Novels & short stories

Johnny Wayward Says (Lines from the narrator of ‘Left of the Bridge’)

On his ‘mentor’ Cathy: ‘If you took away a mental grab-shot of her and got busy in a dark room you wouldn’t develop anything close to the real thing.’

Musicians: ‘You can’t beat them when it comes to ploughing on in the face of apathy, like a man who still enjoys sex even though his wife is reading a paperback over his shoulder.’

His wildest bedroom experience: ‘The others, that was like The Phoney War. This one’s unleashed Blitzkrieg and I’m running headlong toDunkirk.’

His accent changing: ‘Hang around here long enough and you can’t help picking up a bit of the old Dylan Thomas yourself. Even Wulfrunians like me find themselves rising and falling when they used to nail in full-stops with a hammer.’

Working on the night shift: ‘I knew the place from a TV advert that showed old ladies lovingly making cakes by hand. The only workers I could see were tattooed ex-dockers who smoked Park Drive with the thousand-yard stare of men who’d been given hell by the Vietcong at Khe Sahn.’

The secret of popularity with the opposite sex: ‘Imagine a car that’s been standing gleaming but unnoticed in the showroom for ages. Take it out and wrap it round a couple of lamp-posts and suddenly everybody wants one.’

Witnessing a parental lecture: ‘All that remains is for him is to confront his daughter in the kitchen and tell her in a voice loud enough to be for our benefit, ‘None of your gallivanting, young lady.’  ‘Gallivanting’ and ‘young lady’.  If he says ‘P’s and Q’s’ I’m shouting ‘House’.’

A bedroom: ‘Smells like the inside of a pantomime horse at curtain call.’

Siobhan’s Cardiff accent: ‘It’s the first time I’ve heard that accent when it’s not being used for transactional stuff like open or wrapped lovely, where to skip and who’s the hard man out of you lot.’

Temporary impotence: ‘I’ve been navigating without a compass for years and the last thing I need is the engine packing up on me.’

Events spiralling out of control: ‘I feel like I’ve fallen through the glass of a pinball machine.’

Hearing of other people’s sexual adventures: ‘This gives me the same feeling as watching that Fag End of Swinging London stuff on TV – that there’s a party going on somewhere and you’re not invited.’

Dating etiquette: ‘There’s a lot of pressure to follow the girl-meets-boy-swap-star-signs-get-laid-first-night script and not everyone’s cut out for that.’

Bluffing about his knowledge of London: ‘You can come out with this crap even if you’ve only experienced a city as a top-hat or an iron going round a board.’

Taking too long to use Siobhan’s number: ‘By then that piece of paper felt like dead currency. I might as well have been looking at a ten-bob note or a Confederate dollar.’

Finding his friend is gay: ‘I’m cringing at the memory of Bish calling Jeremy Thorpe’s boyfriend Scott of the Arse Antics in front of him. Me, mincing in and out of the kitchen until we used up that bottle of Camp Coffee.’

Encountering fledgling yuppies: ‘They look like bank clerks but proud of it, talking it up with their mates after probably franking the mail all day.’

Receiving rites-of-passage advice: ‘No one ever told me to be myself. Be anyone but him.’