Author Archives: Brian G Ross

Pastures New…

Today, The Fiancée© said goodbye to her first born as he moved away from home. He hasn’t gone far – just a half hour drive away, into student accommodation, where he will stay while he studies to be a midwife – but that distance may as well be the other side of the world.

I have got no children, so I don’t know what it feels like to help pack away their things, bundle them into a car, and drive them off to waters unknown. This is as close as I have come to that feeling of loss and emptiness. I have only known him for a couple of years, and I obviously don’t have the history with him or the wealth of memories that The Fiancée© does… but even I found myself fighting back tears this afternoon as we helped him set up his new home.

The Fiancée© is crying – right now, as I write this – but I know that while there is a lot of sadness in those tears, for all the times she has had with him over the last nineteen years, and I know she will miss him greatly; those tears also represent the joy of possibility, of how his life will progress, and what he will achieve now that he is beginning to walk without her guidance.

I am proud of her emotional strength, and of how she has handled this difficult day. I know she will be fine – they both will – but today marks the next chapter for each of them, and I will be here to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Being Keith – Review…

Ooosh!

I like Keith Lemon. I know he is extremely crude, and a lot of his humour (most of it, in fact) is not very sophisticated and therefore not to everyone’s taste, but there’s something about his innocence and infectious nature that appeals to me.

And yes, I know he is a character.

Being Keith is a fictional account (told in his distinctive patois) of his success leading up to the production of his movie, Keith Lemon: The Film. He details how he rose to prominence as an entrepreneur, quickly winning Businessman of the Year 1993, and his subsequent rise to fame on television… as well as documenting anecdotes about all the women he has banged along the way. And I do mean all the women.

Keith Lemon is a funny guy, but it has to be under the right circumstances. Off the cuff and unscripted. He’s great on Celebrity Juice, where he is allowed off the leash, and he even works on segments of This Morning when he is giving out advice, because you can see him trying to push the boundaries of the restrictions of daytime television.

But unfortunately, a 250 page book is not the way to experience Keith Lemon, because what makes his personality work doesn’t translate very well to the page. Sure, I chuckled on a few occasions, but there’s only so many times you can read about him smashing in the back doors or finger-banging a Z-List celebrity before you switch off and start skim reading.

This is maybe worth looking at if you’re a die-hard fan of Keith, or if you just have to consume everything he does (and they are likely to be the only ones reading this anyway), but it is certainly not essential, and definitely not his finest hour.

Skeleton Crew #17 – Uncle Otto’s Truck…

Word count – 6,900

Uncle Otto’s Truck is about a old beat-up pick-up that has a bit of an evil streak. After being used as a weapon itself, the vehicle sets out to get his revenge on the murderer. Uncle Otto tries to tell his nephew this, but he is waved off as being crazy.

Stephen King certainly likes writing stories about vehicles that come to life (most famously in Christine)… actually, any kind of inanimate object. In that respect Uncle Otto’s Truck treads familiar territory. I’m sure he would be the first to admit that it’s basic horror, but when it’s done right it can be very effective, and here he is mostly successful.

Although this story starts off quite slowly, once it finds its footing it picks up nicely and is a good read through to the end. Another fine addition to this collection.

Recommended ⇑

A Lazy Covid Summer…

I have never defined myself by the job that I do. I mean, I couldn’t, I’ve had so many of them. Maybe it would be different if I was a doctor or a lawyer, but for a number of reasons – at least some of which are of my own making – those things are not in my wheelhouse.

I haven’t worked since the tail end of March – that’s a shade over five months. At first (despite the circumstances that forced this upon me) this was great. I was getting paid by the government to sit at home. It gave me more time to relax and to do all those things that a full time job just didn’t allow me to do. I devised quizzes, I did jigsaws, I made board games. I read a lot more. If nothing else, it certainly put a stop to those 4am alarms!

I enjoyed staying at home, because it gave me a lot of time to myself. I know a lot of people don’t fly solo very well, but I’m one of those people who really doesn’t mind their own company. But as the lockdown restrictions were finally lifted and people started to find their way back to the workplace it began to sink in that something was missing.

The Fiancée© has been working through the majority of my furlough period. Because of the cutbacks and the fall in the market, her salary is less than it used to be, and she now has more work to do as well. Most days she is there longer than she should be (it’s 8.30pm as I’m writing this, and she’s still there) and although I’m sure some of her colleagues recognise this, she definitely doesn’t get the appreciation or the credit that she deserves.

Most days she arrives home tired and drained, cursing the circumstances that have turned her career into something that it never should have been, and looking forward to the day when all of this is behind us. Although she has the occasional moan about colleagues not pulling their weight (and whom amongst us can say otherwise?), or her job not being completed properly when she is away, she really doesn’t complain as much as she has every right to, and certainly not as much as I thought she would.

She tries to forget work when she is home, but not as hard as I would like her to. She still replies to emails, and gets embroiled in back-and-forths on WhatsApp, even when she should be putting her feet up and winding down for the night. It never stops. Even when we’re in bed, she will usually take one final look at her inbox before hitting her pillow.

I like that she is dedicated to her job, and I admire her committment to making sure everything is done correctly and to the highest standard, but it concerns me that she takes all of this on herself. That’s just who she is though. I’m not going to be able to change those things about her, and I don’t want to anyway. I just need to ensure she isn’t stretching herself too thin.

The point of all this is… I need to be back at work.

Maybe it’s a simple case of pride, or maybe it’s some residual macho gene that is tugging inside me, telling me I have to get out there and bring home the bacon. I’m not sure. Either way, I don’t want The Fiancée© to monopolise all the headaches that come with running a household, or to be the only one whose shoulders are weighed down by the stress of it all – I need to share some of that burden with her.

She deserves that.

Skeleton Crew #16 – Survivor Type…

Word count – 7,800

Survivor Type is about a medical student called Richard who is smuggling heroin on a cruise ship. When the vessel sinks he is stranded on a tiny island and has to figure out the best way to stay alive. Turns out, eating himself is the way to go.

The story is written in a loose diary form, which serves to convey the passage of time without resorting to awkward and sometimes tedious narrative shifts as day turns to night and back again. Richard also has a shit-ton of the hard stuff to get him through the pain.

Survivor Type is suitably gory in its depiction, and King has stretched a little medical knowledge a long way. It’s the kind of tale that appeals to a more primal level of reader… fortunately, I can dig that.

Recommended ⇑

What I’ve Done This Month #August…

I didn’t do any fresh writing this month, which – although a little disconcerting – is not altogether unexpected. Covid-19 has knocked everything into a spin, which is certainly no excuse, because I have absolutely had more time to write, but it has tweaked the way I go about my days. One good thing about the pandemic is that I am no longer having to wake up at 4am. That’s something I won’t miss.

I am slowly making my way through my exhaustive filing of stories, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting with all the stuff I did far too many years ago to mention, I have filed and dated everything (in colourful lever-arch folders) up to and including 2012. By the time I write next month’s update I am confident I will have it all squared away and be able to dedicate some time to coming up with new stuff.

Over the last few days I have submitted a lot of stories to various markets, primarily to get back in the habit of doing it. There was a time when I’d get a response from a pubisher every day. Now, I go many weeks between replies, and that is mainly because I just don’t throw my stuff out there the way I used to. Well that is going to change. 2020 has not bee a good year, but I’m determined to salvage something positive from it.

In other news, I was officialy made redundant this afternoon, so – with the thought that such an endpoint was coming sooner rather than later – I’ve been looking for other work as well. I don’t have anything yet, but I have a few irons in the fire, and I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back out there earning a wage rather than taking the furlough payment for granted.

Take care folks!

Skeleton Crew #15 – For Owen…

Word count – 300

For Owen is just pure indulgence. It’s nothing more than an opportunity for King to dedicate something to his (at the time) seven year old son. He’s a proud parent, of course.

For Owen is a sweet poem, and I’m sure little Owen got a kick out of it when his dad read it to him, but it has no real business being in a collection, sandwiched between Nona, a story about murder, and Survivor Type, which is about cannibalism.

That being said, it would be kind of heartless for me to ding such a sweet and thoughtful addition, so I’ll give it a pass.

Recommended ⇑

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A CBC and a Chem-7…

Doug Ross

Covid-19 and the national lockdown that a lot of us have gone through have allowed many of us to fill our days by catching up on some television that we may have missed, or in my case, that I can’t really remember watching.

Carol Hathaway

ER ran for fifteen years, between 1994 and 2009. I know I watched it in the early days, and that I was still watching it when the millennium turned, but I couldn’t tell you when or for how long. Maybe three of four full seasons at the most. To be honest, it was on for so long, and it was one of the most successful shows of all time, so it feels like almost everyone my age has seen at least a handful of episodes.

Mark Greene

What I do remember is that I was one of those hold-outs who were trying to tell everyone that Chicago Hope was the better medical show – newsflash: it isn’t, but it’s still worth watching.

Kerry Weaver

Over the last few months I have been taking it all in from the start. I’m halfway through Season Six – so only 125 of the 332 episodes it produced – and although there are a lot of major story beats that I can remember (including one I’m just about to get to – sorry Lucy…) most of it feels new. And for the most part, it holds up extremely well. It’s no wonder that it is considered the genesis of modern medical shows.

Peter Benton

Consuming the show in such a manner is certainly not revelatory these days – in fact, it’s almost exclusively how the generation coming up watch TV (if it’s even fair to call it TV, seeing as so much of what we digest is courtesy of Netflix or Prime, or any number of other streaming platforms) – but watching it this way means that I have zipped by six years of television in only a few months. If this was the nineties, I’d still be waiting for the Season One finale, and I wouldn’t yet have met Weaver, Korday or Luca, nor would I have lost Doug or Susan.

Susan Lewis

It’s funny to see characters discuss the internet and email, back when it was in its infancy, and mobile phones before they became ubiquitous, and it’s interesting to see how some characters have developed while others have stagnated and fallen into the background, the latter of which is the kind of thing the average viewer may not have noticed when there was a full week between episodes and a full four months between seasons, but when one episode just rolls into the next without you even leaving your seat, you pick up on these things.

John Carter

There is certainly something to be said for the way we used to watch TV. You had time to anticipate what was going to happen, and you would talk about it with your family and friends. There’s really no such thing as a cliffhanger when there is literally no space between the fade-out of one episode and the fade-in of the next. I’m not sure the kids today would even have the attention span or patience necessary to deal with a show that only throws out one forty-two minute chunk every week. But I don’t think those days are coming back, so that’s probably all right.

Yes, I know. I’m just an old man yelling at clouds.

But grumpiness aside, if any of you haven’t seen ER – and there can’t be many of you – you really are missing some classic TV.

Skeleton Crew #14 – Nona…

Word count – 13,800

Nona is about a man behind bars who retells the story of how he met an enigmatic woman when he was in college, who subsequently led him down a dark path and co-erced him into committing evil deeds during their brief time together.

Throughout the course of the story it becomes increasingly clear that all is not what it seems with the tale being relayed to the reader. Nona doesn’t do anything new, and although it is quite long, it’s written confidently and King crafts a good relationship between the protagonist and the mysterious woman that may very well not have been there at all.

After a run of three stories that I couldn’t vibe with, it’s nice to have something that is much more satisfying. One of the better entries in this collection.

Recommended ⇓

America Unchained – Review…

Dave Gorman is an underrated British talent. He’s a very funny guy, but he has never had the recognition that others in his line of work seem to get. I think it’s because he is not so much a jokesmith as he is a storyteller, and attention spans sometimes only extend to one-liners.

America Unchained is about Dave’s attempt (along with Stef, the girl holding the camera) to drive from the west coast of the United States to the east coast without giving any money to the large corporations – you know, the chains. It’s a task that doesn’t sound all that difficult, but when you start thinking about it you soon realise just how much of our world is run by big business.

Gorman buys a big and brash second-hand muscle car that guzzles copious amounts of petrol and (because it’s older than he is) is rapidly running out of miles on its clock. Can they make the trip successfully? Is it even possible these days? What is it like to sleep inside a dog? All these questions and more are answered…

Gorman infuses all his anecdotes with humour and heart, and although most of his stories are there to show the kind and generous side of Americans, there is no shortage of the crazy ones along the way either.