Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The North West

The annual Ayres family holiday is in full swing and this year we are up in the North West - Hesketh Bank, near Preston, to be precise.

That might not sound like the most glamorous of holiday destinations but there is method in my madness. Whilst I may love Cornwall and Tenby and all those other tried and tested places, they don't expand my horizons and it's a desire of mine to see as much of these islands we call home as I can. This is quite a challenge. Britain looks pretty titchy on the world map, but there's so much of it!

I'd like to say I saw a lot of it when I was working for Nielsen and cruising round the country in the company car, which sounds glamorous, but really it isn't. I could tell you I've been to Thetford, Faversham, Blandford and hundreds of other places, but the truth is, in many cases I saw nothing much of these places at all. In most cases it amounted to driving to some nondescript office building on the local industrial estate, spending the afternoon in a conference room and then booking into the Holiday Inn on the ring road for a riveting evening of pure soullessness. This can hardly be classed as seeing the world.

Rejecting the rat race at the tender age of 35 has enabled me to open my eyes and enjoy the country properly, hence our ever changing holiday destinations. I like to pick an area and explore, with something for everyone. I want to give the kids a few cultural experiences, but you have to strike the right balance, so for every day in a museum or out exploring the countryside, it's only fair to have one on the beach or at a theme park too.

I picked Hesketh Bank as a good central location for exploring an area of Britain I haven't really spent much time in before. We are roughly halfway between Blackpool and Liverpool. two places I had varying reasons for wanting to visit, and close to Southport and the beaches on Merseyside too.

A bit of forward planning never goes amiss so after arriving at our cottage we headed out for dinner at the rather delightful Cock and Bottle pub in Tarleton, which I found on Tripadvisor. You know when you go out for a meal and everything it just absolutely perfect? Well this place ticked all the boxes. It's just the little things really - like the chips were homemade, as were Ollie's chicken goujons and Jamie's burger. My steak was sublime. When you compare somewhere like this to the generally dreadful Hungry Horse type places back home, well there's just isn't any comparison.

 On Sunday we went to Southport but the weather wasn't very good so it wasn't a beach day. Just as well really, as the sea was about five miles away which was reminscent of Weston-Super-Mare. We really must try to time our visits better around the tides. The rest of the resort was pretty decent - there is a lovely pier, devoid of all the usual tourist tat, with a wonderful arcade at the end full of fully working pre-decimalisation machines. You have to buy some old pennies to play them, and it's all great fun. And of course, there are all the usual things you associate with the seaside, like fairground rides and fish and chips, which is what we had for our tea.

Jamie's got Ollie in his sights on the dodgems at Southport.

On Monday I returned to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the first time since 1981, so to all intents it was my first visit. I wasn't sure what to expect as to be honest, driving through Blackpool en route, I felt the area looked extremely run down. Thankfully that didn't apply to the park, which had more than enough to do. We were there eight hours and didn't manage to go on every ride.

It's funny, people go on about the big name rides, but by far the most stressful experience for me was on the relatively old Grand National ride. This is an old wooden rollercoaster, and unlike the more modern fast and smooth rides, this old coaster shakes the absolute bones of you as it goes over the jumps. It was the only time I felt uncomfortable on the day.

We probably did more at this park than at any other we have been to, largely because the children are now old enough (and more importantly, tall enough) to go on nearly all the rides.

On Tuesday we visited Liverpool. This is one of the very few cities in England I had yet to visit, and one I have always wanted to. I have to say, I am very impressed by all the regeneration that's been done by the riverside and we spent plenty of time there, including a long stint in the Museum of Liverpool. learning all about the docks that previously stood on the site.

Of course, a visit to the famous Cavern Club was in order, even if it is shamelessly touristy. There was a busker outside singing Oasis numbers which felt slightly out of place, but even so, there is a great atmosphere down the street.

This is actually outside the Cavern Pub,
opposite the Cavern Club, but who's quibbling?

One other thing I did, which is probably more off the usual tourist track was visit the site of the former soap, Brookside. This is now just a normal close with normal people living in the houses which is just as well as I had no desire to get shot, stabbed, blown up, kidnapped, be brainwashed by a religious cult, struck down by a mysterious virus, become a lesbian, or have a helicopter crash on me while I was there.

One thing I noticed was that the close is much smaller than it seemed on TV. If you get a chance to go, you will see what I mean. I guess that's the magic of TV. I have often heard it said that people from TV look smaller in real life too.

Where's Barry Grant when you need him?

All in all, I really enjoyed my trip to Liverpool. I've always felt an affinity with the place, despite never previously visiting, and it was all borne out by my visit. I also feel slightly less of a fraud now for making the lead character of my novel, Happy New Year, from the city. At least I have now visited the locations mentioned in that story - descriptions of which are admittedly brief for that reason.

On to Wednesday and a trip to Lytham St Annes which is a quite delightful little gem by the sea just this side of Blackpool. Here we were able to enjoy a game of pitch and putt (with a few tantrums along the way, not by me on this occasion). Unfortunately the weather has begun to turn on us, so we were unable to enjoy the beach. It is typical, is it not, that in this hottest summer we have had for decades, we have unfortunately picked the one poor week to come away.

Bit cold for ice creams but it didn't stop them!

A few days left, and then we shall be home to Evesham and school will be beginning before we know it. Already the year begins to grow old.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Road Trip

As I sit here on the decking in the garden of my dream home that I bought last year, on the umpteenth night of the best summer in over 40 years, I have to reflect that life can't get much better.

If there was one thing I could change? I wish that I didn't live so far from the sea. I have always felt drawn to the coast, and am so envious of those that live close to it. Bicester was just about as far as you can get from the sea and Evesham is only marginally nearer.

With temperatures of 30+ forecast for today, I declared to the Ayres family last night that we would be going on a road trip. I've been sat in my office working away on my latest novel and various other projects for weeks and felt in need of a well deserved day off.

So with the car packed up with everything needed for a day at the beach, we set sail from sunny Evesham around 9.15am this morning, with the dulcet tones of Ken Bruce to help us along the way.

Where to go? Well the nearest seaside spot to us is Weston-Super-Mare or Weston-Super-Mud as some have dubbed it, with good reason. It's fine when the tide is in, but unfortunately when it is out, the water retreats approximately half way to France. This leaves several miles of dangerous mudflats to negotiate to reach the shoreline if one is feeling particularly suicidal. That's what happened the last time we went and a quick check of the tide times suggested it would be the same story today.

So instead we decided to try Barry Island, somewhere I've never been before. I'll be honest, I went with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. It was an easy journey, in just around two hours we were on the beach munching our sandwiches under the watchful gaze of marauding seagulls. And the temperatures were very pleasant - whilst Heathrow was sweltering in it's hottest day of the year at 35c, we were enjoying a lovely 27c with sea breezes.

What are you hanging around me for? Do I look like the sort of
 bloke who's going to have loads of food on him? Oh...

I couldn't believe how warm the sea was. It reminded me of when I was in Hawaii all those years ago. It's amazing how much difference three months of almost unbroken sunshine can make to the waters around Britain compared to your average summer. Rather than my usual paddling I actually went far enough out to start swimming - something I found absolutely exhilarating. Swimming in the sea is one of those pure and joyous experiences that really makes me feel alive, something that in a world full of adult responsibilities is something that we can easily forget how to feel.

Me on the beach. I can't show you the topless ones
as I've sold the rights to them to Playgirl.

The one downside? Somehow I managed to step on and get stung by a weaver fish, necessitating a brief visit to first aid. That wasn't pleasant but I didn't let it spoil my day. After about four hours on the beach we went to the fair, where the kids made good use of the tokens I bought for them. We then wandered past a few gift shops selling tacky Gavin and Stacey memorabilia, finishing with a slap up meal at a lovely little cafe on the front. Then we headed home, returning to Evesham just before dark, All in all, a grand day out as Wallace and Gromit would say.

Now here I am, 11pm, in the garden again with a glass of wine during the summer that just keeps giving. Cheers.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Monday, 23 July 2018

Bringing my words to life.

It's been a busy few weeks here at Chapel Street Press - which is the name I gave to my modest little publishing empire when I set it up two house moves ago. It was back in those heady days at Chapel Street in Bicester where the concept of the Time Bubble first burst into print.

I've been beavering away on the fifth book in The Time Bubble series recently. It is in fact my ninth novel in this series overall when you take the spin-offs into account. You know I love to come up with original concepts for my books and I'm quite confident that I've come up with another new twist with this story.

Whilst I've been writing about Josh's latest adventure in 1992, I've also been working on another long term project to bring my books to life via the medium of audio books.

I already dipped my toe into the waters of this area a while back when I got together with Paul Messingham, a voice actor from Brighton, to record the audio book of My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday.

Over the past few months I've put some of the other books up for audition and have received an overwhelming response. The books have been flying pretty high in the Amazon charts now for some time which must certainly have helped because the number of auditions I got for The Time Bubble alone took me days to wade through. I was amazed at the number of high profile people expressing an interest - audio books are clearly no longer merely a niche market. In the end I went with a RADA actor I was already familiar with through his long running role in The Archers, in Big Finish Doctor Who audio productions and more.

For Midlife Crisis and Rock Bottom, I've got two more great actors/ producers on board with huge experience within the BBC, ITV and elsewhere. I'm going to run features on each of these people as the audio books are released so watch this space.

One of the things I'm finding absolutely thrilling about this whole process is when people who I've grown up watching on TV seek to connect with me. Only this morning I've been chatting to a female actor who had a long running role in Brookside. I was almost in awe when her name popped up in my inbox, showing interest in the next audio book I plan to commission. If you've read Happy New Year you'll know that Amy, the lead character, is from Liverpool. What could be better than having a native speaker with a proven track record from the greatest soap of all time?

It's quite an amazing experience hearing some of these hugely talented people reading aloud the words I've written, particularly the dialogue sections. My characters have always felt very alive to me, but hearing their voices brought to life by these actors brings it to a whole new level.

It also makes me think how much more potential there is in these stories. Hearing the voice of my characters is one thing, but how about seeing them in the flesh? It would be my absolute dream to see Lauren Kent, Kay and all the others brought to life on the silver screen or on TV. Who knows? Maybe these audios might bring that one step closer to reality.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Sunday, 8 July 2018

It's coming home - but I don't want to watch it at home!

For those of you that hate football look away now. I haven't posted excessively about it. so you're just going to have to forgive me this one post when it pops up on Facebook.

It's only fair, after all. I mean, the World Cup is only once every four years, and England doing well at it is only about once every quarter century. Compare that to the endless shite that has dribbled down my news feed year after year about The X-Factor, Love Island and Strictly Come Wanking or whatever it's called, and I think you can cut me some slack this one time.

Actually none of that stuff does come down my news feed anymore as I automatically unfollow anyone who mentions it. So if I haven't liked or commented on any of your statuses since about 2013, that's probably why. Sorry about that.

Now I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Thus far, I have watched the England games mostly in the comfort of my own home and with my family, but now things are getting serious, the stakes are being upped. Today I was at Eynsham Carnival in Oxfordshire with family, and we had a good get together at my Dad's house to watch it. Even my sister, a confirmed non-football fan joined in. Everyone's getting in the spirit.

So where do I watch from here on? Well in England's not so glorious past, before I had children, I invariably spent every agonising failure in some pub somewhere, drowning my sorrows at various missed penalties with the other desolate souls. Now things are different - I have children (7 and 10) so I can't just bugger off to the pub for the semi final and, dare I say it, a potential final.

Well in theory I could - most pubs allow kids in these days so I could take them with me, but I am not sure my two would cope with an absolutely mobbed football pub crowd. I'm not sure even I would, come to that.

Equally, I don't want to watch it at home, just the three of us. Not such a historic moment as this might turn out to be. I need to be in shared company.

So I've got two ideas - one is to see if we can get some of the neighbours together and have a bit of a street or garden party - entirely possible in our street which is end of a cul-de-sac and mostly off road. Providing we can rig up some sort of visible outdoor TV it's a possibility.

Or alternatively, maybe Wychavon council could spring into action and set up some sort of big screen mass event in Evesham in Abbey Park or Crown Meadow. What an experience that would be - especially with the amazing summer we are having.

That would be an amazing experience and not too difficult to organise at short notice, I would hope? After all, Eynsham Carnival managed to get some big screens today, only a few days after they found out England were playing. I've seen plenty of footage on the BBC of such events taking place all over the place so how about it? Let's get families and their kids out there on the field to celebrate this fantastic adventure together as it enters the final stages.

Come on England!

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Class of '92

Hi all! I hope you are enjoying Happy New Year. It's going great guns and ranking high in the Kindle store so thank-you for your continued support.

Now it's time for me to start thinking about the next novel and the rest of May will be taken up with the planning process. As you can imagine, with time travel I have to map everything out very carefully to ensure it all ties up - not only within the current story but also with all the others. It's quite a task keeping track of it all!

Here's what I have so far. It will be book #5 in The Time Bubble series and will be set predominantly in 1992. Nostalgia always seems to be about a generation behind in my experience. When I was a kid, everyone used to go on about the fifties. In recent years, it's all been about the eighties. So I think it's high time for an appreciation of that somewhat overlooked decade, the nineties. This book will give me a good opportunity to kick-start that.

Cornmarket Street in 1992. Remember when you could 
hardly move for all the buses?

It will focus on two main characters. One of these will be Peter, who we've only ever previously met in middle-age. In 1992, he'll be a twenty-one year old University student in Oxford, and we'll get a chance to explore the culture of the times through his youthful eyes. This shouldn't be too difficult for me, as I was that age and living and working around Oxford at that time.

The other main protagonist will be Josh, who you'll recall at the end of Splinters in Time was heading back to 1992 in the hope of finding a way back to his own time. With several months to kill before he can attempt to get home, he'll need to integrate into the nineties culture from his twenty-first century perspective, which should prove interesting. I like the idea of pairing him up with Peter from their altered places in the timeline - Josh now middle-aged with a youthful Peter, who was once Josh's middle-aged teacher when Josh was at school.

Of course, there will be a big time travel conundrum for them to deal with, and this time I want to explore a concept that I touched on twice before, that of people from the past coming to the present. In Global Cooling there was the sailor who went missing for several months before popping up in the cave in Cornwall. Then in Splinters in Time, I wove the old English folk tale of The Mermaid of Zennor into the story, providing a time travelling explanation for the mysterious disappearance of Matthew Trewhella all those centuries ago.

So, what if a malfunctioning Time Bubble started sending people from the past into 1992 Oxford? And how will Josh and Peter handle that? I don't know yet, I haven't figured all that out, but that's what this planning process is all about.

My provisional title? Class of '92 - which I think has a nice ring to it.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Ten albums in ten days

Music is such a personal thing, isn’t it? Some people will say they are into rock, others into metal, but the truth is that even if we identify with a genre each of us will have our own unique soundtrack to our lives.

I don’t have a particular genre as such, but objectively, if anyone was looking at what I have been listening to now and over the past few decades, they might define it as a cross between electronica and shoegazing (also known as dream pop). Neither of these are particularly popular these days in the UK (if they ever were) and they certainly aren’t fashionable but I don’t care one iota about that. I’ve always believed that one’s musical tastes should be true to one’s self and not what’s “cool” or to fit in.

I should add that I also like lots of other stuff that doesn’t belong to those genres. It’s why I go down The Red Lion most Fridays as they have all sorts of live singers on down there doing different stuff.

I started doing one of those “ten albums in ten days” things on Facebook recently but gave up because I didn’t see the point. One of the things about it was “Just post a cover, no explanation needed”. But why do that if you aren’t going to give an explanation? Surely that’s the whole point. Otherwise how will anyone be able to share in how you feel? So, what I've decided to do is stick ten albums on here in one big hit instead plus a little caption for each. That way you can look at them all together or if you're not interested it is only one post on Facebook you will have to ignore rather than ten!

One drawback of being into relatively niche genres is that it is very hard to find other people in real life who are into the same stuff. Therefore my music listening is an extremely solitary activity. I can read the comments under YouTube videos online to see what other people think but they aren't people I'll ever encounter in real life. Having no-one to share one's musical journey with is a great pity as I am incredibly moved every day through the music I listen to. My favourite artists talk to me about life, feelings, and situations in a way that I almost feel that they’ve written these songs personally just for me. Which I guess was probably the artist's attention as it is with all us creative types. I have had feedback from people describing how my books have touched them in a similar way.

Sometimes I am lying in bed and a song comes on and whether it’s a joyful or melancholy moment, I so wish there was someone to whom I could say “Listen to this song. Listen to the words. Then you’ll understand exactly how I feel!” 

There is a way to do this in the modern world simply by posting a link to the song on Facebook and asking everyone to listen to it. But I very rarely do this, because like I said at the start, music is a very personal thing. A song that I find incredibly moving, speaking volumes to me about my own life, may mean nothing to the vast majority of other people. They are likely to see a proliferation of such postings as self-indulgent, attention seeking twaddle. Eventually they will get sick of seeing them and unfollow me. Well I assume they will - because I've done the same to other people who post too much. Haven't we all?

So it seems I must keep my thoughts wrapped up and continue my long musical voyage alone. It’s sad because many is the time I’ve listened to a song that’s made me think about a particular friend and longed to tell them “Listened to this and thought of you” but most of the time I have held back.  In the past I used to make up mix tapes or CD’s for friend and girlfriends, and most times that went well but I haven’t done anything like that for a while. Most people are streaming music these days anyway so if I gave them a CD they wouldn't listen to it. What's the alternative? Spotify playlists? All very well if you're on Spotify but I'm not. I use Amazon Music unlimited.

For what it’s worth, whilst what I listen to changes from time to time, at the moment I’m listening to a mixed up playlist of around 100 tracks from the following six bands: Client, Garbage, Ladytron, La Roux, Lush and Saint Etienne. Some of these you will probably never have heard of. Client have spent a single week of their 14 year career so far in the Top 40, whilst Ladytron have not even managed that in nearly twenty years, though both have found greater success outside the UK. I’m not going to bother posting any links to songs for the reasons I’ve already stated, but here’s ten album covers in lieu of my failing to complete the Facebook challenge! 

Note that these aren't necessarily my ten favourite albums of all time but a mix of what I'm listening to at the moment with some old favourites thrown in. I could quite easily have given you 50 or a hundred but we haven't got all day, so ten it shall be...

The latest album from Client, still as good as ever despite
the departure of Dubstar singer, Sarah Blackwood.

Hard to believe this classic is
now twenty years old!

Pure pop perfection. I could never get tired of this
album - undoubtedly their best.

The second album from La Roux that was nowhere near as
 commercially successful as the first but just as good!

Pretty hardcore electronica, the sort that goes down well in
 Japan and Germany but not so well in the UK.

I'm a big fan of this band's early work,
particularly this debut album.

A shoegazing classic, before they embraced the Britpop movement
 for commercial success, though that was just as good!

Another great indie band of the early 1990s
 and an album that never gets old.

Sarah Blackwood's earlier band, with this slightly dodgy looking cover.
Is it just me or does the pencil case look like a fanny?

The band I have seen more than any other, and almost
 certainly my most played album of all time.

In the unlikely event that you are reading this and just happen to love one of those artists then get in touch! We’ll have something to talk about!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

It's that time again...

Yes, it's that time again. The release of my latest time travel novel is upon us and as on previous occasions I've a little sneak preview to whet your appetite.

The good news is that you won't have to wait long for the main course. The paperback edition is available as of today and ready to order with the Kindle edition going live this Friday (27th April).

So what's this one about? It's another spin-off novel in my Second Chances series. Unlike my Time Bubble series, all the books in this series can be read standalone. If you've never read a book of mine before, you can pick this one up without having to have knowledge of what happened in any of the other books.

I know that many of you that have eagerly devoured all of my earlier books enjoy the way that characters and situations cross over between the different stories and this one is no exception. In my most recent release, Splinters in Time, you'll recall that Josh, the main protagonist, created multiple universes after a time travel accident in a hospital room. At the time of the accident, there were two other people in the room. One was Thomas Scott (deceased), whose story was told in My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, and the other was a nurse, Amy, but we never found out what happened to her - until now

In this book we pick up on the story told from Amy's perspective. Caught up in the accident, she finds herself thrust back in time, in a strange Groundhog Day style loop which sees her reliving every New Year of her life over again in reverse. What happens? Well you'll have to read the book to find that out, but in the meantime, here's a sneak preview from the second chapter. Here, we pick up with Amy, just before the accident, as she discovers Josh in the hospital room.

As I opened the door to the private room I was taken aback to see a very oddly dressed stranger inside, peering intently at the chart of the bottom of Thomas’s bed.

He was dressed in outdoor clothing, but with an old-fashioned medical white coat draped over the top. If this was some attempt to disguise himself as a doctor it was a pretty lame one, particularly as he was also wearing a large hiker’s rucksack over the top of the coat.

My first thought on seeing the rucksack was of terrorism. It was a reaction I always had now when I saw anyone acting even slightly out of the ordinary wearing a rucksack. It was an irrational fear brought on by decades of terrorist attacks in London and elsewhere.

This man didn’t look like your average terrorist, whatever that was. I suppose my fears had conditioned me to imagine some young man of Middle Eastern origin. This was prejudiced, I know, but too many images in the media had imprinted this cliché indelibly in my mind.

This man was white and middle-aged – in his early fifties at a guess. Not only did he not look like a terrorist, but also it was illogical to even think that he might be. Why would anyone want to blow up an empty hospital room with nothing but a dead body and a cheap, plastic Christmas tree in it?
Whoever he was, he ought not to be there, and I had no hesitation in challenging him.

“Who are you?” I demanded, determined not to show any fear despite the distinctly uneasy feeling flooding through my body. “What are you doing in here?”

“I’m Doctor Gardner,” he said, in a ludicrously posh accent that just had to be put on as he cast his gaze down at my name badge. “I’m a specialist, visiting from Harley Street. I’m delighted to meet you, Amy.”

I wasn’t convinced for a moment by his overblown acting. Who did he think he was, Hugh Grant? I was also not impressed by him ogling my breasts during his laughably poor performance.

“Don’t give me that,” I replied, “and stop staring at my tits. None of the doctors in this hospital or anywhere else wear white coats anymore. What they do wear is ID, so where’s yours?”

“Ah yes, one of the chaps down on security was going to print it off for me earlier this evening,” he ventured. “I must pop down and pick it up at some point.”

I just looked at him with a face that said, “Really?” I didn’t even have to utter the word. He could see I didn’t believe a word of it and changed tack.

“Look, I’ll come clean,” he said, reverting to a normal accent. “I’m not a doctor, I’m a scientist attached to the university carrying out some research here. I just need a couple of minutes, that’s all. Then I’ll be out of your hair.”

Was he telling the truth? With his backpack along with waving a strange metal, wand-like device around in front of him, I guess he could pass for a scientist, but not a lucid and bona fide one. He looked more like some crazy character from a sci-fi movie. All he was lacking was the wild, Einstein-style hair.

A more likely explanation was that he was some sort of escaped mental patient and if that was the case, I could well be in danger. Mindful of last year’s incident on the ward, I decided the best course of action would be to call for some help.

“I’m sorry, that’s not good enough,” I replied. “People don’t go around hospitals in the middle of the night wearing dubious disguises unless they’re up to no good.”

“What can I get up to in here?” protested the fake Doctor Gardner, gesturing towards the body on the bed. “It’s not as if I’ve come to bump him off, is it? It’s a bit late for that: the Grim Reaper’s already been and gone.”

“I’m calling security,” I replied, moving towards the telephone on the wall beside the door.

“No, don’t do that,” he protested, and began to move to cut me off. That was all the provocation I needed. Issuing a silent prayer of thanks for the recently improved security measures, I headed for the panic button on the wall behind the bed instead, reaching it just before he was able to stop me.

His attempt to block my path had been more than a little unsettling. I really hoped that whoever was on security was paying attention and not snoozing on the job.

Doctor Gardner, if that was his real name, backed off once he saw the flashing red button on the wall.
“Since when have hospitals had panic buttons?” he asked, looking unsettled.

He was on the back foot all of a sudden which gave me a chance to seize the initiative. I had no intention of showing him any weakness so, keeping my voice as level as I could, I spelled out the situation in black and white.

“Since last year when a patient assaulted a nurse on this very ward,” I replied. “Do you have any idea how much abuse we get from the drunks that get hauled in here every weekend? Now you’ve got less than two minutes until security arrives from downstairs to escort you from the premises – and that won’t be pleasant. They don’t take too kindly to women being threatened and can get quite heavy-handed. If I were you, I would scarper now, while you still can.”

This was a blatant lie. The aging head of security, Barry, spent the vast majority of his time sitting in his office drinking tea and eating biscuits. He hadn’t seen any action since his Army days, decades in the past. Most of his colleagues were no better. But this stranger wasn’t to know that.

“Fine,” he said, “but I’ll be back and you won’t even know about it.”

I assumed that meant he was going to leave, but he didn’t show any signs of departing by the traditional method, i.e. through the door. Instead he pointed his weird device in front of him and started pressing buttons on it. It was the first time I had seen it and it looked like something out of Doctor Who.

“What are you doing?” I asked, becoming increasingly convinced that he was some sort of nutter.
“Nothing for you to worry about,” was his reply.

This man had seriously lost the plot. What did he think he was going to do – teleport out of there with his home-made remote control TV aerial?

Ironically, outlandish as that idea had seemed at the time, given what happened next I may not have been far off the mark. Because this was the moment when the weird sci-fi shit started happening, leading me to realise that he was more than just a weirdo after all. Of course, it was too late to do anything about it by then. I was caught up in whatever was going on and it was too late to avoid it. I was well and truly over my event horizon.

What happened was all over very quickly. Suddenly there seemed to be two of him in the room, the second one seemingly appearing out of nowhere. He hadn’t come through the door, that’s for sure, as I would have seen him from where I was standing.

This other version looked exactly the same, right down to the white coat. Could they be twins or was it some kind of visual trickery? There was no time to figure it out as something else was already happening.

They had both been pointing their wands across the room, close to Thomas’s bed. Then I heard a long-drawn-out cry of “Nooooo!” from one or possibly both of the men, in the style of some overly dramatic movie scene. I might have found this amusing if I had been watching from afar, rather than being an unwilling participant.

Then everything descended into a kaleidoscopic, whirling maelstrom of colour and noise. As multiple mirror images of myself, the stranger and the body on the bed swirled all around me, I felt myself being sucked by a hugely powerful force towards the centre of the room.

Like a spider in a bathtub being drawn towards the plughole, I flailed my arms helplessly, completely powerless to escape. It was the last thing I remembered before I blacked out.

And that is how all of this began. 

Happy New Year is released on 27th April 2018 and you can get your copy by clicking here

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Evesham goes to the polls in Meowxit referendum!

Residents of a picturesque Worcestershire town were preparing to go to the polls last night to decide an issue that has divided the town like no other. In fact, one local historian went so far as to say that tensions had not run so high since the Battle of Evesham in 1265.

The issue that has caused such a huge rift all revolves around local celebrity "Cooper", a seven year old cat who has been greeting visitors to the local Morrison's supermarket now for several years. Whilst bringing delight to some shoppers, others are not so keen. The situation has now escalated to a point where only a local referendum to decide whether Cooper should stay or leave can decide the issue.

Souper Cooper's deal of the day!

Fans of Cooper have been gathering outside the store, bringing him treats, and holding up banners in his support. One lady we interviewed said.

"Coops is lovely and the reason I come to Morrisons each day for my shopping. He's a little ray of sunshine. I can't believe people are offended by him, but then, people seem to be offended by just about anything these days".

A local councilor also came out in support of Evesham's most famous cat, saying "There is no doubt that Cooper remaining is very important for local trade. Many people come here specifically to see him and spend their money while they are here, helping to create new jobs and boost the local economy".

Other were opposed, though. One man with a shaven head and a union jack T-shirt identified himself as a member of one of Britain's far right parties. He said "You may say he's doing no harm sitting on the kitchen roll in the foyer, but that's the tip of the iceberg. Before you know it he'll be in the store then bringing all his friends and family in and they'll be taking over".

The councilor who had spoken up in support of Coops dismissed this man's words as bigoted rubbish, but there are others with less inflammatory motives who want Coops to leave too. Many believe that allowing Coops near food products in the foyer of the store presents a health risk, despite the fact that the products in question are all sealed in packaging.

One young mother complained that Coops had brushed against the outer wrapping of some kitchen roll and it might trigger an allergic reaction in one of her children if she bought a product that had come into contact with the kitchen roll. She said she had invited an environmental health team to investigate.

Another Meowxiteer we spoke to, a middle-aged woman from Hampton welcomed the investigation, making the following claim:

"It's a little known fact that the Black Death which spread across Europe in the fourteenth century was not caused by rats and fleas at all. It was actually all started by a man from Weymouth who went across to fight in the crusades in the late thirteenth century. When he came back he brought a Persian cat as a souvenir. With no army pension in those days, he opened a shop on the seafront selling ice-creams to Medieval tourists and his cat used to sit on the counter when he was serving. A few decades later the plague broke out in England in this very spot. Co-incidence? I don't think so!"

When our local historian pointed out the numerous inaccuracies in this statement, the woman stomped off in a huff muttering something about emailing head office and that she would be getting her potatoes from Tesco from now on.

It's clear that Cooper has polarised local opinion more than the great love it or hate it Marmite debate leaving the referendum too close to call. But what does the great 'man' himself have to say on the issue? We caught up with Coops outside the shop and asked him if he intended to abide by the decision of the people. All he had to say was:

"I'm a cat. I do what I want".

Jason Ayres is the author of seven novels, including the Amazon bestseller, The Time Bubble. You can find out more here.