The Winged Man and a Darkness that Stretches Forever

Another vivid dream – the lack of quality sleep since Christmas seems to have increased my capacity to remember my dreams as I wake up. And for once, it’s not a football one.

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An immaculate and silent man flies through space, holding my body and another to his bosom for safety. His slick back hair has an air of Clark Kent and there is calmness all around.

We land on a desolate planet and he drops two of us to the grey, dusty ground. I look to my left to see a babbling old woman who has been my travel companion for hundreds of years since we left Earth. But neither of us have ever spoken, not to each other or to our guardian. He just keeps his eyes ahead, always striving forward through the stars to a final destination maybe he doesn’t even know.

Off he flies again, I have a slight panic as maybe this time he won’t come back to pick us up. We’re left in the middle of an everlasting desert. Solid grey below and to the horizon and above a pitch black sky with no stars to be seen. The exosphere is stark and looks like the perfect glass casing of a snow globe, protecting us from the black void of nothingness beyond it.

The woman beside me looks lost and she is digging into the earth with her bare hands, picking up the grey sand and nibbling on it, she has a wild and ragged appearance and her eyes tell me she’s no longer in control. The old her has long gone.

Silence turns into a slight hum that continues to get louder and louder alongside the beating drum of me heart through my ear canal and I feel like my head might pop. Suddenly, in the distant sky comes a flash and I assume it is him, returning to collect us. It is not.

A meteor in the sky picks up speed and becomes bigger and bigger, the wind picks up around us and a grey sandstorm begins at knee level. The woman starts to babble and panic, burying her head in the freshly dug ground. The meteor hits the line on the horizon – followed by a blinding white light and complete silence.

A Buzzing sound

 

Buzzing

 

 

Buzzing

I awake to see the line on the horizon is now shifting in size and appears to be approaching us quite quickly. A tidal wave miles high – this is how it all ends, hundreds of years after my birth, in a galaxy far, far away. I sit down and look at a pocket mirror I’ve kept as a memento from the last planet we landed on. My face is weathered, skin dry as parchment and lacking any colour, harsh lines fill my forehead. My hair is thin and wispy. I look my hundreds of years in age.

A mile away or so.

This is it. I panic like never before as I think of everyone I’ve ever known. Everyone I’ve loved and hated and everyone they have loved and hated are now long gone into dust. Everything means nothing but the littlest things mean everything. This is where I will stand and draw my last breath.

A loud bang as the sound barrier is broken and in a flash we are picked up and dragged off into the night sky, above the waves and over the vast sea which is now covering the entire planet.

For the first time I notice his wings, the silent man who has never uttered a single word is suddenly our angel.

Except now I realise I must continue to live. Could that be worse than dying?

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The Football Anxiety Dream – Fucking up a League Title

I’ve been having really vivid dreams the last few nights, and even though my sporadic blog posts look like I only dream about football (I really don’t) today will see another football post. It’s probably because Liverpool play Chelsea in the semi final of the League Cup tonight, I’ve got a ticket and I’ve been getting nervous early.

Now, the dream, I’m sure all of my friends who are sports fans have had similar dreams to the start of this.

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An evening match at Anfield, a sell out crowd and a rare occasion where the Kop is in full voice, the banners and flags are out and there is an actual atmosphere. I should have known then that it was a dream.

I’d made an angled run from the right hand side of the box in behind Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, it was as easy as it looks on the telly. Gerrard had played a 45 yard,Hollywood ball to my feet, I’d shifted it on to my right and slotted past Victor Valdes. The stadium erupted and the ground felt like it was shaking, tears started streaming down my face as I ran to the corner flag in sheer delight. I could see the tears streaming down the faces of thousands of grown men – pure happiness. Turning around at the corner flag I witnessed Gerrard sprinting towards me with his arms out.

We were nearly there, it was 1-1 and the league title was ours if we held on for another 2 minutes! Tremendous scenes.

Gerrard got closer and puckered up, giving me a massive sloppy kiss right on the lips just like he did the camera at Old Trafford that time, and that’s when it hit me…

…this wasn’t real.

I instantly knew it was a dream and I remembered that I was shit at football.

The game carried on nonetheless and for the next minute and a half of the match it was a blur, I wasn’t sure where I should be standing and the only pass that came my way bounced off my shin and went out for a throw-in just on the half way line in front of the paddock.

All of a sudden Lucas Leiva grabbed me by the arm and started shouting in my face and pointing at our box. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but Utd had a corner and I had a job to do. One last attack from Utd, if we see this out we are league champions of England again.

‘Zonal marking – shit – where the fuck am I meant to be standing – which space should I mark?!?!’

The ball is played deep into the box and I can sense the weight of Wayne Rooney’s head coming full pelt at me. I shit myself, jumped up and with both hands caught the ball. It was better than Simon Mignolet would have done to be fair but it was the biggest mistake I’d made in my life. A penalty, I’d given away a penalty in the last minute of a game against our biggest rivals and if they scored they would win the league, not us.

Gerrard came over to me, cupped my face and just shrugged. He was used to this level of disappointment, he had slipped last season after all. He’d be off to MLS without that league medal he so craved, we all craved for him. I’d ruined the end of Steven Gerrard’s top level career.

Rooney stepped up and slotted it home, the ref blew the final whistle and the Utd fans went nuts in the away end.

All I could think about was that even though I knew this was a dream, I’d have to move house and away from Liverpool when I woke up.

 

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Into the Family Home of a Man with a Bite

Before he went and bit an Italian on the field during the World Cup I had a dream about Luis Suarez. He has since left our shores for a crack at the big time.

Here’s what I remember:

Suarez Bite

My phone pings – (Luis Suarez has accepted your invitation for an interview – proceed to his mountain home).

His mountain home was in Cwmbran, overlooking the new town he had recently bought with his bonus from last season. I was chauffeur driven up by my dad in a limo which was bullet proof, but only down the left hand side. We have been told to worry about snipers on the mountain. Suarez, as I’m sure you’re all aware, doesn’t trust the British press, and even though I love him he doesn’t know that and the team of Uruguayan snipers are hidden away and ready to pounce at any moment. I’m a little scared.

We arrive and he is very charming and funny. He takes me through his living room to the kitchen where his wife and children are sat happily around the large dining table. He offers me a drink of mate, which makes me feel very welcome, and I play some lego with his children. We make a recreation of Anfield in just 5 minutes and it looks better than the real thing. On the television in the kitchen Jan Molby is talking to Jim White about that goal against Utd in the 80s that was lost for years as it was during a broadcast strike.

Attention back to Suarez and I ask for the WC. He points me upstairs and asks me to use the en-suite in the master bedroom. I climb the stairs and it strikes me how calm and natural the day has felt so far. Even though I’ve not got much material yet he’ll be really relaxed when we do get down to talking on the record. The bedroom opens out onto a balcony at the back of the property. The curtains rustle and the wind picks up through the room. It’s weird that the doors are wide open. A click goes off in my mind. My life flicks to black.

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A Vivid Picture of a Past and Future Embrace

I’ve had a few dreams over the years that have felt as real as life – waking up still going through the emotions (and motions) of the dream. Once, I woke up in physical pain, clutching my stomach from the two dogs attacking me and clawing my guts out in my dream. And then there are the countless times where I’ve gone for a sleep walk and half woken up muttering something or other and trying to get out of the building.

Last night I was on a packed train heading to nowhere. Football fans of all colours were everywhere, there was little space to breath and the edges of my periphery blurred into a swirl of nothingness. It was hot, I was tired and could see no end in sight.

And then there was Pete – right in the centre of the carriage – someone to focus on and calm down. He smiled at me and motioned to come towards him. I managed to squeeze my way through the crowd, keeping my eyes on him to make sure I made it ok.

He reached for me as I struggled past the last sweaty, lager breathed lout, brushing aside the damp scarf briefly stuck to my face. It was the big bear hug of an embrace that brought it all back – oh and his big blue eyes – you could get lost in those eyes as anyone who knew Big Pete would tell you. I looked up at him – he seemed even bigger than I remember, as if I was his kid brother – and told him I missed him. Pete looked down, gave me a peck on the cheek and told me everything would be ok. I smiled and rested my head in his chest and felt safe for the first time on that train.

A smile and some tears arrived on my face at the same time.

Some dreams are a lot more vivid than others. And last night I woke up almost in tears.

RIP Big Pete – glad you’re still around somewhere nearly a year on.

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“I just know these boots will make me play better than you.”

I’ve always been one for weird dreams and night terrors where I end up outside or naked in the hallway. None of that last night (I hope), but I did have a strange dream that I remember an awful lot of. So here it is:

“In Group A with Germany, the Netherlands and Mongolia, will be…WALES”

Sepp Blatter held out the white piece of card with FIFA and WALES written on it. We would be first out at the World Cup, in a tough looking group.

There was very little of this going on in Stalingrad

There was very little of this going on in Stalingrad

After the public outcry to the successful World Cup bids from Russia and Qatar, Blatter had changed the game. Qualifying was exactly the same as it had always been and Wales was triumphant for the first time since 1958. But here is where things became different. The tournament itself would not be based on football. It was now a Hunger Games style fight to the death. Each country had a 4 man team, with a deeper reserve squad ready to replace the dead as each round passed. Only one team would advance from each group, the rest would be killed along the way.

I’ve no idea how I had been chosen, all I knew was that I had no choice, no experience and was shitting myself. The tournament was to take place in a re-construction of Stalingrad during the long battle between the Nazis and the Soviets in World War Two.

As we stood for the national anthems in a destroyed central square, Gareth Bale was resplendent in his gleaming white Wales away kit, slick back hair and brand new Pony football boots. I glanced down and they resembled empty tissue boxes dangling on his expensive feet.

“I just know these boots will make me play better than you” Bale gloated at the rest of his team.

We weren’t in this together, the superstar’s head had gone. And to be honest I didn’t fancy his chances of getting very far in those ‘boots’ and without a weapon.

To our right stood the Mongolia team, all looking a little bit like Genghis Khan’s warriors (I can’t help my subconscious!). Hand-to-hand I don’t think I’d last too long with them, but we’d have the speed to get away and attack from a distance. To our left was the German team – all looking tall, strong, clean uniforms and confident. The Dutch team had already disappeared somewhere.

The whistle was blown and within seconds Gareth Bale had taken a spear to the neck from the Mongolian team. His white shirt saw a trickle of deep red blood quickly cover his torso and his tissue box boots caught fire. He may have been the World’s most expensive footballer, but in the Hunger Games he was just another amateur. Real Madrid will not be happy.

Only 3 of us left, me, my mate Kettle (hope he’s reading this – he was the most helpful person in the entire thing) and one other person who I didn’t know. We ran for a battered hotel and managed to find a hiding spot on the top floor. There were loads of little rooms and cupboards to hide away in and plot (or in my case panic).

There was a lot of time to gather our thoughts. We kept the lights out and searched around for weapons. Blatter knew what he was doing. Hidden away in each building could be found countless weapons, but the majority of them were fakes. We saw the German team walk past outside. They were bold – right out in the open – but they should be because they’d managed to find assault rifles and a tank, a tank! I turned around to see my remaining teammates trying to do what they could with a slingshot, some wooden sticks and plastic toy guns.

We were fucked.

Kettle and I found ourselves up in the attic of the hotel – and discovered a treasure chest full of shotguns and ammunition. It was a start. But the guns had to be assembled and that’s where we were stuck. We had no experience. Luckily for us, snoring away in the next room was a friend with experience of the Territorial Army through his brother. He helped us assemble the weapons and we had ourselves a sniper shotgun. From the attic windows I could see a German within the crosshairs, slowly I pulled my finger towards the trigger, exhaled and bottled it.

They must have heard my fear and apprehension, because quickly the German team turned towards the hotel. The tank aimed and fired at the lobby. It was destroyed to rubble in seconds and it felt like the whole building would quickly collapse. We ran as fast as we could down to the first floor, keeping away from the eyes of the Germans, and to our horror discovered that the hotel was where the teams from Group B were waiting to come out and fight.

Team USA was in tatters. 3 members of the sitcom Modern Family lay fatally wounded whilst the fourth member, Jennifer Lawrence, was alive and scrambling for the trees which had appeared on the only surviving interior wall. Somehow, I knew she would live through this. 1992 Olympic Champion, Sally Gunnell, laughed maniacally from Team England’s safe spot opposite us on the 1st floor. When did she become so cold?

My eyes met with Gunnell’s and I paused for a second too long. As I turned away I was met by two German’s, aimed and ready to fire. I placed my hands in the air and then…

…I woke up. I’ve never died in a dream and luckily I didn’t last night again. Is it true that if you die in your dreams you’re done for in real life?

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“They are friends…not food.”

The soundtrack in my head accompanying my every move currently sounds a little like Sister Ray by The Velvet Underground, actually anything off White Light/White Heat. I’m tense, on edge, nervous but also excited at the possibility that I’m on the verge of working out something big that will forever change my life.

It’s the lack of sleep you see.

You get little moments of clarity in the middle of the night, when you’ve been awake for hours and tried everything to drop off, and your eyes won’t stay open but are too painful to close. But the moments of clarity never stay there long enough for you to grasp them and they just slowly fizzle away into the night. I’ve got the pad and pen next to my bed but I’m a night terror kind of guy and often I’ve moved them or thrown the pen across the room thinking it’s a weapon of some sort.

What’s worse is when I do sleep I often wake up in a sweat, mid-nightmare. All the lights are on where I must have got up in my sleep. Uncertainty fills the room and the shadows from the nightmare remain in your senses without ever revealing themselves. I’ve not woken up doing anything stupid for a while though, or in a different room, or outside. So silver linings and all that.

This has been going on now for about a month. Job uncertainty certainly plays into that. My natural fears for a future without stable employment. Something many of us find ourselves in at the moment. I’ve made the decision to move on, to be my own boss and to finally have a sustained crack at something I know I’m good at and can make a career out of – on my own terms. It’s a struggle, it always will be but that’s life isn’t it. You work hard to get where you want to be, and if it fails it’s nobody’s fault but your own. I’m happy with that.

Thank God (whoever your God may be as you read this) for the genuinely happy moments that highlight the days inbetween long hours of sleep deprivation. And hopefully I’ll see something funny on a bus or a train soon that gives me something to write about on here that isn’t so sombre.

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Top 40 Albums of 2013: The Top 10

And now to my Top 10 albums of the year. Judge me please.

10. Besnard Lakes – Until in excess, Imperceptible UFO

9. Deerhunter – Monomania

8. Savages – Silence Yourself

7. Bill Callahan – Dream River

6. Los Campesinos! – No Blues

5. PINS – Girls Like Us

4. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

3. Willy Mason – Carry On

2. Neon Neon – Praxis makes Perfect

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

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Top 40 Albums of 2013: 20-11

Here’s the middle section of my top albums of 2013, as we head towards the top 10. Numbers 20-11.

20. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

19. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

18. Mogwai – Les Revenants

17. David Bowie – The Next Day

16. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

15. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze

14. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

13. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

12. Devendra Banhart – Mala (I’m reluctantly putting this here as his gig in July was one of the worst I’ve ever been to)

11. Houndmouth – From the Hills Below the City

For Numbers 40-21 Click Here

 

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Top 40 Albums of 2013: 40-21

I’ve enjoyed making the list this year, though it has been difficult again and a few surprises for me. I’ve also included a soundtrack, debatable but I’m going with it, and an album that came out in December last year that I didn’t realise was out until January – so I’m keeping it in!

Again, like last year I’ve done a Top 40. Attempted a 50 but then sided with continuity. So here it is:

40. Poliça – Shulamith

39. She & Him – Volume 3

38. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind the Film

37. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

36. Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium

35. Low – The Invisible Way

34. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

33. The Electric Soft Parade – IDIOTS

32. Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter

31. Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle

30. Atoms for Peace – AMOK

29. Cate le Bon – Mug Museum

28. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

27. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

26. Daughter – If You Leave

25. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast

24. Wooden Shjips – Back to Land

23. Volcano Choir – Reprave

22. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

21. Future of the Left – How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident

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“If anyone throws chips at my head, they’re dead!”

Purple Aki

The night Purple Aki made a mug of me…and walked on by

I had an eventful trip to Brussels last week to watch Wales play out a 1-1 draw against one of the most feared sides on the planet currently. The Belgians will go to the World Cup in Brasil next summer with plenty of hope. I’d like to thank their people for their hospitality, the party atmosphere they created on the night, their beer and their waffles. But this isn’t about Brussels, it’s about my journey there and back and onward home once I had landed back in the UK at Manchester Airport.

It was a horrible flight, as was going out in the first place, but that is the risk you take paying peanuts to fly with Ryanair. The colour scheme, the congratulatory trumpet over the sound system when a flight arrives on time, the expensive food, the stench of damp passengers and the inexperienced pilots.

Take off and landing were horrible on both flights. Landing in Charleroi (Not Brussels as they advertise – that’s an hour away) I was sat next to two Canadian students. The girl crossed herself numerous times and as we touched down with a bump after a pretty hairy 15 minutes crashing down her boyfriend said loudly “We made it!”. Seconds later the wing on our side was on it’s way back up and it felt like the plane was about to crash onto it’s side. It was probably fine but I left a brown stain on my seat that day. Coming back was even worse, all the flight was bumpy and I didn’t think we’d make it down to safe ground. Add to that that I was surrounded by drunk/hungover North Walians, also on their way back from the match, and you can imagine the smells surrounding me of stale lager burps and farts. It really helps to think you’re going to die with those smells as the last thing to enter your nostrils before the piercing metal of the plane itself.

Before I forget, just before we were told to take our seats before landing in Charleroi there was a kick off between two passengers. A bloke stood up and tried to take out his bag from above and as he did so a suitcase slid out and hit the woman sat behind him on the top of the head. She didn’t get up at all, didn’t show any pain just started screaming at him:

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you motherfucker?!, why the fuck would you fucking do that now you fucking motherfucker.”

The man just stood there, holding his bag, looking dumbstruck and with the help of the air hostess tried to apologise, to further abuse:

“Get this fucking motherfucking cunt out of my fucking face, he’s a fucking idiot!”

The situation was only resolved by them having to fasten their seatbelts as we were 15 minutes from landing. They seemed to happily queue up to walk off next to each other, the woman with her child, the man with his bag.

The Night Purple Aki Shunned Me

I’ve lived in Liverpool for 11 years now. For those of you who are from the North West or have lived here long enough, you’ll all know the boogeyman like story of Akinwale Arobieke, or as he is known ‘Purple Aki’.* He has been a terror to young, muscly men for generations and a horror story for parents to scare their naughty kids with.

Swapping at Piccadilly for the second train home to Liverpool from Manchester Airport I sat down on a table of four. The seat next to me was empty. I can’t remember exactly which stop he got on as the memory still excites me into a fog, but after all these years and all these stories about Purple Aki, there he was in front of me, walking through the carriage looking for a seat. My palms went sweaty, I moved my bag underneath my seat nervously and part of me hoped and prayed he would sit next to me. But alas;

He didn’t ask me to squat for him, he didn’t want to touch my muscles, he didn’t even want to sit next to me. It was the realisation that I’m an old guy now, at least in the eyes of a known predator, and that makes me sad in some ways.

I got back to Cressington station at home and it was chucking it down. I stopped off for a bag of chips round the corner from my flat as I knew I’d have nothing in and it looked pretty empty in there. I politely interrupted a conversation between the guy behind the counter and someone who was chatting away to him, then apologised straight away. The guy said it didn’t matter, turned to me and shook my hand, introducing himself as Andrew. He had one eye, spit in his beard and was clearly just hiding from the rain. After asking me if I was a student I thanked him for thinking I looked so young, told him my profession and the following took place:

“Oh right, People are always telling me to write a book.

“I’ve got loads of stories me you see, always out and about.

“What’s your number?

“Would it be alright to contact you about writing my book?

“Where do you live?

“I live close by, we’re almost neighbours”

I was polite as I could be, eyed the guy preparing my chips and wondered whether I was about to be followed back to my flat. I didn’t have chance to answer him back after saying I didn’t have a phone (who hasn’t got a phone these days?! I should have given him someone else’s) as he was firing out the questions at an incredible speed.

I took my chips and ran for the next corner to get into my flat before he followed me out and found out where I lived. Those of you who know me well will realise how scared I must have been to 1. Run and 2. Risk getting my chips soggy by not putting them in a bag.

The moral of this final story is; forget about fast food, starve instead, it’ll keep you away from those head mentals.**

 

*Check out Purple Aki’s story if you don’t know it – Halloween is coming after all.

**I do not mean anything offensive by this term – it just fits in well with my style of writing – cart me off to prison if you must.

 

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