not to act on it because, although he looks and thinks like a builder cruising the streets for ‘girls to ride on the wagon,’ he’s actually quite shy around women that he finds attractive. If he had a therapist he would know that his penchant for fat birds was nothing to be ashamed of but in this version of reality he remains love-struck with silence. As if cupid had shot him with an arrow doused in anxiety.


“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“EXCUSE ME, why are you looking at me like that!?”
“I don’t think you should use this train station anymore miss”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“I…I…I just don’t think you should come around here anymore”
“I’ll come where ever I want thank you very much”
“You can’t do that with dogs”
“Do what?”
“Are they not allowed on trains?”
“Well no they’re not, but that’s beside the point, you can’t use this station anymore miss. You have to leave.”
“Make me”
“You don’t even have any socks on you foolish man”


The National Rail officer feels his cheeks burn up like Guy Fawkes and notices that the Amazon River has begun flowing down the arc of his spine. His eyes flood with dread and he turns around to run. ‘Where am I going?’ He does not know. ‘How stupid do I look?’ ‘Will I ever work here again?’ I do not know. The only thing he knows is that one of his shoes has fallen off and his heel is dredged in sludge. Probably dog-shit. Horny dog-shit.


“That’s the guy from earlier. Fuckin’ ‘ell what’s wrong with him!?”

The security guard zips up his flies and ambles down towards the platform. He is very nervous about the prospect of meeting the curvy women with big lips. Nervous to the point of forgetting why he is descending into the dangerous world of the ‘camera-zone’.

‘I don’t even have to talk to her. I can just watch her.’ He thinks as he sits back down in his swivel chair and spins around the full three-hundred-and-sixty degrees.  He frames the camera with lusty precision and looks down at the tent forming in his jeans. One more spin. Just for luck.


It’s a sunny day in Brussels and the National Rail officer has been absent without leave for a month. He is sitting outside a café in Brussels, sipping milky tea, reading the paper, about to embark on a tour of the European Parliament. Bliss.


It’s a dull day in Derbyshire and the security guard is standing in WH Smith holding a magazine called ‘BEST OF BESTIALITY’ with the headline ‘CANINE LINGUS”. With eyes like a pill-head the ex-CCTV officer, sacked for negligence, looks upon the glossy cover in awe at the chubby woman and her pooch.


It’s a sunny day, it’s a dull day, it’s an overcast day, and it’s a stormy day. It’s everyday. The carnal woman has been immortalised in print, forever basking in the glory of her fleshly desires.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Cool Guy and the Fosters Guy

I heard about the abandoned theme park from a couple of Australian ‘dudes’. At first glance they seemed like carbon copies of the guys from the Fosters adverts, but on closer inspection it became clear that only one of them deserved that pejorative judgment. Ignoring the ‘LAD’ as he repeatedly tried to flick a card down an Austrian girl’s top, I spoke with the cool guy about the Nazi’s. I had just got back from the Topography of Terror, which as the name suggests is a visual and textual exhibition mapping Hitler’s rise through 1930-1945. He had visited a real life concentration camp that day so, although we were in sync, he was very much ‘winning’.

Amid a backdrop of: impromptu fridge art, shisha pipes, people using beer bottles as water pistols, accusations of false identity, oversized foam dice games, constant camera flashing, potatoes being thrown at people on the street, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, prescription pills, and good old Aussie lechery, the cool guy told me about his visit – harrowing, mind-blowing, “must-see” etc. – and I told him about mine – disturbing, interesting, “worth a visit” etc.

Keen to avoid his pal – who at the time was scrunching his face up like a bulldog to pose for a photo with two blonde girls – the cool guy mentioned some other places that he thought were worth checking out. The TV tower is the tallest building in Berlin and it affords you a panoramic view of the insomniac city with characteristically affordable beer. The Brandenburg Gate is a big sightseeing place that didn’t excite me that much. And the abandoned theme park sounded lush.

He described a ghost town, but unlike the conventional image of cowboy saloons and empty bars, he painted me a picture of humungous ferris wheels, dodgem cars and rollercoasters, guarded by German gypsies, hidden within one of Berlin’s city parks. “The best thing about the place is the way its just been left there to rot. If there wasn’t so much birdshit about the place, you could probably get the rides going; everything’s in the right place still.”

I had read about somewhere like this in North Korea and was just about to tell the cool guy when the lairy fella stumbled over and started barking loudly in my ear about how many beers he downed through a funnel when he was at the theme park. He rolled his jeans up and showed me a graze on his left shin from where he had tripped over a piece of rusty train track. I wondered if his wound was capable of becoming infected as he rambled on at me. Later that night he got kicked out of a nightclub for throwing up on a DJ. The bouncers are built like oxes, but they are not used to that kind of thing and it was pretty funny to see them attempt to drag the drunkard outside. They tried their best not to scrape him against the floor, but for some reason he went limp and allowed his, already-damaged, leg to trail behind him; an act of defiance that with any luck could have led to an amputation.

I never saw him or his cool mate again.

The next day I set out for the abandoned theme park with a half-Russian/half-Algerian blonde gay stripper, a short Hispanic football-fanatic American, and two miscellaneous mute Turks.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Hire a bicycle and sample the city for yourself… Dare to shop in the Russian Black Market… Marvel at Stalin’s Birthday Cake… Navigate the labyrinth of cobbled streets… Catch a train to the seaside… Ride the lift 48 floors to see the city from the eye in the sky… You will never forget Riga.

These short and sharp fifty-four words sold me a dream.

I was looking online for travel destinations and Latvia struck me as somewhere that somebody like me would like to go. It’s in Eastern Europe, it’s not famous for binge drinking Brits and it has a history of Soviet and Nazi occupation – my two favourite megalomanic movements in recent history.

I had been saving my wages up for a couple of years. I didn’t really know what for because I couldn’t drive a car and I didn’t have a girlfriend. My mother even cooked me an ample supper every night at eight - so there was no real need to eat out either. The only time I spent any money was at Bingo on Thursdays with Mum or online poker if I had the night off work. It was my work pal Jamie who suggested that I spend some of my money and go on holiday, so I told him about Riga in our next shift together.

The Arcade was empty so I called Jamie over to the fruit machine I was playing.
‘Hey mate I wouldn’t play on that if I were you,’ he said.
‘Why has somebody just won off it?’ I asked.
‘No, but you know what Boss gets like.’
He was right I could lose my job if I was caught playing the machines while on duty but it was a slow night and I only had enough change for a few spins.
‘I’ll risk it,’ I said coolly.
‘Yeah ‘cos that’s what you are… a risk taker!’ He was laughing like an idiot.
‘You’re putting me off,’
‘You’re just pressing buttons, there’s no skill involved its just luck,’
My last credit ran out and I was seriously thinking about withholding Riga from him.
‘I’ve been considering what you said Jamie,’
‘About you buying a prostitute?’
‘No of course not. About going away on holiday,’
‘Oh yeah?’
‘Yeah and I’m actually quite excited about it. I’ve been looking at fights to Riga and they are very affordable,’
‘Not really what I had in mind, but I’m game – Russian girls are hot and young and easy – there must be loads of them there just waiting for you and me,’ he nudged me in the arm and winked as if this was a funny joke.
‘You’re game? You want to come with me?’
‘Well yeah, its not really a holiday if you go on your own is it. And they have cheap beer over there. One of our English pounds is worth a Ford Mondeo, and a tenner gets you a mansion with slaves,’
‘Are you just describing that, grossly, misleading scene in the film Eurotrip where they visit Bratislava and imply that the whole of Eastern Europe is a litter-strewn hell-hole?’
He didn’t answer me, but just walked away laughing and shaking his head, as if I was the stupid one.
I booked our tickets and spent the following few weeks re-reading ‘Stalin’s Legacy’ in ‘The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century’.

It seemed that Jamie had other ideas about the trip. He was hell-bent on ruining my cultural experience; he wanted to get drunk every night we were there and ‘mix with the locals’. I knew what he meant by ‘mixing’ and I didn’t approve. I planned to look and learn from the country, but all from a safe distance. A safe distance that didn’t involve the confusion of inebriation or the awkwardness of nakedness.

The night of our flight Jamie sent me a link to a website about Riga:

Hey Petey-Boy check this out – www.horrorstories/ - if we’re lucky we’ll meet a couple of blonde bombshells ourselves!

The website had a story from an aggrieved Englishman who had just returned from Riga. He declared that a friend and he were seduced by two stunning Latvian girls – ‘blonde, tan and leggy’ – who offered them sex, took them to a bar, and then called upon four Russian Mafioso’s to beat them up and steal their wallets.

There was another story about a Welshwoman, who was accosted in the street by an angry mob who, she claims, mistook her for Monica Lewinsky. They chanted ‘CIGAR GIRL, CIGAR GIRL’ and took her to a tobacco stand before giving her scarring burns all over her arms and legs.

Another person told of a harrowing trip to Riga that resulted in an illegal organ transplant leaving him with a deficient left kidney and a fear of all mustached men in aprons. He couldn’t face French restaurants anymore.

I was mortified by these revelations, and the dozens of others like them. They instilled a profound fear within me that threatened to ruin my trip.

* * *

We arrived in Riga at ten in the morning local time. Jamie slept during our one-hour taxi drive from the airport to the hostel whilst I surveyed the new landscape for dangers. Every person that we passed on the street seemed dangerous, they eyed me with fear and envy as if I had done each of them a personal wrong. Every building looked as if it was harboring a secret Soviet crime syndicate; the jagged mismatching architecture that I had originally fallen in love with on Google Images had become the signifier of unfamiliarity and deceit.

The streets were long and straight and even from within the taxi I could feel the chilling tingle of the Baltic wind as it surged through me. The taxi driver seemed friendly enough but he kept on trying to speak to me about Latvia, he pointed out all the historic monuments as we passed. I recognized some of them from the travel guide and some of them were new to me but I couldn’t concentrate on anything apart from his aggressive accent and disconcerting twitchy eyes, as he turned to address me grinning wildly each time.

When we got to our room in the hostel I began unpacking my folded clothes into the drawers provided while Jamie shouted ‘Get ya hole out’ to the potential evil seductresses on the street below us.
‘Will you stop that please Jamie, I don’t want any of those Russian girls knowing that we’re here,’
‘Oh come off it mate. I’m single and obviously you’re single, so lets get some dirt-cheap booze down us and do what all normal people do on holiday and have a good time. Boys will be boys remember!’ I hate it when he uses idiotic clichés to try and persuade me to do idiotic things.
‘But girls will be girls Jamie, and here in Latvia that probably means that they will take you to the butchers to get your testicles cut off and sold on the black market as Armenian soup,’
‘God where’s your sense of adventure. I’m bored of the room now, lets go and find a restaurant, I feel like a ten course meal – maybe roasted hog or heart of lion and sautéed caviar,’
‘For one that would be disgusting and secondly-’
‘-Oh don’t even bother ruining something else for me. Lets just go and do whatever it is that you want to do.’

I wanted to emulate the dreamy paragraph that first inspired me to visit Riga. So we started by going on a bike ride. We hired two peculiar looking bikes and to Jamie’s delight his one had a bell and mine didn’t. Every time he overtook me he smiled like an imbecile and rang the bell repeatedly, this was bearable until about thirty minutes into the journey when both of my legs cramped up and he was stupid enough to carry on going as I stopped to stretch out.

I was in the middle of a city park, sitting on a bench overlooking a small pond that was populated by mallards. My forehead was sweaty and my trousers had ripped at the bottom from getting caught in the chain so many times. This wasn’t playing out like it had in my mind. I realized that Jamie was long gone and probably sitting on a park bench himself: telling a young Latvian girl how he was the Prince of Wales or something. I decided to try and find my way back to the bike shop via the freedom monument, without Jamie and his juvenility I could try and take in some of the cultural magnificence.

As I approached the plaza I saw two men in army uniform walking towards me with rifles in each arm. I tried to swerve out of their way, I thought they were going to shoot me and ended up crashing into an elderly man with small metal badges all over his bomber jacket. He shouted and spat at me in Latvian, but my mind was frozen with fear and I couldn’t get any words out. He got up and walked away in disgust. From my vulnerable position on the ground I saw the two men with guns walk from one side of the plaza to the other, just as Wikipedia said they would: they were the Guards of Honor.

I spent the night recovering in the room with a complimentary ‘Zelta’ beer that was given to me by the over-friendly hostel barman, in an attempt to get me to join in the karaoke.

The next morning I was surprised to find myself alone in the dorm. I hadn’t seen Jamie since he sped away from me in the park – maybe he had found a Russian girl? I felt strangely smug as I imagined him walking through the door and breaking down into tears, admitting that I was right to be cautious and apologizing for being so dismissive before. This bubble of righteousness was broken though as he busted in with a big grin on his face.
‘My oh my! Look what the cat dragged in,’ he said gleefully.
‘Don’t talk about yourself in the third-person Jamie, its crass and its, its ostentatious,’ I replied.
‘Guess who got some poontang last night?’
‘I don’t know, Johnny Depp?’
‘No you buffoon it was me. I met this girl called Shell on my bike ride, we were both stood in this big open square laughing at two army men walking back and forward in front of a big phallic statue,’
‘The memorial statue!’ I didn’t mention my altercation there.
‘Yeah that’s it, I asked her if she was going to ‘remember any more statues’ from her stay in Riga,’
‘Oh, spare me the sordid details and tell me she wasn’t Russian,’
‘Nah, she was an Aussie,’
‘Well that’s something,’
‘Oh stop acting like you’re not jealous.’

I persuaded Jamie to come with me by foot to explore the labyrinth of cobbled streets with the aim of finding Stalin’s Birthday cake. But this romantic notion of rambling around the quaint avenues and alleyways, appreciating the historical relevance of the city was ruined by Jamie’s impatience and inelegance. He wanted to drink at every bar we walked past and eat at every restaurant without any thought for our safety.
‘Nobody mugs you in the day, that would be wrong, that would be like… daylight robbery,’ he said not knowing how stupid he sounded.
‘We’re in the Russian quarter now Jamie, and I don’t think the Russians care what time of day it is.’
Jamie wasn’t the only thing detracting from my experience though; the sporadic street signs were very unhelpful and didn’t correspond with my travel map, I couldn’t ask anybody for help because that would give me away as a tourist and leave me vulnerable to potential Mafioso’s. Instead, we trudged along the mazy streets arguing about who would get the window seat on the way home.

That night as I lay in bed waiting for Jamie to come home drunk, I thought of how Jamie had ruined each day for me so far, ruined each potentially enlightening experience with his whimsical ways. Resentment grew inside me, to the point that when he came in and attempted to boast about his near-death encounter with a bouncer, I managed to blank him out completely.

In the morning Jamie was surprisingly amiable and even stole me a croissant from the communal fridge in the hostel kitchen, I didn’t approve of theft but I appreciated the gesture all the same.

Together we set off for the Russian black market; Jamie was as excited as I was frightened, but I kept on telling myself that if the travel site recommended it then it had to be safe. We found the market surprisingly easily and decided to enter. It looked like any other outdoor market I had been to with stalls of goods and little paper price tags; the difference was that everything on sale was clearly stolen. There were single car stereo speakers, half scart leads, muddy garden spades and pitchforks, old leather jackets, tubes of Colgate toothpaste, scrap pieces of metal, car number plates, oily spanners and wrenches, mobile phones and even counterfeit Britney Spears CD’s. The people stood behind each stall looked fierce and evasive, the majority of them had high and prominent cheekbones that made their eyes look sharp and sour. Jamie was looking at some Soviet metal badges, like the ones I had seen at the Freedom Monument, he looked to be communicating affably until he got his camera out and took a picture of the stall-keeper. This triggered an outburst of horribly aggressive shouting. I felt a bead of sweat run down my armpit. Jamie came over in fits of laughter.
‘Did you see that? He’s obviously not very snappy-happy hey?’ He said.
‘Yes I did see, and I think we should leave, look Jamie, he’s pointing at us to his mate. We’d best leave, that one over there has a sharp garden cultivator in his hand and I’m not about to find out why,’
‘Oh come on he’s probably trying to sell us a bargain.’
At that moment a secondary wave of sweat spread all over my back and forehead, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster as the harsh foreign chatter surrounding me blended into one evil chant of malevolent design.

I ran straight out of the gate, pushing my way through crowds of mothers and children jumping over greying beggars and knocking over their diminutive change pots in the process. I didn’t stop running until I reached the hostel. I wasn’t going at such a pace by the end but still, I was jumping between steps and struggling enough to alarm anybody who saw me.

About an hour later Jamie came home with a Soviet military map of Riga that he called a ‘memento’ of when I ‘lost the plot and went AWOL’. I planned to steal this memento of his and put it up in front of my computer desk. It was too late to go to the beach so the only other option was to find the eye in the sky. I hoped the city would seem more safe and satisfying from a hundred metres high but when we got to the hotel, the lift had a sign across its door reading: ‘OUT OF ORDER’.

Jamie wanted me to run up the forty-eight flights of stairs with him but I still wasn’t recovered from the run earlier so unfortunately I had to decline. I went to the Hotel’s casino instead.

A strange sensation rushed through my body as I walked into the casino. I marveled at the slot machines, the craps table and the roulette wheel. A neatly dressed porter with a reassuringly good English accent took my coat and hung it up in a locker. I changed up some cash for chips – about a hundred pounds worth – and started on the slots as a warm up. The bright flashing lights and primary colours seduced me like a toddler in a toyshop. I became accustomed to the ‘bring, bring, bring’ of the reels spinning-in exotic and inventive symbols, symbols that exponentially outclassed those of the machines I work on at Harrisons Amusements. I found myself about fifty quid up, if my calculations were correct, and moved on to the blackjack table. I admired the professionalism and accuracy of the dealer as he dealt me blackjack six times over half an hour. I was beginning to make some serious money here. I noticed my face in the reflection from the silver table lining and to my surprise I was profusely smiling. A waiter approached me with a cocktail of some kind.
‘Compliments of the house sir.’ He uttered coolly as he handed me the glass.
I drank the cocktail and it tasted sweet like the nectar earned by a hardworking bee.

I started placing bigger and bigger bets and they handed me bigger and bigger cocktails. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged somewhere, like I was wanted. I moved between craps, baccarat and poker, slowly building up more and more money – I was on the up like the Soviet Union under Stalin.

I felt wonderful, I was in Riga and it was wonderful. A slim blonde girl with a lot of makeup sat next to me at the roulette table. She put her chips onto the same spaces as mine three spins in a row, and on the third spin she clinked her glass against mine since ‘red seven’ came in and we had both won a lot of money. I didn’t place any chips down for the next spin but she pointedly leaned over me, rubbing her breasts against my side, to place one chip on ‘black two’. As she did this I could see her black thong rising above her tight jeans and for the first time in my life I thought to myself ‘what would Jamie do?’ – Jamie would probably grope her ass and ask her to go to the toilet for a quickie.
‘Do you want to cash in some of those chips and take me for a drink at the bar?’ She asked in an incredibly sexy Eastern European accent.
‘Champagne and blueberries?’ I replied flirtatiously.
‘No. Balsam!’ She insisted and led me away from the table by my hand.
‘Champagne and blueberries – I’ve never had champagne and blueberries in my life – where the hell did that come from.

She took me to a private bar in the back and opened a bottle of Balsam. I remembered this drink from a travel site that described it as a ‘creosote-like potion’ so I knew I was in for a rough ride. She poured me a handful of shots and urged me to down them one-by-one. The bitter spirit caused my mind to start playing tricks on me. My vision was blurry and the room was whirling like a spinning top finally losing its balance and toppling over. I thought I could see four enormous guys in tailored suits enter the room and walk towards me. I thought I could feel them reach into my pocket and extract my wallet. I thought I could see the blonde girl give them the cash from my casino chips and laugh as they handed me a hand-written bill of two thousand Lats. I thought I was writing down my pin number and account details as one of the guys held a baseball bat to my head. I thought I felt an earthquake in my skull before… nothing.

* * *

I woke up in the street with a searing headache and the taste of iron in my gums. Jamie was bent over me gently clapping at my cheeks.
‘Are you alright man? I mean, you don’t look alright and your wallet and keys have gone, but are you… okay?’ He asked me sounding genuinely concerned. ‘I guess you were right about being cautious,’
‘Hate… to… say… it… Jamie… but… I told you so.’ I mumbled before falling back to sleep.