Monday 9.00 p.m

“It’s your move.” said Tim.

The Hell-raiser rolled the dice. Double two. He moved pewter dog four paces onto Mayfair, where a big red hotel sat, but it wasn’t his. He took a sip of tea, then calmly returned the cup to its saucer. He looked at Tim, who was busy counting out his paper money. Could he get away with it?

“It’s your move.” said the Hell-raiser, without a quiver in his voice. Tim looked up from his money distractedly. “What?”

“It’s your move Tim.” Perhaps another distraction was in order. The Hell-raiser looked at the clock above the bar. Tim followed his gaze and glanced at the clock, instead of the gameboard. The Hell-raiser looked at Tim with penetrating blue eyes. “Roll.” he said.

Tim looked at the dice and not at the Hell-raiser’s silver coloured mutt on the land of one of his most expensive hotels.

“Come on Tim, there won’t be any time for Scrabble at this rate. For God’s sake man, roll!”

Tim, like a deer in headlights, knowing it has to move in order to live, was suddenly cajoled into picking up the dice and rolling.

“Ha!” cried the Hell-raiser pointing at Mayfair. “I was on your hotel!”

“Oh damn.” said Tim.

“Damn and blast.” corrected the Hell-raiser. “Get it right.”

The Hell-raiser took another sip of Earl Grey tea as Tim landed on the Water Works, which was part of The Hell-raisers monopoly. Perhaps he could scrape back a pound or two from his devastating loss on the May Fair rent.

“Ollie, roll the dice. It’s your turn.”

The Hell-raiser turned his penetrating gaze onto Tim and said in a menacing whisper. “You can’t kid a kidder.” He put out his hand, palm up. “That’ll be two fifty, if you don’t mind.”

“Aye up!” said Bill the barman, polishing a pint glass. “The Paps are in!”

“Bloody hell!” said Tim.

“Now, now Tim,” said the Hell-raiser, waving a finger at him. “Don’t use expletives, at least not until…”

A gaggle of photographers and tabloid journalists burst through the double doors of the public house. A stream of expletives poured from the Hell-raisers mouth, at the same time he poured the half-full teapot onto the floor. Tim slapped the Monopoly board shut. Little plastic houses, pewter counters and coloured paper money flew out with the back draft. The Hell-raiser snatched it from him and wore it as a hat.

Tim tried to hide the rest of the game contents under the pub seat. Bill got a glass and poured a large pint of whiskey. The rest of the photographers piled in and began to laugh as they saw Ollie dancing around with the board on his head. He found a five hundred pound monopoly note, licked it and stuck it on his chin, making a pink beard.

“Good old Ollie.” someone said, and the light bulbs flashed. Bill held out the pint of whiskey. “Here’s your seventh drink Ollie!” he said, emphasizing the ‘seventh’ so everyone could hear. “I think you’ll find it’s my eighth,” said Ollie, downing it in one go. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Call that a drink? Fill her up again, only this time, I’ll have a bit of that, a bit of that and a bit of that!” He pointed to every optic in the place and Bill filled it with gin, vodka, brandy, rum, crème de menthe, Cointreau, until all the colours blended into an unappetizing muddy looking mess in the glass. A photographer looked at Ollie’s game board hat and said, “Been playing Monopoly again Ollie?”

The Hell-raiser took the board from his head and ripped it in two. “This is what I think of your bourgeoisie capitalist stale soup and slippers game!” The men laughed and Ollie bought them all a drink. Tim looked at the broken board in regret. “And I was winning too.” he said.

Tuesday 9.00 p.m

The Hell-raiser found a nice spot in the park where he could have a peaceful picnic in the early evening sunshine. He had some beautiful flowers in his flower pressing book, from his many peaceful days in the park, woods, forests, valleys and dales, lakes and seashores, cliffs and the foothills of mountains. He looked at his book happily, and, remembering how countless flasks of tea had fortified him on his wild flower adventures, he took a flask from his rucksack and poured a cup. Then he had a sandwich and began to search for interesting flowers.

While minding his own business and fully immersed in his hobby, people strolled by. They recognised him and wanted his autograph. He picked a flower and pressed it into the place where his signature should go. “Here’s my autograph.” he said.

Soon, a crowd of people had gathered around the Hell-raiser. At first, some of them just wanted autographs but others became curious and wanted to know what he was doing.

“I’m looking for flowers,” he told them, “to go into my flower pressing book.” The Hell-raiser was up to his old tricks it seemed, making a joke, pulling their legs. A man with a newspaper under his arm decided to humour him and asked how it was done.

“Well now, you take a common garden daisy like this,” said the Hell-raiser, “make sure it’s fresh and dry, then put it between two pieces of absorbent paper, like so, some of your newspaper will do nicely for now, but you don’t want ink all over the petals do you? So keep it plain paper if you can. Then press it into a heavy book, like a telephone directory, then leave it for about seven days.”

Soon, a bigger and more fascinated audience had formed to watch and listen to the Hell-raiser’s knowledge on flower pressing. “After seven days, you remove the flower carefully with tweezers, being careful not to tear it, as it’s even more fragile when it’s been dry and pressed…and voila, you have one perfectly pressed flower to add to your flower book collection.”

Everyone wanted to see the Hell-raiser’s flower book. They gathered round, murmuring in awe. One woman who had been walking her dog and wouldn’t believe the Hell- raiser could possibly be interested in flowers, said “Can you make a daisy chain too?”

“Certainly madam.” The Hell-raiser made a daisy chain and put it around her dog’s neck. A man reached into his plastic supermarket bag and brought out a bottle of wine. “Would you like some wine?”

“No thanks. I don’t drink.”

The crowd gasped.

“It’s a little early in the day.”

“But you’re a hell-raiser.”

“I am, aren’t I?” The Hell-raiser shielded his eyes and looked at the sun setting over the park. “In that case, I’ll have a little glass.”

“But I’m giving you the whole bottle.”

The Hell-raiser looked at the bottle of wine, then at the flowers he was pressing, then at the crowd of people. They were suspicious. The tea, the sandwiches, the jam filled biscuits in his knapsack and the flower picking would just have to wait. He sighed inwardly. “The things I do for my public.” he said under his breath.

He bounded to his feet, grabbed the bottle of wine, opened the screw top and began to glug. The crowd cheered. The Hell-raiser stamped on the beautiful flowers, crushing them under his feet. The crowd cheered. He tore the daisy chain from the dog’s neck and started eating it, head back, dangling it into his mouth like one large noodle. The crowd went wild.

“Good old Ollie.” someone said. “He never lets us down.” A reporter took notes. The flower incident would be in one of the leading tabloids the next day with the headline. ‘Ollie Ate My Daisy Chain.’

Wednesday 9.00 p.m

It was Scrabble Final at the community centre and The Hell-raiser was winning.

“Why are you so good at this?” asked Tim.

Ollie sipped at his peppermint tea. “I went to public school.” he said.

Triple word score after triple word score later and the Hell-raiser was holding a trophy aloft. Tim was patting him on the back and there were cheers all round. The kettle was put on for more herbal tea, but then the Hell-raiser saw a paparazzi with his face pressed against the window of the community centre. He reached for the bottle of some spirit or other, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. He poured the bottle into the trophy and drank. He reached for the blonde girl in the bikini, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. The paparazzi snapped a shot. That would make a great photo for tomorrow, plus headline. “Trophy Floozy and Trophy Boozy! Good old Ollie!”

Olly felt the liquid from the trophy spill into his lap. He hugged the bikini girl closer.

“Get off! You’re tangling me up!”

It wasn’t the honeyed tones of a sex kitten. It was a gravelly, trembly voice, like shards of glass. Ollie opened bleary eyes and looked into the rheumy eyes of an elderly woman. “You fell asleep and spilled your tea!” she said. She mopped at his knee with a handkerchief. “And you need to keep your hands to yourself, grabbing me like that…” She shook her head with disapproval, “And you made me drop a stitch!”

The Hell-raiser sat up from his slouched position. “Oh Mabel, you know very well how to come back from a dropped stitch.”

“How’s your cushion cover coming along?” she asked.

The Hell-raiser held it up. “It’s coming on lovely.” she said admiringly. “You must teach me to crochet some day.”

“I certainly will Mabel, it’s so much easier and so much more relaxing than knitting.”

Mabel smiled toothlessly. “Where’s Agnes, is she making more tea?”

The Hell-raiser looked at the Craft Circle. There was no one there under seventy four. He counted eight heads of silver, one of cinnamon brown and another two with blue rinses. Agnes’ hair was dyed an unnatural orangey red and she wasn’t in the circle. “She’s making tea.” he said.

“I hope she brings out those marzipan squares.” said a blue rinse. “Those custard creams are too hard for me teeth.”

“Dip ’em in your tea.” said Mabel.

Ollie was happily crocheting when Agnes returned from the kitchen with a tea trolley. She let out a sharp cry and pointed at the window. “Oh my Gawd! It’s a peeping Tom!”

Everyone looked to where she was pointing. A paparazzi was peering in. De ja vu, thought the Hell -raiser. He reached for the bottle of spirits under his chair. It wasn’t there. He reached for the bikini blonde. Not there either. His nightmare was coming true. In a desperate panic, he grabbed Mabel again instead. “Oh, he’s at it again! They’re all sex maniacs Agnes!”

The paparazzi flashed away.

Thursday 9.00p.m

The Hell Raiser spread out the tabloid newspapers on the pub table in front of him. Tim and Bill were hunched over the front covers like war strategists. The headlines were not pretty. ‘Ollie Knits For Britain’ over a photograph of a surprised Hell-raiser caught red handed with crochet needle and wool. The next picture was on page 2, an equally shocked Hell-raiser sat between two elderly women. He was grasping one of them firmly round the waist.

“They’re not too bad.” said Bill.

“Yes, could be worse,” said Tim. “Very flattering I think.”

“It’s a nightmare.” said the Hell-raiser. “My reputation is shot.”

“Not necessarily.” said Tim.

“Very necessarily.” said the Hell-raiser sipping tea. “Look at this one, it has the tea trolley in it, with tea on it, in a teapot, and tea cups and tea things, not a bottle of plonk in sight.”

“For all they know, the tea has brandy in it.”

The Hell-raiser shook his head. ‘This isn’t good enough. he thought. I have to do something. I have to put my thinking cap on.

Bill began to collect the empty beer glasses around the rest of the pub. “More tea Ollie?”

He nodded and perused the newspapers. As he sipped his second cup of tea and the others drank their beer, a plan began to formulate. “ I have an idea,” he said. “I’m doing a red carpet thing at the weekend, some film premier. Perhaps I can mend some of the damage that’s been done to my reputation.”

“How?” asked Tim.

The Hell-raiser leaned forward and smiled. “Well, I could wrap myself up in the red carpet and floor anyone who gets in my way. The other famous people will scatter like skittles. They will have to cut me out or something. I’ll pay for it the next day, of course.”

“Not a bad plan, but where does the red carpet begin?” asked Tim.

“Or indeed end?” said Bill.

Ollie shrugged. “I don’t know. Just think, I’ll be like Cleopatra in that film.” He took out some coloured crayons and a colouring book from beneath the chair and began to colour in a picture.

“Nearly filled that book Ollie?”

“Almost. Just a daffodil scene and this teddy bears picnic to do.”

“Let’s have a look,” said Tim. The Hell-raiser held up a picture of two big bears and three baby ones sitting around a picnic table with lots of food and drink.

“Oh that’s very nice, you’ve used very pretty colours.” said Tim.

“I got the extended colour pack, three different shades in each colour.”


“Yes! Take a look. Three different browns! These bears are going to look magnificent.”

As the Hell-raiser coloured in a bowl of apples on the teddy bears table, he was unaware of the man behind the newspaper, sat in the cosy booth next to him, who surreptitiously took another photo, then turned up his recording device. All he had to do now was to get that colouring book. It was finally the proof he’d been looking for, to prove once and for all, the suspicions he’d had all along, that Ollie wasn’t an inebriated, chaotic, rebellious Hell-raiser after all. All these years, he’d been pulling the wool over Fleet Street’s eyes, pretending to be something he wasn’t. In fact, quite the opposite. Well, the truth will out, mused the man. He believed in truth above sensationalism. The knitting incident helped but he knew that after hearing about Ollie’s plans, it would only be a matter of time before the papers were made to look foolish again. Besides, the truth was so much more interesting, and profitable. There might even be a promotion in it for him. Certainly, as a lesser known journalist, he needed it, as even the Hell-raiser didn’t recognise him, and that was an indignity he wouldn’t tolerate. A diversion was needed. He folded up his newspaper and went to the window. “Is that a journalist out there? I think there’s actually three or four of them and they’re headed this way.”

Ollie looked up from his colouring book.

Bill stopped collecting empty glasses and went behind the bar. He grabbed a pint glass and filled it with vodka. He was about to put some orange juice in it when The Hell-raiser came running up. “Hold the orange juice.” he said. Bill was about to give him the vodka filled glass but Ollie wasn’t there any more, well certainly not all of him. He could see his feet. He looked up. The Hell-raiser had climbed onto the bar but before he had taken a sip, the lesser known journalist had swiped the colouring book and legged it out of the pub with his bounty.

Friday 9.00 p.m

The Hell Raiser was in the green room of one of Channel Four’s T.V studios. He was about to appear on a programme called ‘The Word’ He perused the day’s newspapers, as usual. The headlines said things like ‘Ollie’s Big Softies’ and ‘If You Go Down To The Woods Today.’ There was a blown up photograph of the teddy bears picnic from the colouring book, which to his shame, was only half coloured in. If only they had given him a chance to complete it, then he could have held his head up, just a little. He smiled sadly at the half coloured daddy bear. It was a travesty. He put his head in his hands and sighed. It was only 9.00 p.m and the show didn’t go out until around 11.00p.m. There was a crate of beer and many bottles of wine at his feet. So, someone, somewhere still thought he was a drinker and perhaps a Hell-raiser to boot. Maybe it wasn’t too late. The nation thought he was a tea swilling, crochet making crayonist. He would have to turn this around somehow…

The Hell-raiser was extremely drunk when 11.00 p.m came along. He wasn’t used to the booze and there’d been a boat load back in the green room. He quaffed the lot. He came onto the stage, in white trousers and leather jacket, open, to reveal a robust bare chest and torso. When he unevenly got to his feet, and sang, ‘Wild Thang, I think I love you!” to an impassioned crowd, he knew he was driving the nail home. This would show the losers, putting paid to Earl Grey and herbal tea, board games, flower pressing, the Knit and Natter Club and the fervent colouring in. He could wipe it all away in this one moment. A moment that would define him for good or bad. A moment that people would remember, rather than his fine creative talents, natural charisma and generous nature. This may even make it onto that new-fangled thing called You Tube.

At long last he really did feel like a Hell-raiser.

The Scarcity Principle and ‘The Greatest Showman’

This month I’m mostly going to the cinema.

I’m not a film buff. It’s not my idea of an ideal night out. I don’t have the attention span. I can’t sit still for two hours. Actually, I can, but that’s the problem, extreme self consciousness will make me sit completely still for two hours and therein lies the problem. It’s physically and emotionally taxing to sit completely still for two hours. Also, to compound things, I never understand the plot (unless it’s fantasy, sci-fi, or rom com).

This month, I’m mostly going the cinema for two reasons, it’s cheap seat night on Monday in January and I’ve had the flu for almost three weeks, since Christmas, three relapses all in all, and there’s nothing like a moderate dose of the flu to make you feel depressed and claustrophobic. I started to feel better one day, had a bit more energy, ran around like an idiot, playing catch up on laundry and chores, returned to my cardio exercises and completely burned myself out. I returned into the welcoming arms of the flu and then, just this week, when I thought I was out of the woods, got a brand new cold on top of it all. Colds are easy though, can handle colds.

All my friends think I’ve disappeared off the face of the earth and I sort of have. By the middle of this bleak cold January, no surprises there(when is January in Britain ever warm and balmy)? I badly needed some fun, but stationary fun, where I could just sit, weakened, through viruses, in a mostly empty, but warm, dark cinema, passively watching, through the mild delirium of a benign and almost friendly cold.

I just had to get out of myself. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a hotbed of contagion by then, but we’re always playing Virus Russian Roulette in the winter. Fortunately, people like to ‘spread out’ seat wise, in cinemas. It’s not like the old days, when I was a kid, when we were packed in like sardines, soft drink cans rolling down the aisles and cigarette smoke fogging the screen and filling our lungs. Hey, perhaps that’s why I’m so weakened in the lung area.

I went to the cinema last week to see ‘The Greatest Showman‘ starring Hugh Jackman but it was sold out! No more seats left. I’m not sure if this has happened to other people but I’ve never experienced it before. Went to a second option, a Plan B, which happened to be The Commuter. An action/thriller/mystery/crime, which is not good for my attention span, and certainly not good for plot line understanding. ‘What just happened?’ I asked when the movie ended (I actually did say that) and ‘Where were all the gnomes?’ (I didn’t say that. Thought it though)

‘The Greatest Showman’ being sold out was a bit like the psychological situation of seeing a tin of soup in a supermarket and there’s only one left but there are several other kinds of another soup and you think, ‘What’s so special about that one?’

Maybe it’s popular because it’s good, tasty, delicious. Not so keen on popular people, but popular soup…now that’s a different matter.

What have I learned? Well, I’ve learned a new appreciation of cinema. It’s quite exciting I suppose, sitting in the dark for two hours. So I sat there with my carton of popcorn and watched the movie. Screen 4, or wherever it was. The Commuter had a decent turnout (probably down to the cheap seats on a Monday in January) but I couldn’t stop thinking about the scarcity principle. What was so good about ‘The Greatest Showman’ that it was sold out? That’s the theatre I needed to be in but as Groucho Marx said, ‘I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.’ I wasn’t accepted as a member of Screen 2, where ‘The Greatest Showman’ was playing.

It must be good.


How Quote Of The Week Changed My Day

American actor Paul Newman.Handsome…inside and out.

People say the most amazing things sometimes. A lot of the time, us ordinary folk say the best things, the most encouraging things, the most enlightened things. Those wise words get spread around like rich, thick verbal butter. It’s yummy and greasy and once you get that quote on your hands, it’s difficult to wash off, so we’re better off just licking our fingers really.


Why, just the other day, my friend Mike said to me, ‘A trouble shared, is a trouble doubled’ and I thought that was absolute genius. He has been called a genius before interestingly enough, of the musical variety, but that’s another story.  But back to the point, I thought I should catch up on the Friendship Book before getting down to sorting out my Quote Of The Week. The Friendship Book is one of those thought-for-a-day books, full of philosophical musings, spiritual insights and the occasional uplifting quote thrown in to make a point. Things to warm the heart on a daily basis. It never works out like that and I end up reading two or three weeks worth, all in one day. My heart is toast by the end of it.

Anyway, the first day to catch up on was 15th June or something, so I wasn’t too far back. The first words were ‘What are the ingredients that make up a man? And how are they best shown in his words and actions?’ followed by a quote from Tennessee Williams about the deceased actor Paul Newman, ‘You never really know what he’s thinking or what he might do but it always ends in kindness and fairness. A mighty recipe produced this man.’

What I found out, is that  Paul Newman wasn’t just a ‘Hollywood Great’, as they used to call movie stars from the forties to the seventies. He was much more than that. We don’t seem to have ‘Hollywood Greats’ anymore and when he died, he was one of the last to go. (Hold on in there Kirk).

I was never really paid attention to Paul Newman, he was a very good actor but in a way, just seemed like just another pretty  boy to me.  What I learned about him is that he wasn’t like most of the other Hollywood stars, he was different. That’s what turned him from just another pretty boy actor, into a man.

‘He was a philanthropist, who had distributed more money – in relation to his own wealth – than any other American during the 20th century.’

The Guardian. Paul Newman Obituary

He burned his tuxedo in his driveway and that was the last time he went to a black tie dinner event. He began making his own dressings and sauces in a washtub in his barn. He would tinker away for hours like a mad scientist, until getting the right combinations, flavour and taste, then he would bottle them up, wrap them in ribbon and give them away as Christmas presents. They were an absolute hit with the neighbours and Martha Stewart, now a famous American television personality, was actually one of them at the time. She once did a blind taste test on one of his relishes.

He called up his friend, A.E Hotcher, American playwright and novelist, and he came over and helped him with his mixes. ‘Newman’s Own‘ was born. The sauces went from the barn to the supermarket but that’s not what makes this special. I mean, it’s all very nice and interesting but it’s what he did next, it’s what Paul did next that I love. He started selling his sauces commercially and every cent of the profits went to charity. In 1988 the first Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was set up, helping 288 seriously ill children. By 2012, the camps would reach 384,700 children globally .Paul has been gone from this world now for eight years but the one hundred percent charitable donations continue. It gave me chills when I went to the website for Newman’s Own and it has a countometer thing, counting up the money made from the profits, in real time. Four hundred million dollars and counting. It goes up while you watch! Gave me shivers, but in a good way. The profits of Newman’s Own’s products go to charity , ALL OF THEM, and it made me go in search of the product and buy it. It just makes me feel all warm and gooey inside, a bit like his sauces.






Quote Of The Week

‘You never really know what he’s thinking or what he might do – but it always ends in kindness and fairness. A mighty recipe produced this man.’

Tennessee Williams talking about Hollywood actor Paul Newman, sourced from The Friendship Book 2016