Young Jamie: Portrait of the Artist as a Wee Bastard – Part 1: Merlin

Have a read at this story I wrote when I was eight-years-old, and then wallow in the pointlessness of it all as my 35-year-old self tries to provide some context.


It all starts off very innocently, like Enid Blyton meets Tolkein with a homeopathic splash of Clive Barker. A bunch of lads on a quest for treasure, facing adversary, fighting foes and helping each other out along the way. Aaarrgghhh, a wolf! Never fear: you can always bet on karate Callum and his sharp sword of lupine vengeance! Yay! Aaaarrrgghh, a canyon! Never fear: we’ve got bridge helmets! Ya… wait a minute, we’ve got what? You know, bridge helmets; it’s not phallic or a horrible medical condition or anything, it’s literally a helmet that shoots out a bridge to aid safe passage in times of trouble! Oh well, in that case… YAY! ‘Mon the bridge helmets!

Aaaarrrgghh, a pit of snakes…It’s at this point where everything becomes a little bit Tarantino-y. A new cast of characters from my class is introduced, who are all summarily dispatched in a series of increasingly brutal ways. Oh, Hi Brian…KABOOM! Brian? BRIAN? Hey, Kenny, how’s it goi… AAARRRGGHH! Into the pit with you, Kenny, and you’d better not even think about inexplicably finding a sword in that pit of snakes! Oh, you’ve inexplicably found a sword in that pit of snakes, have you? Well, I haven’t got time to ponder the ridiculousness of that plot contrivance, for I am about to ENGAGE THE BRIDGE HELMET, AN INSTRUMENT OF MERCY THAT I DOTH REPURPOSE AS A WEAPON OF WAR! SAY TOODLE PIP TO YOUR NECK, YOU SWORD-FINDING MOTHERFUCKER! Any more baddies want to try their luck? Oh, hi James Dick… I Hope you’re a fan of… face-punching! Biff! Boof! Badam! As if it wasn’t bad enough already for the poor boy having to suffer through primary school with a surname like Dick (subtlety and compassion are rare bed-fellows indeed among the male under 20s), he gets put into my story and further brutalised by enduring a murky, open-ended fate at the hands of a gorilla.

‘A gorilla found him.’ It says so much without really saying anything at all, leaving you, the reader, to imagine for yourself the specifics of poor James’ treatment at the hands of this savage bipedal beast. I’m leaning towards a biblical interpretation of ‘found’. I always imagine a gentle ‘tap tap’ of the shoulder followed by a blood-curdling scream, and an angry, whispered warning from the gorilla that ‘what happens in the dark, dark forest, STAYS in the dark, dark forest, son.’

At least Craig gets the kind of quick death that can only come from being ‘found’ by a comet (it’s too weird to consider a biblical interpretation of ‘found’ in this instance, although feel free to imagine a frightened boy being fucked by a comet). Thankfully for my band of merry goodies, and the wider planet, the comet only seems to scorch a one-human-sized area of ground, leaving me to doubt that what we’re dealing with here is actually a comet. They’re not renowned for their precision. By my young self’s comet-related reckoning, the dinosaurs should’ve been able to harmlessly header their comet back into space and get on with lumbering about and eating things.

The ending’s a bit rushed, in the sense that there’s a fire, the all-too-convenient discovery of WATER HELMETS and a whopping one-hundred-grand pot of prize money. I dunno, death, murder, cold-heartedness, greed. It’s clear I was a child growing up in Thatcher’s Britain. All that was missing from the narrative was a magical poll-tax riot.

A lot of elements in this tale that are ripe for Freudian analysis: extending helmets, helmets that spray liquid, a pit of snakes, a boy called Dick. This story was clearly about my own penis.

I love my teacher’s red-pen critique at the end, which boils down to: ‘Loved the story, Jamie, really loved it, right up until the bit where you murdered all of your friends, you fucking sociopath.’

Pet Cemetery

butchIf you’ve ever had a pet, then you’re intimately acquainted with death – especially if you grew up with one.  This piece you’re reading now (as opposed to a completely different piece you may once have read six years ago) is about having pets, loving pets and losing pets, with a few detours along the way to incorporate things like the Rat Jesus, inter-species murder and mafia slayings. I lost four of my pets this year. Three rats and a dog. This is their tribute, delivered the only way I know how: not very well. 

Paddy’s Troubles

One of our first family pets was a budgie called Paddy; he lived during the height of The Troubles, and he was blue. I’d like to think that the act of naming him was some sort of artistic comment on the futility of Scottish sectarianism, but it’s possible that my mum was just racist, and had to fall back on her second choice of offensive racial nickname after Sambo was vetoed.

This isn't Paddy. But who gives a shit? They all look the same.

This isn’t Paddy. But who gives a shit? They all look the same.

Anyway, Paddy didn’t live long enough to have much of an impact on global race relations, as he was tragically murdered. Who’s your number one suspect? A cat, right? Tsk tsk. You bigoted cattist. And don’t even think about telling me that all of your best friends are cats. No, you feline fascist, the perp wasn’t a cat; although in your defence history does tell us that cats and small birds have been mortal enemies since time immemorial (Bros, Warner., 1963, Sylvester & Tweetie Pie). As far as rivalries go it’s a bit of a one-sided enmity (kind of like the rivalry between the sun and asteroids), and, yes, I’m willing to concede that the cat’s usually the aggressor. What I’m saying is, I can understand the root assumption from which your flagrant cattism sprouts. But you’re wrong, friend. Paddy didn’t meet his maker at the jaws and claws of a cunning cat: he died a statistical anomaly, having been snuffed out by an over-excited dog. What a twist.

The dog came bounding into our house with its visiting owner at the same time as Paddy was enjoying one of his brief periods of liberation, free from his cage and happily toddling and hopping about the living room floor. The spaz-tongued, slobbering beast pulled free from its owner’s grip, hurtled in to the living room, and gave our feathery little fella the gift of a massive and fatal heart-attack – as I suppose creatures fifty times the size of you are want to do. A little while later, after the requisite period of budgie mourning (two hours and eleven minutes) we got Paddy II. A little truer to expectations, Paddy II was skillfully – and lovingly – eviscerated by our first cat.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the family declined the option of a Paddy III. As my mother put it: “I’m not having a bloody horse coming in and trampling this one to death.” Also, my mother well knew that the final installment of any trilogy is usually the shittest. She’s right… isn’t she… Spider Man 3? Stop your smirking, Godfather 3, you’re next!

We're so weird as a species that we even keep pets inside giant pets.

We’re so weird as a species that we even keep pets inside giant pets.

I think it’s weird that we keep pets (especially fish. They’re excruciatingly boring. You might as well keep a brick as a pet). Sometimes I look down at my pet cat as it brushes against my leg and think, ‘How did this happen? This is surreal. Why is this four-legged creature living in my house?’ You could argue that keeping a pet is a ridiculous, pointless and incredibly wasteful act. Look after your own genes, or the genes of another of your species: don’t invest your time in the well-being of a creature that shits in a box and licks its own arsehole. Sure, you could argue that case. I’d counter that our ability to indulge in these seemingly pointless acts of nurturing might just be one of the more important stitches in the patchwork-quilt of our humanity.

Having a pet can teach you about compassion and selflessness. It can also, as I’ve glibly demonstrated, teach you about death. Perhaps, in a strange way, we’re nothing but masochists. Owning a pet is like saying: ‘I don’t believe that I’ve been subjected to quite enough in the way of human loss and agony. I’d quite like to experience grief and heartache through a variety of different species, please.’

In a world crammed with suffering, the greater share of which happens unseen or unimagined by mankind – i.e. the never-ending reclamation of flesh as carbon through tooth and claw – why do we desire to bring a proportion of that invisible suffering into sharp focus by ensnaring an animal, developing feelings for it and then observing it as it gradually dies before our very eyes? What a curious species we are. In this year alone, during which I’ve wept not a centiliter of ocular fluid for a single fallen human at home or abroad, I’ve cried genuine tears of grief over the bodies of three rats and a dog.

This piece you’re reading serves as both obituary and commemoration for four special creatures that were plucked from their ancestral destinies within the animal kingdom’s brutal pyramid, and placed – plump and cosseted – upon a man-made pedestal. And loved with a deepness not often seen between two different species outside of underground German movies from the early 1980s.

So RIP, you wonderful, fun-filled, furry little fuckers. I’ll always remember you. You may have spent most of your time eating, shitting, pissing and sleeping, but, collectively and individually, you still lived more worthwhile lives than the cast of Geordie Shore.


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