Hello world

This is the post excerpt.


This is my very first post.  At this stage there is no plan. No structure. No idea where this is going!  I am not a natural or gifted writer but for some reason I often get the urge to write.  I’ve never shared any of it before but now, perhaps it is time!


The extraordinary tale of Barclay McGee C5

Chapter 5

Mood swings the last three years had been a fact of life for Barclay McGee.   More than during his competitive cycling years when ambition and poor performance would exhalt and condemn him in equal measure.   Since the “accident” he had known real lows. Initially he managed them through excessive drinking.  Soon he discovered whisky is a poor medicine and picked himself up through fresh air via a quick 50 miles on the bike and through music.  He discovered he liked words.  Lyrics could now change his mood and help him express the emotions that would tumble out of him during moments of weakness.  The first time his wife’s birthday came along he was struggling.  The words of Some Fantastic Place helped him through that day.  He printed the Lyric and used photograph magnets to attach it to the side of his fridge. Funny how a smiling photo of a lost loved one can lift your spirit.

Fighting through the crowd at the tube station McGee walked trance like to where he thought the shop was.    He was grounded and calmer than he thought he would be at this point. There was a clarity about his future that freed his mind.   He found the square and then noticed the shop in the corner.  The square was busy and the shop stood still among the people and traffic passing by.  He was there for fifteen minutes, staring.  Nobody entered or exited the shop.  The windows were covered with posters for various models of laptops and tablets. Gadgets for camera phones and services for network management aimed at small companies.   He could see no movement inside, so he moved closer.  As he approached the door he noticed a poster that was nothing to do with the business being promoted inside.  The poster was for a Samaritans hotline.  This was the prime real estate of the shop window.  It stuck out among the other marketing blurb and made McGee hesitate with his hand on the door.

Man’s anxiety about death leads him to behave in a certain way. Conforming to societal norms, accepting the judgement of the system and staying within the accepted boundaries of behaviour.  At this moment that anxiety was gone from Barclay McGee and he felt this freedom like an injection of adrenaline rising in his chest.

The rush of the street behind couldn’t mask his racing heart.  Hands beginning to sweat, he pushed the door.  His senses were on overload.  The song he loved so much was playing inside the shop.   It stopped him.  This song was never heard on radio and he didn’t know many other people who would recognise it.  A tear fell across his cheek and he brushed it away before anyone noticed.   He was gasping for breath, raw with emotion that hit him like a thunderbolt.  He dropped his bag and knelt down on one knee so he was out of sight of the shopkeeper.  Wow.  Amazing. Chris Difford finished his lyric and John Spencer appeared around the corner of the display asking if he could assist.

The first thought that McGee had was how much John Spencer had aged since the trial.  . There was a kindness and a vulnerability in Spencer’s face that he didn’t expect to see.  Although Spencer was easily recognisable to McGee, out of context like this and perhaps with an unconscious desire to bury his past, Spencer did not recognise McGee.

As the two men looked at each other, McGee’s existential predicament prompted his words.

“You killed my wife” he said, surprising himself with the calmness and lack of anger in his tone.  Spencer was wrong footed and his eyes explained that he needed more information.

“three years ago you killed my wife” McGee picked up his briefcase and started to open it, fumbling at the straps and at the same time looking for recognition in Spencer’s face.

The penny dropped.  For the first time Spencer recognised the man he had seen everyday during his trial.  Sitting, listening, taking notes and generally looking like a hollowed out shadow of a man.   He stepped back instinctively sensing danger.

“oh I see” he said raising his hands in primordal defensive stance.  “Sorry”.  He knew that sounded odd.

“I mean sorry I didn’t recognise you” and he knew that sounded even more odd.

“I mean of course I am also sorry that I …” he didn’t want to say the words.  Spencer’s face flushed red.

“Look” he said as McGee finally opened his briefcase, “Can I show you something?”

McGee stopped himself reaching into the bag and nodded out of curiosity.

“In the back, please come and look at something”. Spencer held out an arm like a policemen guiding traffic to urge McGee into the back of the shop.   Before following,  he locked the shop door and turned the sign to closed.








The extraordinary tale of Barclay McGee

Chapter 3

A whisky hangover wasn’t helpful as Barclay McGee started his day in the usual fashion. At least 30 minutes of often quite violent coughing in the bathroom of his luxury apartment in the centre of town.   Cough, cough spit, flush, repeat.

He showered and dressed in a dark blue suit with crisp white cotton shirt.  From the bedside table he picked up the paper and read the list again. Three names.

John Spencer

Vincent Lau

Tommy Blackmore

Underneath the names he had written In no particular order. 

Barclay McGee was coming up to sixty years of age and was as physically fit as anyone at his age could be when this terrible cancer attacked him. Like most men of his generation he avoided the doctor for far too long and put his coughing and wheezing down to getting old.   His fitness came from good genes but also an addiction to cycling that he’d had from a young boy.  Way ahead of the modern middle aged lycra warriors these days he was racing cycles for the local “wheelers” from the age of 16.  There were even some notable long distance race victories including a real stamina contest in the Isle of Man.

He made his money from Cycling too and as the sport blossomed in the last 20 years his factory had evolved from its early beginnings where everything was made on site, to an assembly and customisation plant for imported cycles. He had also cashed in on the fashion and accessories part of the sport too.  His mantra was customer first.  Service was outstanding and he had embraced internet sales when others were being cynical about the disappearance of retail outlets.     He wasn’t a natural or gifted businessman but he had taken some risks early on in his life and they had paid off.  He had been very lucky to have met a fantastic young lady in a queue for ice cream after a cycle race and, after a whirlwind romance,  she had become an amazing, beautiful and loyal wife. His life was good and although they remained childless their love had been enough for them both.

John Spencer had killed Barclay McGee’s wife just six years earlier.  A road accident.  McGee hated the word.  How can it be an accident if the driver is pissed.  3 years custodial sentence just didn’t seem enough because of the heartbreak it had caused.  The system is there for everyone to trust would be his argument before going through this, but now he didn’t believe in it. It had let him down very badly.

John Spencer lived in London and worked in a shop selling computers.   He still had his wife. How was this fair?    Now with nothing else left to lose, Barclay McGee, in his city slicker blue suit, was off to The Smoke.    Walking to the station he nipped into his local hardware store and bought a claw hammer, a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.  He was looking for a knife but they only had box-cutter knives and they weren’t suitable.  He put his purchases into his Billykirk  briefcase and made it to the station with enough time to enjoy a coffee at the cafe next door. Time to think.



The extraordinary tale of Barclay McGee

Chapter 4

McGee found a free table seat and settled into it for the train ride, pleased that he didn’t have to speak to anyone.   He didn’t care for the popular ear buds and music to block out the world because he liked to have all his senses working when out in public.  Those thirty somethings with the trendy over head ear phones made him chuckle inside whenever he saw them, but he envied their ability to prevent strangers engaging in small talk.

Looking out of the window from a speeding train as it crosses the countryside of Britain is a pleasure that most commuters take for granted.  The striking greenness of it all  lifted his spirit, and his thoughts drifted back to the weeks after his wife’s funeral.

A bereavement counselor had talked about finding ways to channel grief.  His grief was manifesting itself as anger.  He needed to “ground himself” apparently, whenever the anger was rising.     He had never previously been troubled by his emotions and was able to ignore them or at least squash them into insignificance. He thought the concept of a technique to control emotion a little weird at first, until the therapist explained and he tried it.    Breathing exercises and connecting to the “earth” through thought or physical connection had helped him allow some of the angry thoughts to dissipate.  It was extremely helpful during the trial and the subsequent sentencing.   The feeling that justice hadn’t been done by a three year sentence of which Spencer only served 14 months remained strong.  However McGee could deal with it much easier through his new found techniques. Just being able to recognise when his emotions were being stirred allowed him to use either distraction or mindfulness as coping mechanisms.

Today though, circumstances had shifted enough for him to enjoy the thought of revenge without consequence.   When there is nothing or no one left to worry about, you are freed into acting differently to societal norms.

He held these thoughts, grounded himself and closed his eyes as the train rolled into a station.

From a peaceful environment suitable for some deep thinking reflection, the train became packed and the three other seats around his table were filled.  As passengers struggled to put bags in overhead storage and find a seat McGee noticed that his table companions were travelling together.   Quiet polite nods and mumbled “good mornings” were exchanged and McGee resumed his eyes closed attempt at meditation but it became impossible because of the conversation around the table.  Even though the three men talked in relatively quiet voices it couldn’t be ignored.  “Oh for some ear buds now”! 

After fifteen minutes McGee had learned that the three men were students of theology and were travelling to London to attend a seminar. It seemed like the focus was on how belief in God needed to be triggered by a desire to believe there is a God.  The Ontological argument was discussed between the three and McGee listened intently.

As part of the debate one of the young trainee priests had taken off a signet ring that he was wearing.  He was discussing the existence of the ring as undeniable because they could all see it and touch it.  On passing the ring around the table to prove its existence it fell between the seats.    No longer could McGee remain an interested bystander as the ring had dropped between his seat and the owner of the ring beside him.

“Oh I am terribly sorry to wake you and disturb you like this” said the young man and McGee mumbled how it was no problem but not revealing the disturbance had happened twenty minutes earlier!

Whatever they tried they couldn’t reach the ring. They could see it wedged between the seats but their fingers were not long enough to either push it through to the floor or pull it back up.  There was further jovial debate about whether the ring still existed or if it would in future only exist in imagination. Descartes himself would have enjoyed the playful banter and knockabout jousting with his ontology concepts.

McGee brought it all to an end with a practical solution.  He reached down into his bag and pulled out his brand new, never used screwdriver.    Within a few seconds the ring was retrieved and order was restored.   McGee, the hero of the hour, was praised by the students of God who never for a moment questioned why this well dressed gentleman was carrying a screwdriver in an expensive executive briefcase on his way to the City.

The extraordinary tale of Barclay McGee

Chapter 2

The first double Jameson vanished in one swig.

“Another please” McGee said and banged his glass onto the bar.  Turning to reach the bottle the young barmaid pressed the glass against the optic, waited whilst the glass bulb refilled, and pressed the glass again.

” How about we do away with that measuring device?” McGee asked into the back of her head,  “put the bottle on the bar”.  He’d seen in done in cowboy movies but never in real life.

“I am not sure I can do that” she said, looking sideways for managerial reinforcements.

“Oh go on” he urged, “I will pay for the bottle. Name the price. In fact here is my card, take what you think is fair”  He passed over his credit card but it still didn’t solve her problem.  She had been in the job just one month and didn’t want to lose it just yet.

Sensing her nerves he said ” Look, take a hundred quid. You can buy a bottle of that for twenty five down the street”.    She looked at the card, checking it carefully, buying herself thinking time.  She had never seen a platinum Amex before.  How could any manager not be happy with this deal?  She made the decision to accept.  The payment went through and she passed the card back to him.  Instead of taking the card he held her hand with a gentle but firm grip.  “But I want something else too”  she sensed a turn for the worst in this conversation.

” I want a piece of paper, to write on”  She blew her cheeks out and couldn’t stop them blushing red “Oh my god” said McGee ” you didn’t think..” he left it hanging there between them.

“Well for a moment I wondered what I had got myself into” she admitted, and they both laughed.

“For goodness sake girl I’m three times your age at least” he said in mock admonishment ” I could be your granddad. I just want to make a list”.

She tore a page from the back of the A4 hard back note pad that served as an issues log for shift handover and put it on the bar.  Then found an excuse to go into the cellar! McGee pulled out a silver pen from his jacket pocket and put the date on the top of the page.   On the top line he wrote TO DO.

His eyes lifted to the top shelf of the bar and existential thoughts flowed through his mind.  For the first time since the original diagnosis he was clear about his future.  Death. That’s all.  He now had nothing to lose.  He didn’t need to waste his energy fighting the cruel disease that had hold of him.  As a non believer, when there is nothing to live for death is a welcome relief.  But before death, he had somethings to take care of.     As he sat in an empty Irish pub with a bottle of Jameson, a glass tumbler and a pen  he pondered how most of the moments of extreme happiness in life are created by decisions. Often taking some kind of risk.  Most moments of extreme sadness just happen. People work towards happiness and try to avoid sadness.

He started his list.



The extraordinary tale of Barclay McGee

A new black merino wool sweater under a tweed jacket kept the chill night air away from Barclay McGee’s wheezing chest.  Facing the cold black sea on the harbour wall he was barely visible from the road.   His large hands gripped the railing with a muffled clink of his wedding ring. Finally he coughed up the phlegm he had been fighting with.  Gauging volume and weight, he arched his back, gripped the rail more tightly and with a hefty lunge forward, launched his payload.  The gentle swelling water in the port  received his sputum gift in silence.

He had noticed his lungs producing more frequently recently and he took that as a sign the end was closing in.  It was precisely eight weeks since Mr Jones of the Corpus Christie Cancer Care hospital had seen him.  Since that visit  McGee had taken no medicine or treatment. There was no point.  Mr Jones had moved on to other patients. It was part of the job he hated most. The grim reaper of any hope. A year of painful, often debilitating treatment had not worked the magic they had hoped for.  Now there was talk of “pathways” and getting things in order.

“Two months” is what McGee heard and the rest of the words from Dr Jones didn’t register and mattered less.  The good doctor knew from experience that hearing and understanding were two different things.  A Macmillan pamphlet, a firm hand shake and a heartfelt exchange of eye contact were all he could meaningfully provide now.

Barclay McGee surprised Dr Jones by rising from the chair with more energy than he had displayed in a while.  “Thank you for all your hard work Doctor” he said and meant it.  This day had been in McGee’s mind for a while and he had set his course mentally time and time again.   8 weeks of fearless living.

His walk had purpose as he passed the team of smokers outside the Victorian entrance to the hospital.  He glanced at the dressing gowned crowd shuffling from side to side in the cold and wished he smoked too. Looking at his gold Rolex watch his first decision was that it was late enough in the day to go for a drink.

He jumped into the back of the first cab in the line and instructed the driver to take him to O’Shea’s bar. The driver replied with his regular line,  “Just visiting or just got better?” McGee guffawed, thinking he wasn’t part of the binary choice being offered.  ” I just need a drink” he said.  As the car swung slowly into the corner he realised that to everyone except the medics in the hospital, he didn’t look sick at all.  ” I just got a lot better, thank you for asking ” and he smiled at the drivers eyes in the rear view mirror.


Sports Bar

The sports bar of an American global brand hotel – it’s late and most tables are taken by single men who aren’t single.

One bigger table is crowded and they are drinking far too easily for a Tuesday evening. Then they order champagne – I’m guessing a deal has been done. You can tell it’s a work crowd because too many of them look up expectantly whenever anyone walks in the bar – they have to be here; not really want to be here.

Two french fellas are moaning to each other at the bar – you know the work related moaning about the idiot manager and the stupid director and the whole job is useless. Of course they won’t leave because it pays well and they are drinking on the company per diem and the rent needs paying and nappies are expensive.

The eastern German bar staff speak to each other in what sounds to my untrained ear like a different German they use when the manager walks though. I’m in Germany and drinking Weisbier. It comes in a glass with a picture of a bald portly monk on the front supping what I assume is the same brew, but many years ago.

A Japanese fella walks in and the workers at the big table greet him like the new messiah. My guess is he’s the one who made the deal, and is probably picking up the champagne tab.

Paris are winning easily and the French moaning has calmed down a bit. They’ve been out for a smoke so maybe that helped too.

Two beers in and I look around. There are no single men who aren’t single at the tables. Work tomorrow. They’re all upstairs trying to make a dodgy iron work and face timing or texting goodnights across the world.


Third pint is the best.

Used to be the second, but that’s inflation for yer.

How d’ya mean?

Well it doesn’t just affect money.

Average weight, number of wives,

the age you die. Used to be 65 now it’s 80.

Tattoos – people had one or two – now they have a full arm.

The only thing that’s gone the other way is number of kids.

I see the lads are out again.

Yeah. They say we gossip but sure they’re the worst for it.

There only needs to be something on the news and he’s off ranting about how crap everything is going to be.

Yeah – i don’t know why they let it bother their heads.

To be honest i think they need an excuse to go for pints.

That’s right, because they’ve no reason to leave the house these days.

What d’ya mean?

We’ve had a bar built under the stairs,

it’s like a pub!

Must be the barmaid they go for then –

Yeah they can dream!