Friday, August 22, 2014

On The Beach

Cambrils, Tarragona, August 2014

Thundercloud sky, uninviting sea, deserted beach... 

No frisbees, no boats, no balls... 

No swimmers, no surfers, no people... 


Three minutes after I took this photo, the heavens opened and I was drenched from top to toe. It was worth it, however; if nothing else because it gives me a perfect excuse for a link to one of my favourite Neil Young songs from one of my favourite Neil Young albums.


It was only now that Colin realised that his trainers were smoking and his feet were feeling rather hot, to say the least. He had experienced something similar on the beach in Benidorm last summer, when he had tried to make it to his towel without wearing his flip-flops. That occasion was far worse, of course, because he had had to play cool by pretending that he was in no discomfort whatsoever. Down here, fortunately, he had no qualms about screaming his head off as his toes began to melt. It was as if the road were on—


A bullet whizzed past Colin’s ear. Shoot! This was all he needed right now, he thought, as he dived for cover.

‘Ooh! … Aah! …’ He glanced at his frazzled fingers, scrambled to his feet and staggered on. He had to get off this road. Left or right? Er … Right!

As Colin headed for the left side of the road – a last-minute change of heart –, another bullet shot past him. Colin stumbled on a rock – Who put that there? – and soon found himself hurtling uncontrollably down a hitherto invisible and impossibly steep hill that some joker had placed by the side of the road for everyone’s convenience.


After an impressive display of reverse somersaults, half twists and open pikes, Colin finally came to rest at the boots of the meanest-looking cowboy he had ever seen. And Colin had seen some mean cowboys in his time.

‘Good evening, Mr. Raphead. I’ve been expecting you.’

‘Who the Devil are you?’

‘Welcome to Helley-in-Flames.’

dayrealing, chapter 42, “The Passenger”

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I recently started releasing my books as audiobooks on Audible. Amazingly, despite zero promotion on my part and an inflated price tag – over which I have no control, I hasten to add –, I have already sold two, yes, TWO, copies of Spanish for Rhythmic People! Even more amazingly, however, it would appear that they intend paying me in chocolate bars:

Naturally, I queried this, and I asked whether I might choose an alternative form of payment, given that chocolate gives me migraine. I pointed out that I would be perfectly happy to be paid in bottles of wine and/or whisky. They haven’t got back to me yet.
COge las maLEtas, nos VAmos
Get the cases, we’re leaving

COMpra unos HUEvos camPEros
Buy some free range eggs

¡DADme mi diNEro, caBRONes!
Give me my money, you bastards!

¡DEja de juGAR con tu PElo!
Stop playing with your hair!

HOY es el ayER de maÑAna
Today is tomorrow’s yesterday

NAdie enTIENde mi LIbro
Nobody understands my book

¡OStras! ¡La somBRIlla se VUEla!
Blimey! The parasol’s blowing away!

¿QUIÉN se ha lleVAdo mi SIlla?
Who’s taken my chair?

¿VAmos a la PLAya, AMAia?
Shall we go to the beach, Amaia?

¿VOY recogiENdo, caRIño?
Shall I start tidying up, darling?

Spanish for Rhythmic People, Pattern 20, “DUM-di-di di-DUM-di di-DUM-di

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Details In The Fabric

For anyone who cares…

… about little things like numbers and letters
… little things like commas and colons
… things like accents and hyphens
… like dots and apostrophes

For anyone who cares…

… about silly things like rows and columns
… silly things like words and phrases
… things like puns and palindromes
… like spelling and syntax

For anyone who cares…

… about pretty things like tales and stories
… pretty things like poems and sonnets
… things like songs and opera
… like books and novels

For anyone who cares…

… about simple things like singing and playing
… simple things like sharing and learning
… things like reading and writing
… like living and laughing

For anyone who cares,

This one’s for you

A teacher, I, and for my sins I’ve worked.
I slave away, my DoS, he guards the door.
‘Piss off!’ I cry, ‘Have I my duties shirked?’
‘Not yet,’ says he, ‘but soon you will, I’m sure.’
Reports, reports– that’s all I seem to do.
A waste of time, believe me, I should know.
But don’t complain– they’ll only say, ‘Poor you’.
There’s no way out, why bore you with my woe?
Directors come, directors go, sob, sob.
They scream and shout, they nag me, and it galls.
For they refuse to let me do my job.
I’d gladly hang the lot up by the balls.
I hope you liked my silly Shakespeare sonnet.
It’s time to go, my end is weak, but sod it.

            dayrealing, Chapter 30, “Laughing Stock”

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I have a new publisher!
When Tim Roux, my previous publisher, decided to call it a day at Taylor Street, I was extremely fortunate to be offered a contract with Thorstruck Press, “publishers of electrifying fiction”. And my book. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity, even if, according to Bill Bryson, “needless to say” is a naff phrase because it’s redundant. Needless to say, Bill’s wrong. It’s early days yet at Thorstruck, but it does feel great to be wanted and to be part of a happy family again.

I have a new cover for dayrealing!

Poppet, my colleague and editor at Thorstruck, has completely redesigned the cover for dayrealing. I think she’s done a superb job.  What do YOU think? My wife was seriously impressed; she says the goofy-looking guy on the cover is the spitting image of me. No comments.  By the way, Poppet tells me that dayrealing 2.0 will be up again soon on amazon “so that you don’t lose momentum with your sales”. You have to love her dry sense of humour, don’t you?

I have created an author’s page on Facebook!
Thorstruck threw in a beautiful Facebook banner with my new book cover, together  with instructions to “create an author’s page, or else”. So I did. That’s the easy part, of course. Now I have to build a fanbase. If by “fanbase”, we mean “at least one fan”, I guess I’ve got an outside chance of reaching my goal by Christmas. In the long term – say, by 2020? – I’d love my FB page to have as many followers as this blog. Six fans after five years is a depressing statistic, so I’ll console myself with that old cliché: It’s quality that counts, not quantity. [The hell it is! – Ed.] Anyway, Paul, Pragya, Jessica, John, Sudam and Peter: I salute you, and I thank you for not abandoning this ship. That said, am I right in supposing that  the real reason you’re still with me is that you could never figure out how to “unfollow” me?

I have created my first Facebook event!
I thought I should celebrate my new lease of life as a writer by giving away my back catalogue, namely, Spanglish for Impatient People 1 and 2; Spanglish for Impatient People Do-It -Yourself 1 and Do-It-Yourself 2; Spanish for Rhythmic People; English for Monosyllabic People; and fifty shades of Spain. So, if you happen to be reading this on Saturday 21st or Sunday 22nd June, if you missed my  30 previous giveaways over the last three years, if you have nothing better to do or download this weekend, if... Yes, I know that’s a lot of ifs, but if we couldn’t use “if” in our writing, we’d be in a right pickle, wouldn’t we? And here comes another... If, miracle of miracles, you’ve read one of these books and actually enjoyed it, I’d really appreciate a review and a few stars (minimum 4, please). Actually, come to think of it, I don’t care whether you read or enjoyed it; I just want those stars. Thank you! Needless to say – sorry, Bill –, there will be a prize for the best review.

I have opened a Twitter account!
To date I have avoided Twitter like the plague (I really can’t see the attraction), but my contract says I must “create a Twitter account,  or else”. OK, I’ll give it a bash. Here’s hoping I get to grips with the blasted thing more easily than I did with Facebook. Apparently, my “Twitter handle”, whatever that means, is @Other MikeChurch. I wanted @TheOneAndOnlyOtherMikeChurch, but spoilsports said my name was too long. So, not a very promising start, but let’s review the situation again in five years’ and/or tweets’ time, shall we?

In brief, exciting times here at “The Other Mike Church”. If you made it this far, thanks a million for reading. J

‘Hey, listen to this, Fred. It says here, “Marjory has poked you”.’
‘Oh yeah?’
‘Yeah. And now it’s asking me, “Would you like to poke her back?” ’
‘Poke her back? What’s wrong with her front?’
‘You what?’
‘Joke. Yeah, go for it. Er, who’s Marjory?’
‘Oh, just a friend.’
‘Where did you meet?’
‘On a forum.’
‘So, what you’re saying is she’s not really a friend at all, is she?’
‘Just because we’ve never actually met, that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.’
‘So, what does this Marjory look like?’
‘She’s got straight black hair and a lovely smile.’
‘Is that it?’
‘That’s all I can see of her in the photo.’
‘And how old is she?’
‘You’re twice her age!’
‘So what? One and three-quarters, actually.’
‘And what does she do?’
‘She’s a writer.’
‘Another one?! Don’t you have any normal friends?’
‘Normal friends? People like you, for instance?’
‘Yeah. People like me. People like me a lot. So, how many friends have you got?’
‘Hang on . . . Four hundred and ninety-nine. Wow! I only had four hundred and eighty-eight last week. Would you like to be my five hundredth Facebook friend, Fred?’
‘Piss off.’

 fifty shades of Spain, 21, "A Friend To Me"

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My List

It’s the European elections here in Spain today. I expect they held them a couple of weeks ago in Britain, France, Germany and so on, but nobody thought to let us know the results. We always seem to be last in Spain; unless we’re talking about football, of course.

The good news is I finally received permission from the Spanish authorities to vote ‘abroad’ – well, I have been living here for the past 30 years – and, besides, it was about time I took my citizen’s duties more seriously, don’t you think? Life is no joke, you know.

So, anyway, I was terribly excited when, accompanied by my dear wife, we set off for the polling station, even if the party I would have liked to have voted for – the Anybody But Those Corrupt Ruling Crooks Party – doesn’t actually exist yet.

We found the polling station without any trouble whatsoever, probably because our kids went to that school for the best part of a decade. We strolled in, greeted everybody at the door, and located the rooms where we had to vote. I bade my wife a fond farewell, sensing that I might never see her again. In retrospect, I was probably being a little overdramatic. I took out my ID card, approached the lady on the desk, and then the fun began…

- You’re not on my list. You can’t vote. Sorry.
- Well, there’s clearly a mistake. Here’s my polling card.
- That doesn’t mean a thing. Is your surname John?
- No, it’s Church. Try looking under C.
- No, you’re not here.
- Well, I’m going to vote.
- Oh no you’re not.
- Oh yes I am.
- Can somebody call the police, please?...

- What seems to be the trouble, Madam?
- This man wants to vote but he’s not on my list.
- Is this true, Sir?
- No idea, but I’m going to vote.
- Oh no you’re not.
- Oh yes I am.
- Hang on, I’ll call the town hall secretary…

- Hello, Sir. I’m sorry about this.
- You will be if you don’t let me vote.
- Look! Here’s your name! You’re on the other list!...

As it transpired, I had a whole list to myself – the Immigrants’ List or whatever it’s called – but the lady on the desk hadn’t even noticed it. Whereas all my fellow citizens, including my beloved wife, had a piddling four-digit number and had had their names blurred into one massive soulless printout, I had a unique list all to myself, and I had even been assigned a special code: “Church, Michael John: X0001”. Impressive, eh? After that, it was apologies all round, uncork the champagne, and would I like to vote five times to make up for the long wait?

Unfortunately, there was no “How do you rate your voting experience today?” online customer survey at the exit, but it could have been worse, I suppose. At least, they didn’t make me take my belt off and put all my belongings in a plastic tray.

–Oiga, ¿es ésta la cola para facturar?
–No, es la cola para los servicios.

–Excuse me, is this the queue to check in?
–No, this is the queue for the toilets.

–¿Hay algún problema?
–Los problemas no existen, señor. En esta vida, no tenemos problemas; tenemos retos.

–Is there a problem?
–Problems don’t exist, Sir. In this life, we don’t have problems; we have challenges.

–Su pasaporte caducó ayer, señora.
–¿Y qué?
–Pues, ahora tiene un reto enorme, señora.

–Your passport expired yesterday, Madam.
–So what?
–Well, now you have a huge challenge, Madam.

–¿Hizo usted las maletas, señor?
–No, las hizo mi cartero. Es broma.
–Limítese a responder a las preguntas, por favor, señor.

–Did you pack your bags yourself, Sir?
–No, my postman packed them. Joke.
–Just answer the questions, please, Sir.

Ya te dije que no teníamos que haber metido esas salchichas.

I told you we shouldn’t have packed those sausages.

–Si me quito el cinturón se me van a caer los pantalones.
–Pásame la cámara. Quiero grabar esto.

–If I take my belt off, my trousers will fall down.
–Pass me the camera. I want to record this.

¿Y por qué esa mujer no tiene por qué quitarse los zapatos pero nosotros sí?

How come that woman doesn’t have to take her shoes off but we do?

¿Vamos a tardar mucho? Es que tenemos prisa.

Will this take long? Only we’re in rather a hurry.

¿Quién manda por aquí?

Who’s in charge around here?

–Ya lo siento, señora, pero no puede subir al avión con ese cuchillo.
–Pero no es un cuchillo, es un juguete. Mire.

–I’m sorry, Madam, you can’t take that knife onto the plane.
–But it’s not a knife, it’s a toy. Look.

 Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 2, “At the airport”

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Way

I think this song sums up my father’s life as well as any other; with the exception of the “I travelled each and every highway” line, which, in Dad’s case, needs “within a strict twenty-mile radius” to be tagged on at the end.

Whenever I tell people that Dad didn’t even attend his own son’s wedding, they conclude that Dad was selfish, strange, silly, stupid, sad… – all those s-words, basically – and they are of course right to a certain extent. But that was Dad: he did things “his way”. I have never known a more stubborn person; nor will I, I suspect.

Dad suffered terribly for his obstinacy, knowing as he did that his irrational refusal to attend any family occasion beyond that 20-mile radius was thoroughly inexcusable. As for those of us who loved him dearly despite all his failings, well, we forgave him, of course, didn’t we? And I’d like to think that he won’t be suffering too much this Friday on the occasion of his own funeral. At least, the crematorium and church are just down the road from his beloved Penlan:

So much for Dad’s qualities. What about his weak points? Something’s gone wrong here, but let’s plough on, anyway… OK, Dad was a superb communicator – when he wanted to be; a great listener – unless he had no time for you; and a fearless opponent – if you upset him, for example, by picking on some poor defenceless soul.  Dad also had the most eclectic collection of CDs in the world: there was absolutely nothing he would not listen to; nor label.

Fortunately, I visited Mum and Dad at the beginning of April, never imagining of course that this would be the last time. While poor Mum tried, in vain, to get a word in edgeways, Dad rattled on about every subject under the sun:  his health, my kids, Radio 4, the state of English cricket, the upcoming Kate Bush tour, his health, my wife, The Archers, Just William, A History of the World in 100 Objects, ELO, his health, my health, Mum’s health, the new minister, the old minister, the neighbours opposite, the neighbours down the road, the stairlift, the gazebo, his health, Today in Parliament, Desert Island Discs, Wycombe Wanderers, Songs of Praise, What The Papers Say

How I wish I had inherited that ability to rabbit on and on and on without losing your listener. Indeed, anybody who dropped off was soon roused back to attention as Dad launched onto the next topic: 'What shall we talk about now? Beethoven, British Rail or Lucky Dip?'

Love you, Dad, and miss you terribly. Rest in peace, but drop me a line occasionally if you get the chance, OK? xxx

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where Do The Children Play?

Well, not here, anyway. This is where I've spent most of my lunchtimes this week, enjoying the beautiful sun in an anything-but-beautiful square, which, for the record, is in fact a triangle:

So I find my bench... close my eyes... and start thinking... about life and death... lunches and dinners... love and disdain... leftovers and dustbins... And then I ask myself... But where do the children play?


            Amanda’s Essential Life And Death Skills Seminars were the highlight of Colin’s day. Of everybody’s day. They were everything a good class should be: practical, professional and popular; in brief, everything Colin’s classes were not. Colin had a quick glance at this term’s programme:

            1. How to Turn Lights On and Off
            Aimed at people who have problems remembering to turn lights off (or on)

            2. How to Wax Your Legs Effortlessly
            Aimed at people who don’t like shaving, and leg lovers in general

            3. How to Peel an Apple in One
            Aimed at people who enjoy challenges involving knives (and apples)

            4. How to Park Without Getting Blocked In
            Aimed at people who drive but don’t like getting blocked in

            5. How to Take the Rubbish Out
            Aimed at people with kitchens, and people who’d like to help out occasionally

            6. How to Shave Without Bleeding to Death
            Aimed at people who treat their face as if it were a loaf of bread

            7. How, When and Why to Flush a Toilet
            Aimed at people who use toilets on a regular basis

            8. How to Bite Your Toenails Discreetly
            Aimed at people who enjoy challenges involving feet (and teeth)

            9. How to Use a DVD Recorder to Record the Channel You Want
            Aimed at people who have problems distinguishing one button from another

            And, last but not least, today’s session:

            10. How to Open and Close Doors Quietly
            Aimed at people who are noisy inconsiderate bastards at the best of times

            Huh?, Chapter 2, “Golden Touch”