A valiant but doomed attempt here to continue The Money Shop from the previous day, obviously interrupted within minutes of starting. I can’t necessarily blame myself for that - I clearly wanted to finish the story in the same exciting style and must have been asked to do something else instead. But I’ve noticed there’s an increasing trend towards scrappiness in this English book and I want to understand why. In my second term, I wrote 32 pieces, but in the whole of the third, I wrote only half that number. The general creative trend, which was soaring up and up before Easter, appears to have taken a nosedive. There must be a good reason for this. There are several possibilities: 1. Life’s just like that. Over the years, I’ve realised that creativity just works that way. You get into a project, then there’s a period of intense enthusiasm as you work tirelessly to realise your vision, until it naturally ebbs away and - unless there’s a damn good reason, like money - never comes back. You learn professional techniques to be able to work through the down times, but if you’re just trying to coast on enthusiasm alone, once your initial honeymoon period is over, it’s not really going any further. This might just be the first recorded example of that ever happening to me. 2. I was ill. I fell ill quite a lot when I was a kid. Thanks to an early bout of measles as a baby, my parents decided it was pointless me having the vaccine. As a consequence I had measles three times, German measles twice and, in one particularly bad month, mumps immediately followed by chicken pox. I also had recurrent tonsillitis which lasted way into adulthood, leading eventually to me having my tonsils removed at the age of 28. I do remember one time at Fairburn I also managed to rip my heel open on a large nail which was sticking up out of the floorboards outside my bedroom and couldn’t walk on it for a few days. There’s actually no evidence I was at school the previous week, so I suppose it could have happened around here. 3. My Topic books. Ever since Mr Geraghty gave me the green light to start defacing my Topic books, my main outlet for mad creativity had shifted. The English books still appear to be my main forum for text adventures, but the ability to use these other books for more freewheeling nonsense was making them more and more appealing. As the term wears on, that will become more and more apparent. But there’s one more possibility: 4. My Mum and Dad split up. Back in the mid-2000s, when I started planning this overcomplicated project, I wrote a list of all the Fairburn memories I still had rattling around my head, and set about trying to sort them into some kind of chronology. It made no sense to try to tell this story if I couldn’t say what happened when. Sometimes I was able to match these recollections to things I’d written about in the books, which often came with dates attached. Others were tied to cultural events, like Charles and Diana’s wedding or Who Shot JR? At the end of all that, there were still a handful of things I couldn’t date with any certainty. Some I’ve already written about above (chicken pox, mumps and so on). Then there’s that time we staged a mock wedding and ended up in the local paper. There’s also the time I helped vandalise the caretaker’s house (though I think I’ve worked out when that was now). But the biggest one of all was when my parents split up. I still don’t really know when it was - I can only say it must have been about halfway through. I’ve agonised over whether or not to write about this. In most key respects, it’s my Mum and Dad’s story and none of anyone else’s business. I don’t have any interest in embarrassing either of them and, if I thought I could do this story justice without it, I’d probably leave it be. Unfortunately, they involved me in it, so it’s my story too and, as far as I’m concerned, an absolutely essential piece of background information. It came out of nowhere, I think. These things are hazy in retrospect, but as far as I knew, my Mum and Dad were rock solid. Partners for life, who met, fell in love and married when they were eighteen years old and never showed any signs of disagreement with each other. It never occurred to me that they might be unhappy or that they might one day never be together. Oh, maybe they sometimes had cross words in the car, but I could never quite hear what they were saying above the noise of the radio. And there was that time Mum called him a bastard - which I must have misheard, because when I said it, she gave me a right bollocking. Then one morning, out of the blue - I don’t know if it was a weekend, a holiday or I was supposed to be at school - my Dad told me to put my coat and shoes on because we were leaving. I protested and dragged my heels, not really understanding what was going on, but it soon became apparent he was fairly agitated and in quite a hurry to get going. Naturally I did as I was told, while he explained we were going to stay with Ralph and Christine in Castleford - primarily because my Mum was an “unfit mother” who couldn’t be trusted to look after me. My memory’s pretty vague so I’m not sure at what point Mum entered the conversation. All I remember is her screaming incoherently in rage at the top of the staircase as we were going out the front door - maybe there were swearwords, maybe he was a bastard for trying to take me away from her. And I remember her hurling things down the stairs - including a plant, wrenched from its pot, which exploded off the wall in a shower of soil right by my head. I knew I wasn’t the intended target, but it did seem to instantly bolster some of Dad’s main points and it seemed pretty crucial that we leave right away. I don’t know how long we stayed on Ralph and Christine’s floor. It may only have been one night. We slept in a pair of sleeping bags in their living room as I recall. Then one day - probably the very next morning, when Dad went to work - Ralph took me and his two boys, Steven and Richard, out in the car on a fishing trip. It was pissing down with rain and I wondered about the viability of going down to the river in such a deluge. But we went the wrong way, past the River Aire and up the country lanes out of Castleford towards Fairburn. I questioned this but was reassured we were going the right way. Suddenly, we saw a diminutive figure in a long black mac shuffling towards us by the side of the road. Ralph slowed down and, as we got closer, I could see that, by the most bizarre coincidence, it was my Mum! And, since she was so happy to see me, Ralph decided it was probably best if I spend the afternoon with her instead of going fishing. I don’t know how long I’d been home for before I twigged that it had all been a set up, but it was too late by then. Naturally, I preferred sleeping in my own bed, but I did feel a sense of shame, that maybe I was letting my Dad down by being there. I don’t remember how long Dad stayed away. Days? Weeks? Not sure, and I doubt they’d remember either. All that matters is, they made up and he came back, after which everything was fine. Except of course it wasn’t fine. It was the first nail in the coffin of our time in Fairburn, and the first big step on the long, traumatic road to their eventual divorce. It wasn’t until after Dad left home for good at the end of 1986 that I was ever told what it was all about. By then, I was a teenager, and they never wasted any time lavishing me with every detail about why their other half had been the worst parent on earth. But for six years, I was spared the details, and that’s what I’m going to do for you right now. It might help me talking about it, and if you’ve any interest in this story, it definitely works as salacious gossip. But I’ve embarrassed them both enough for one day. Did I need to tell you any of this? No. But I can’t look back on Fairburn without it. It was the first time I’d ever seen them fight, the first time I’d seen Mum’s raw temper, the first time I’d been used as a pawn in their messy struggle to extricate themselves from the prison they’d found themselves in when they got pregnant with me as teenagers. The first time I realised my life wasn’t totally ideal. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but for two whole terms, the work in my Fairburn books had been leaping from strength to strength. Halfway through the third, it was a lazy, violent mess. Earlier in the term, I wrote about a dyslexic gorilla being kicked out of his own home by an angry wife. Does that mean it had already happened? I’ll look out for more evidence as I trawl through the rest of the books…
The Money Shop - Part Two
The Money Shop: Part 2
Ceremonies For Sale School Rules Football The Micronauts: The Return of Supersilver Apeth (frum Ota Sbees) Exploring the Underworld When I Was Happiest Plant Description The Money Shop: Part 1 The Money Shop: Part 2 Moses and the Pharaoh Ideas for Sports The Money Shop: Part 3 Watch: Cocoa The Horrible Black Friday Waen Shepherd’s Run I Do Not Like… My Wellington Boots I Am John McEnroe Police Horses My Name is Alice Captain Kremmen: The Cat Soldiers Andrew’s Body Area Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi Summer Scaredy Cat Goes to the Dentist’s Judge Dredd: The Shape Changers Apeth Returns The Phantom Strikes Again Grate Rubbing Starkiller Captain Shepherd The Origin of Tomato Man Copy Writing & Exercises
TERM 3 1980 continues with the embassy siege and The Empire Strikes Back
Exploring the Underworld Eight boys go exploring in a dangerous cave
Happy Easter! A home made Easter card I made for my Mum and Dad
Grobschnitt’s Page Meet Grobschnitt, the dome-headed Harbinger of Mischief
Apeth (from Ota Sbees) Ritern ov thu perpal geriller
Puzzlemaster Help Puzzlemaster escape the clutches of the Martian spacelords!
Captain Starlight Know your Starlight superheroes with this amazing fact file!
The Yellyog Gang Meet my latest hideous bunch of nutty nightmare fuellers
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
Great Space Battles Three mighty empires take their first steps into outer space
Waen Shepherd 2 Waen’s heroic antics in the far-flung future of 2007 AD!
Ward’s 7 John Ward and his band of rebels fight the evil Federation
The Fugitive A man runs - but who is he? And what is he running from?
The Flame in the Desert An evil fire threatens the safety of the world
Super Jesus A special pin-up of your favourite Nazarene webslinger
Giant Karza! Arch-enemy of the Micronauts grows to super size!
TOPIC 2 The one where it all kicks off
TERM 2 The birth of the 1980s - Blake’s 7, Blondie and battles in space
The Flame in the Desert An evil fire threatens the safety of the world
Grobschnitt’s Page Meet Grobschnitt, the dome-headed Harbinger of Mischief
Apeth (from Ota Sbees) Ritern ov thu perpal geriller
Exploring the Underworld Eight boys go exploring in a dangerous cave
TERM 3 1980 continues with the embassy siege and The Empire Strikes Back
The Money Shop:
Part Two
The Money Shop - Part Two THE GHOUL  ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK Available now exclusively on Bandcamp
A valiant but doomed attempt here to continue The Money Shop from the previous day, obviously interrupted within minutes of starting. I can’t necessarily blame myself for that - I clearly wanted to finish the story in the same exciting style and must have been asked to do something else instead. But I’ve noticed there’s an increasing trend towards scrappiness in this English book and I want to understand why. In my second term, I wrote 32 pieces, but in the whole of the third, I wrote only half that number. The general creative trend, which was soaring up and up before Easter, appears to have taken a nosedive. There must be a good reason for this. There are several possibilities: 1. Life’s just like that. Over the years, I’ve realised that creativity just works that way. You get into a project, then there’s a period of intense enthusiasm as you work tirelessly to realise your vision, until it naturally ebbs away and - unless there’s a damn good reason, like money - never comes back. You learn professional techniques to be able to work through the down times, but if you’re just trying to coast on enthusiasm alone, once your initial honeymoon period is over, it’s not really going any further. This might just be the first recorded example of that ever happening to me. 2. I was ill. I fell ill quite a lot when I was a kid. Thanks to an early bout of measles as a baby, my parents decided it was pointless me having the vaccine. As a consequence I had measles three times, German measles twice and, in one particularly bad month, mumps immediately followed by chicken pox. I also had recurrent tonsillitis which lasted way into adulthood, leading eventually to me having my tonsils removed at the age of 28. I do remember one time at Fairburn I also managed to rip my heel open on a large nail which was sticking up out of the floorboards outside my bedroom and couldn’t walk on it for a few days. There’s actually no evidence I was at school the previous week, so I suppose it could have happened around here. 3. My Topic books. Ever since Mr Geraghty gave me the green light to start defacing my Topic books, my main outlet for mad creativity had shifted. The English books still appear to be my main forum for text adventures, but the ability to use these other books for more freewheeling nonsense was making them more and more appealing. As the term wears on, that will become more and more apparent. But there’s one more possibility: 4. My Mum and Dad split up. Back in the mid-2000s, when I started planning this overcomplicated project, I wrote a list of all the Fairburn memories I still had rattling around my head, and set about trying to sort them into some kind of chronology. It made no sense to try to tell this story if I couldn’t say what happened when. Sometimes I was able to match these recollections to things I’d written about in the books, which often came with dates attached. Others were tied to cultural events, like Charles and Diana’s wedding or Who Shot JR? At the end of all that, there were still a handful of things I couldn’t date with any certainty. Some I’ve already written about above (chicken pox, mumps and so on). Then there’s that time we staged a mock wedding and ended up in the local paper. There’s also the time I helped vandalise the caretaker’s house (though I think I’ve worked out when that was now). But the biggest one of all was when my parents split up. I still don’t really know when it was - I can only say it must have been about halfway through. I’ve agonised over whether or not to write about this. In most key respects, it’s my Mum and Dad’s story and none of anyone else’s business. I don’t have any interest in embarrassing either of them and, if I thought I could do this story justice without it, I’d probably leave it be. Unfortunately, they involved me in it, so it’s my story too and, as far as I’m concerned, an absolutely essential piece of background information. It came out of nowhere, I think. These things are hazy in retrospect, but as far as I knew, my Mum and Dad were rock solid. Partners for life, who met, fell in love and married when they were eighteen years old and never showed any signs of disagreement with each other. It never occurred to me that they might be unhappy or that they might one day never be together. Oh, maybe they sometimes had cross words in the car, but I could never quite hear what they were saying above the noise of the radio. And there was that time Mum called him a bastard - which I must have misheard, because when I said it, she gave me a right bollocking. Then one morning, out of the blue - I don’t know if it was a weekend, a holiday or I was supposed to be at school - my Dad told me to put my coat and shoes on because we were leaving. I protested and dragged my heels, not really understanding what was going on, but it soon became apparent he was fairly agitated and in quite a hurry to get going. Naturally I did as I was told, while he explained we were going to stay with Ralph and Christine in Castleford - primarily because my Mum was an “unfit mother” who couldn’t be trusted to look after me. My memory’s pretty vague so I’m not sure at what point Mum entered the conversation. All I remember is her screaming incoherently in rage at the top of the staircase as we were going out the front door - maybe there were swearwords, maybe he was a bastard for trying to take me away from her. And I remember her hurling things down the stairs - including a plant, wrenched from its pot, which exploded off the wall in a shower of soil right by my head. I knew I wasn’t the intended target, but it did seem to instantly bolster some of Dad’s main points and it seemed pretty crucial that we leave right away. I don’t know how long we stayed on Ralph and Christine’s floor. It may only have been one night. We slept in a pair of sleeping bags in their living room as I recall. Then one day - probably the very next morning, when Dad went to work - Ralph took me and his two boys, Steven and Richard, out in the car on a fishing trip. It was pissing down with rain and I wondered about the viability of going down to the river in such a deluge. But we went the wrong way, past the River Aire and up the country lanes out of Castleford towards Fairburn. I questioned this but was reassured we were going the right way. Suddenly, we saw a diminutive figure in a long black mac shuffling towards us by the side of the road. Ralph slowed down and, as we got closer, I could see that, by the most bizarre coincidence, it was my Mum! And, since she was so happy to see me, Ralph decided it was probably best if I spend the afternoon with her instead of going fishing. I don’t know how long I’d been home for before I twigged that it had all been a set up, but it was too late by then. Naturally, I preferred sleeping in my own bed, but I did feel a sense of shame, that maybe I was letting my Dad down by being there. I don’t remember how long Dad stayed away. Days? Weeks? Not sure, and I doubt they’d remember either. All that matters is, they made up and he came back, after which everything was fine. Except of course it wasn’t fine. It was the first nail in the coffin of our time in Fairburn, and the first big step on the long, traumatic road to their eventual divorce. It wasn’t until after Dad left home for good at the end of 1986 that I was ever told what it was all about. By then, I was a teenager, and they never wasted any time lavishing me with every detail about why their other half had been the worst parent on earth. But for six years, I was spared the details, and that’s what I’m going to do for you right now. It might help me talking about it, and if you’ve any interest in this story, it definitely works as salacious gossip. But I’ve embarrassed them both enough for one day. Did I need to tell you any of this? No. But I can’t look back on Fairburn without it. It was the first time I’d ever seen them fight, the first time I’d seen Mum’s raw temper, the first time I’d been used as a pawn in their messy struggle to extricate themselves from the prison they’d found themselves in when they got pregnant with me as teenagers. The first time I realised my life wasn’t totally ideal. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but for two whole terms, the work in my Fairburn books had been leaping from strength to strength. Halfway through the third, it was a lazy, violent mess. Earlier in the term, I wrote about a dyslexic gorilla being kicked out of his own home by an angry wife. Does that mean it had already happened? I’ll look out for more evidence as I trawl through the rest of the books…