Lord Rochdale and the Station Hop Robbery (a short story)

It is my understanding that a train is a sort of stubborn bus. I’ve never seen one myself. I stood on a station once and waited to see one, to see what all the fuss was about, but was sadly distracted by a pair of mating pigeons. I heard it go by and turned quickly to catch a glimpse but by the time I realised I had turned the wrong way, the blasted thing had disappeared.

You’re probably wondering why I’m going on about this, and who the bloody hell I am anyway? And rightly so. You should know these things. They’re important to a story. My name is Charlie. I’m a dashing sort of chap, about so high, with a passion for ornithology. So, now the formalities are out of the way, let’s get to the nub –

A friend of mine, Lord Rochdale (a dastardly sort of bloke, you wouldn’t like him), called me on the phone and asked me if I would like to help him burgle one (a train I mean, not a phone). I told him they are probably hard to steal seeing as they tend to be fixed to the tracks but I’m free next Thursday afternoon so why not. Not much else to do on a Thursday.

Jump forwards a few days and there we are; Thursday. Time to do some burglary. I arrived at the small train station just outside of Kent as agreed. I was wearing my trilby hat and trench coat, as is sensible in this weather, and there at the far end of the platform was my cohort and accomplice, Rochdale. He was staring at me.

“What are they thinking!” he shouted.

“Who?” I replied.

“The Gods!”

“I imagine they are trying to help us in any way they can.” I said, having arrived next to him. The oncoming sound of a train was already present.

“I am uncomfortable and miserable. Had I known it was going to pour down I might have cancelled.”

“It’s not too late.”

“Bugger it. We’re stealing that damn painting if it’s the last thing we do.”

“I thought we were stealing a train.”

He looked at me like a wizard looks at a clown. “Steal the train? How do you propose we do that?”

I shrugged. “Jimmy it?”

“It’s not a Fiat Panda, Charlie, it’s a bloody locomotive. You can’t just “jimmy it”.”

“Right. No, of course. What painting?”

“On that train is a young man named Percy Witherbrick. Have you heard of him?” I shook my head, “He’s a cousin on my mother’s side. He has in his possession a painting by Gainsborough, I’m assuming you’ve heard of Gainsborough?”

“Paints faces?”

“Yes. Sort of. Portraits. Percy’s father passed recently and they found one in his attic along with a whole bunch of other paintings, mostly worthless. Witherbrick is on his way to get it authenticated. At this moment in time that painting doesn’t exist. If he gets to his destination they will register it. Real or not. This is our only chance to get our hands on something worth millions that nobody yet knows about.”

“Who is the painting of?”

“Percy’s grandmother.”

There was a hiss and the train stopped in front of us. “Alright, you go in front of me. I’m going to duck behind you so he doesn’t recognise my face.”

“Right ho. This way then is it?”

“Just keep walking. He’ll be in first class. Next carriage along.”

The interior of the train was dull, lifeless, rusty, clattering. The seats were faded blue and full of street urchins and criminals (one suspects. I tried not to look at them.)

We bustled down the aisle and made it to the entrance of the first class carriage. Rochdale peered over my shoulder. His moustache tickled my ear.

“There he is. Four rows down facing us. Do you see him?”

“The man with the goatee beard and cardboard tube?”

“The very same.”

“What’s the plan?”

“We’ll casually walk down the aisle, me hiding behind you, and when we get close enough I’ll reach round and punch him in the face. Got it?”

“It’s a very sophisticated plan.”

“It’s not at all sophisticated. Let’s get on with it.”

We snuck carefully down the carriage and stopped in front of Percy. He looked up and smiled at me. I smiled back. Rochdale walloped him squarely the face. It was quite something. His head went back, his eyes closed, and he started snoring. I gently took the tube out of his limp hands and we backed back out of the carriage. People witnessed the event but didn’t make much of it. They were upper middle class people, it’s not easy to shock upper middle class people.

We ran back through the urchin carriage to the doors just as we pulled up at the next station. We jumped out and ran for the street. There was a car waiting for us on the road, prearranged by the criminal genius that is Rochdale.

We bundled in. Rochdale slapped me on the back. “Good show old boy!” he shouted. “Perry, step on it!” (Perry is the name of the driver.)

He did step on it and we hurtled down the road and away from the scene of our crime.

“Champagne Charleston?”

“It would be rude not to,” I said.

Rochdale cracked open the champers and filled two glasses. We chin-chinned and downed the contents.

“Shall we have a look?” said Rochdale.

“I think we must,” I said.

Rochdale put his glass down (which immediately fell over and wetted our shoes due to the nature of Perry’s fervent driving) and carefully removed the white cap. Inside was a rolled up canvas. Rochdale withdrew the painting. He unrolled it. We stared.

“What the fu-“ (I’m sorry for his language, I won’t include it in the story. That sort of thing just won’t do.)

“Well it’s certainly not a Gainsborough,” I said.

His shoulders sagged and his fists clenched the canvas, tearing it slightly. “You think?”

“I think it’s quite obvious.”

“Perry! Stop the car.”

The car stopped.

Rochdale got out and closed the door. And then he reacted. I’ve been looking through my dictionary to find the right would to describe his reaction. Tempestuous doesn’t quite cut it. Impassioned maybe? He let the painting fall to the ground and screamed at it. I can’t repeat all of his words here but there was something about Percy watching too much Art Attack. It all ended with him tearing off his clothes and throwing his shoes at a passing cat. He then chased the poor feline, half naked and screaming, down the street, leaving me alone in the car.

I looked out of the window at the torn and soaked painting on the floor. It was a Jackson Pollock. Pity really.

10 Simple Steps to Getting Noticed on Wattpad

10 Simple Steps Cover

Step one

Write a book called, “10 Simple Steps to Getting Noticed on Wattpad.” (Like I did right here – https://www.wattpad.com/story/51458336 )

Step two

Use said book to give helpful information. Slyly mention your main book as an example. Just like I’m about to do in step three.

Step three

Have an excellent cover with a very funny sticker in the top right-hand corner (Here’s a good example of what I mean – https://www.wattpad.com/story/41481274-the-accidental-scoundrel )

Step four

Sell your soul. Here’s a helpful guide to get you started –

1) Put your book in a shoebox along with a lock of your own hair, some toenail clippings, and a picture of Hellen Mirren.

2) Go to the middle of a crossroads and bury the shoe box. (Depending on the type of road surface you may need a pneumatic drill and a fake stop sign, especially if you intend to do this at rush hour.)

3) Say the words, “Unbiwattpadio garnethme readerworms ignitio soulio.”

4) Wait.

5) Apologise to the traffic and go back home.

6) Consult a psychiatrist.

Step five

Consider packing the whole thing in.

Step six

Having consumed quite a lot of whisky remember how brilliant a writer you really are and get straight back on to Wattpad.

Step seven

Endlessly follow other authors and pretend to like their books so they will pretend to like yours in return.

Step eight

Wonder where exactly this staircase is leading to. Do you have an attic? Look back at the previous seven steps and try and remember exactly what it was you came up here for in the first place.

Step nine

Lean against metaphorical banister and call psychiatrist and say you’re having a metaphysical meltdown and could he please recommend alcohol as you think it would do a lot better than any time spent on a chaise longue. Remember that “chaise longue” is French for “long chair” and chuckle at how unsophisticated that particular piece of furniture now seems.

Step ten

Put your finger in your ear and wiggle it up and down. No really, try it. Doing it? It sounds just like Pac-Man doesn’t it?

Step eleven (damn, I’ve miscounted somehow)

I don’t know how to get noticed on Wattpad. It’s really hard, man. I’ve been on here for like 4 months and I’ve only got one vote. You are really asking the wrong person.

Thank you for reading. Now, go and read The Accidental Scoundrel and, if it makes you laugh, do please vote for it.

Oh, and – Step Twelve

Never directly ask for votes.

Comedy: the runt of the genre litter

I think there should be a movement in literature. Humour needs recognition. Movies, television, theatre, music, they all have a legitimate genre section. So why not literature? I went to my local branch of Waterstones to find something to tickle my funny bone. It’s not easy. Where is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? In the Sci-Fi section. Terry Pratchett? – Fantasy. P. G. Wodehouse? – general fiction. Dave Wong? – horror.

And the TV and Film version of the above? They are in the comedy section. And nobody frowns upon it. So why not books?

And it’s fine if you know the author you are looking for. But if you want to discover a new comedy writer you can’t do it. You can’t browse and leaf through the comedy on offer because they’ve all been dispersed randomly throughout the shop.

With television and film comedy is put with comedy regardless of the genre. You don’t need to hunt through the horror section to find Shaun of the Dead, or trawl through Sci-Fi to find Red Dwarf. They are all bundled together. “You want something funny to watch? Here it is,” say the nice people in DVD shops. But books? “We’re too proud to have a comedy genre. This is literature darling.”

There is a “humour” section in most book shops but sadly this is full with novelty books and joke collections. I want to go into a store, in the mood for a funny novel, and to be able to browse through authors I’ve never heard of. There are enough of us to warrant it.

Or am I just being a pedant? What do you think?

The Last Days of Flat L, Percy Road (short story)

Last Days CoverThere’s no point in questioning it anymore. Life has got weird, that’s all there is to it. I’m trapped in my flat. I blame Amazon. That damn website. You can buy anything on there. I bought a lock picking kit and I’ve been practising. Now I’m fucked.

What am I supposed to do, phone the estate agent and ask them to free me? What will I say? “I’ve broke into the flat just to see if I could and now I’ve fucked the lock. I can’t open it from the inside.” No. That won’t do. Time will fix things. Time always does. I should have practised sober. There’s always the window if things get desperate. I’m three floors up, in the loft, but I dropped my phone out of the window last week when I was smoking and that survived. If it comes to it I will jump. The phone doesn’t work now, sadly. Soon after the window incident I dropped it in the toilet and it had a fit and died. A lesson learned. I won’t try and escape through the toilet. God damn the world-wide abandonment of house phones! This could be sorted out with one call to my brother.

What would you do? I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m stuck here forever. I heard about a guy who got lost at sea for six months and he survived. I can survive here. If it comes to it I’ll eat the furniture. Maybe I’ll eat the Chinchilla. Luckily my hobby is writing. If my hobby was cycling I’d be screwed. I’d just have to sit here moping around, crying intermittently, and dreaming of the freedom of the bicycle. So this is it. Stuck forever with a cupboard full of dry pasta and a globe shaped bar full of liquor.

In a way it’s freeing. The idea of forced solitude can be daunting. But a writer is used to such things. It’s exciting for us. It gives us a chance to finally snub the procrastination that the outside world brings. If I was the sort of person that held any kind of respect for bills I would still have the internet. Then at least I could watch porn. And videos of goats screaming like men. Have you seen those videos? Goats and sheep. They are heaven and hell. Sheep are like living clouds and goats scream like the souls of tortured men are trapped within them.

Shit. I really am screwed. If it wasn’t for the fact I have a history of havoc I would bang on my front door and shout and wail until one of my neighbours hears me. But those bridges are smouldering at the bottom of a social canyon. If those bastards knew I was stuck in here they would evacuate the building and burn it to the ground. Finally they would be rid of that lunatic that lives in the attic, making their lives hell with his weird antics.

I should have never destroyed my TV. But the fucker had it coming. Have you watched the BBC recently? I rest my case. The Famous Grouse had convinced me that the 52 inches of high definition garbage that spews from the screen was destined for the grave. I had forgotten the fearsome looking gun I keep in my underwear draw was only a starter pistol. It only fires blanks. I stood just a foot away from the screen and blasted it three times but the fucker carried on unaffected by my onslaught. I chucked the gun into the bathroom and it smashed a corner off the sink. Yeah, the bathroom is in throwing distance of the lounge, that’s the kind of place I live in.

I lit a cigarette and paced around in front of my couch. Glaring at the incessant nonsense dancing around the screen trying to think how TVs are normally sent to the grave. How do you kill these things? What would Sarah Connor do? I picked up the TV and dragged it away from the stand. The wires held on momentarily but gave way to my frantic pull. But the fucker wasn’t going to die easily. It whipped up its plug and pulled my record player off its stand with it. It hit the ground and a bootleg Bob Dylan record came down with it and smashed to pieces.

So here I stand. Surrounded by smashed vinyl with only the TV to blame. Will it not stop until all art has been destroyed?

Now the TV is really going to get it. I decide to drown the fucker. I put the TV in the bath and piss on it. I turn on the taps and return to the couch. The wall where the TV used to be seems weirdly vacant. I stare at it. I top up my glass with whisky and roll a cigarette. Shit. How long have I been trapped here? An hour? And things have already gone to shit. There must be a better way.

I figure I better sleep on it. Tomorrow will bring a solution and hopefully sanity.


I wake up on the couch. I think I was crying in my sleep. My feet are wet. Nothing brings you to action like waking up with your feet in water. I’m three floors up and my shoes are floating across the lounge. Is this it? Has the world finally ended? I spring from the couch and look out of the window. The street below is dry. Just me then. The Gods have decided my time has come. Bring on the flood.

By the time I realise this isn’t God’s wrath but the revenge of a TV in a wet grave, it’s too late for preventative action. I run through the flat to the bathroom, the bottom of my dressing gown rippling through the lake as I go. I turn off the taps and pull out the plug. Then things really start going bad. The floor starts making a creaking sound. On the street outside the sound of many sirens can be heard screeching to a halt in front of the house. I edge backwards out of the bathroom just as the floor gives way and I watch the bath, full of TV and water, vanish into the flat below. The house shakes with the impact. Now someone is banging on my door.

“Are you alright in there? You need to get out of the house, the ceilings are falling in. What have you done?”

The water is rushing past my feet into the hole where the bath used to be. I quietly walk back into the lounge and considered my options. I open a bottle of whisky and drink a few swigs. Then there is a new sound. Metal on glass. I look over at the window. A ladder has been placed against it. I run over and pull the blind down. A few minutes later someone is knocking.

“Sir, you need to open the window.”

I keep quiet.

The window is smashed inwards and a man in a fireman’s helmet starts climbing in to my flat.

“What do you want from me?!” I shout, frantically searching for my gun.

“Sir, calm down. You need to come with me.”

I run to the bathroom remembering I chucked the gun in there and find it balancing on the edge of the hole. I pick it up. In the flat below an old woman is staring up at me giving me the finger. Bitch. I run back in the lounge and aim at the man. I fire.

“Christ! What the hell are you doing?” shouts the man, covering his head.

“Protecting myself!”

“I’m a fucking fireman! I’m trying to help you.”

I drop the gun and run for the front door. Maybe the lock has fixed itself? I hear his footsteps running up behind me and before I have time to escape I’m slammed into the door and wrestled to the ground.


The cells in the local police station smell like hamster cages. God damn my bad luck. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Amazon. I’ll be writing a letter of complaint.

The end.