June 22, 2013

Over a second pint in a West End pub, Ben was explaining the new features of the iPhone 5 to his old mate Brad from back home in Sydney. Brad had just landed that morning in London – his first port on a whistle-stop tour of Europe.

“Ben, can you put the phone down for a minute, mate?” said Brad. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“No worries mate,” said Ben. “Just gonna show you a couple more Apps first, ok? I’ve got some proper little beauts on this.”

“Ben,” Brad said again. His voice was firmer this time, though a bit on the croaky side, too. Ben looked up and saw that bubbles of spit had gathered at the corners of his friend’s mouth; also, the bottom lip was shaky and a bit slobbery. It wasn’t very pleasant to look at, really.

“Ben, d’ya know why I’m here mate?” Brad’s voice had shot up a couple of notches and sounded kind of squeaky. “D’ya know why I’ve chosen to do my tour of Europe now mate, instead of waiting ‘til April like we’d talked about?”

Brad raised one sleeve of his shirt, dabbing first at his eyes, then his nose, and finally (to Ben’s relief) at his slippery mouth. There followed a brief, awkward silence during which Ben moved his eyes around a bit and nibbled at his bottom lip, in that way he did when he couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Ben, mate,” Brad went on, “What it is… I’ve got leukemia, mate. I’m gonna be doing the treatment – you know, chemo an’ that – as soon as I get back to Oz. So that’s why I’m here now, mate. Packing it all into six weeks. Thing is… they’re not sure what the chances are. You know. Of me pulling through.”

Ben looked down at his pint. He began to play with it, swirling the glass, trying to rejuvenate the lager’s once-frothy head; although you could never really get it back to how it was in the first place, of course – however much you whizzed it around, it never quite tasted the same. ‘Leukemia,’ he thought to himself. It wasn’t one of those words you could easily put an image to – like, for example, ‘Zebra’. You never heard anyone say ‘L is for Leukemia’. It was one of those mysterious words. ‘Leukemia.’ He rolled the word over in his mind. Was it four syllables or just three?  He supposed it depended on how you said it. Most Brits, he reckoned, would drag it out over four. But if Ben’s old man was here, he’d get it out in three, no dramas: ‘Loo-keem-ya?’ Say what you like about Ben’s dad, he wasn’t one to mince his words.

“Hey Ben?” Brad’s voice startled him. “Ben, you okay mate?”

“Yeah mate,” said Ben. “I guess. I just got to thinking, ya know?”

Cancer. It didn’t matter who you were, it was out there. Lurking around in the shallows like a great white. Like a big, hungry, pissed-off great white, hell-bent on sinking its teeth into your leg; maybe even taking it clean off in one bite. You heard about those things happening; there were documentaries about it on the TV sometimes. Only this wasn’t TV – it was real life. And it was coming for his old mate, Brad.

Even Steve Jobs – even Jobsy, the smartest bloke in the universe – even old Jobaroo hadn’t been able to fight off the great white cancer shark. Still, he thought, at least Jobsy will be remembered for coming up with some pretty cool stuff; like the iPhone 5. He wasn’t sure if Brad would be remembered for anything, really.



The Business Development Manager

by DW


He talked endlessly about solutions

without ever actually offering one

and his very presence in your life

tended to present a problem


I had to call him once

(the reason escapes me now)

he answered the call

and explained that he was in a car park

at the supermarket

and the ground was icy

and his wife had just fallen over

and she seemed to be in distress

and would I mind if he called me back later?

because he needed to help his wife


we hung up

and I could picture him all too clearly:

the Business Development Manager

driving around the supermarket car park

assessing the various parking spaces

drawing up a mental shortlist

carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of each shortlisted space

ranking them in order of preference

completing another half lap

then pulling carefully into the chosen spot

perfectly oblivious to the large patch of ice underneath the passenger door

from which his long-suffering wife would exit


Oh, Roy

August 22, 2012

Oh, Roy

(or: the Alternative Life of Roy Hodgson, version 3)

by DW

Roy twisted round in his seat and gestured at the client to fasten himself in, miming a pull of the belt across the shoulder and the clipping action into the lock, all of which he did wordlessly. It was not that he doubted his passenger’s ability with the language – “the Chinese can do anything they put their minds to,” he had found himself telling Barry Quinn recently, adding that you only had to look at the Great Wall – but he was simply not in the mood for conversation. As he prepared to pull out into the inevitable traffic surrounding Terminal 5, he took one last look in the rearview mirror and allowed himself a moment to adjust the angle of his cap’s peak. ‘Been at this limousine game a while now,’ he thought.

He still remembers that first morning, how he had descended the stairs gingerly, his steps lighter, quieter; that feeling of uncertainty as he lead himself into the kitchen, where Beverley had stationed herself to prepare his favourite breakfast of soft-boiled eggs with the buttery toast soldiers. Beverley… marvellous Beverley. She always knew just what to say; always knew how to put the spring back in his step. “Well. Oh my,” she had started – then, pausing as if to catch her breath, laying down the spatula and allowing her eyes to take measure from shoes to cap – “I always did like a man in uniform.” And so that very first wait at Heathrow had not been nearly as tedious as he’d feared, for it had simply presented a fillet of time in which he could indulge the daydream of his return to the marital home; to the warmth of their bed and the welcome of an ample, eager bosom.

With another glance in the mirror, Roy noted that his client was busy chatting away into one of those wireless headsets – doubtless this new bluetooth technology he’d been hearing about – and there was a fancy looking laptop computer on his knee, too. Barry hadn’t been wrong.

“What you’ve got to remember about the Chinese, Roy –” Barry had recently purchased a new kind of TV setup which allowed him to record programmes at any hour of the day, and late night panel debates had become a daily staple “– is that they’re all middle class now. It happened practically overnight, when the world was busy looking the other way. So now they’re after what we’ve got. And it’s not just your phones, your computers, that kind of thing – they’re after the lot: fridges, televisions, microwaves… you name it, they want it. And they aren’t taking no for an answer.”  There was only ever going to be one outcome of a situation like that, Barry said: “higher cost of living for everyone, east and west. Any minute now, prices on your average high street –” he pointed the index finger on one hand and drove it slowly upward toward the ceiling, accompanying the action with a rising-pitch whistle.

On the night of that conversation Roy had returned home and, going against the grain of a truce unbroken in more than four years, a truce that had served their marriage so well, he had shaken Beverley from her sleep, careful not to let the whisky-tint of his breath betray the wrong idea.

“Hiya love. Alright? It’s me. I do know how late it is, yes. But listen – no, it’s not that, I promise – I just wanted to say: that new fridge-freezer you’ve had your eye on? We’ll go out and get it tomorrow. Tomorrow, aye. You’ve waited long enough.”


Roy reached onto the passenger seat and turned the switch on the old portable radio he kept there, always pleased by the warm crackling sound it made as it buzzed into life. He wasn’t one for the new digital radios, let alone these ‘satellite navigation systems’ with their flashing lights and their talking computers. Mind you, it was all computers now. And not just computers – if Barry Quinn was to be believed, it was only a matter of time (“five years, Roy, tops”) before we’d be dealing with walking and talking robots on a daily basis. Apparently they already existed, out in Japan, where they’d spent the last dozen years or so being trained in various housework tasks. But housework, Barry said, was only the tip of the iceberg. Soon they’d be able to do pretty much anything a person could, “better than we can do it ourselves. And guess who’s demanding this new cyber-workforce, who’s bankrolling it all? That’s right – our old friends, the Chinese.”

Ever since that conversation, Roy hadn’t been sleeping so well. He’d lain awake through the night, listening to Barry’s words as they echoed around in his head. The Chinese were sweeping in from one side, the Japanese and their robots from the other – a classic pincer movement. “It’ll be life, Roy, but not as we know it.”

The phone that Beverley had stationed by the bedside in case of some emergency now taunted him as he lay on his side, afraid to let it out of sight. How long before it rang them awake in the early hours, with the controller saying that Roy wouldn’t be needed that day after all? How long before they called to invite Roy in for a little chat with the boss, about the company’s plans for the future…


On February 18th, Kevin Costner delivered a touching eulogy at the funeral of singer and pop star, Whitney Houston. Pabs is pleased to publish the full text of the eulogy below. As transcribed by D Woolley.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re gathered here today to say goodbye to a very special lady. A lady by the name of Whitney Houston.

To some of you, Whitney was a friend. To some, a mother. To others, a sister, and to others still, an aunt, a cousin, a second cousin. Maybe even a cousin once-removed; although, to be honest, I’ve never really understood how that works. To Bobby Brown (hey Bobby, how you doing? Good to see you here. I’m guessing they let you out for the day, huh? They got you on some kind of tag?) – to Bobby, I guess you could say Whitney was a wife, at least for a while; although you’d have to say that that marriage didn’t work out so well. But then maybe marriage was never right for them. Maybe they were just two people who enjoyed hanging out, getting high together. You know, I’m guessing if you’re into smoking crack, maybe that’s the kind of thing that’s nice to do with somebody, rather than just puffing away by yourself. Kinda like having a drink with your buddies, only you’re hitting on some crystals in a pipe.

For many of you, however, Whitney Houston was none of these things. Perhaps Whitney was just a lady with a special voice; perhaps you swayed to one of Whitney’s songs as the first dance at your wedding. Or perhaps, as a young boy going through puberty back in the eighties, you experienced your first woody watching one of Whitney’s videos. Hell, I can understand that. Everybody’s gotta have a first, right? For me it was Jane Fonda. Anybody else in here have Jane Fonda as their first? Come on fellas, let’s see a show of hands out there… I know I can’t be the only one who had Jane. Anyone? Well, I guess you’re all feeling a little shy today. That’s ok.

To me, Whitney Houston was a friend. We got to know eachother many years ago, when she played a supporting role in one of my films. Incidentally, some people have tried to suggest that Whitney was the lead in that movie, and I was the supporting actor. Well, to those people I always point out that the title of that movie was ‘The Bodyguard’. If Whitney’s character had been more important than mine, they’d have called it ‘The Singer’ or something like that. But they didn’t. They called it ‘The Bodyguard’.

Anyway, the point is, Whitney touched so many of our lives in so many different ways. You see, what was so special about Whitney was that she had this way of cutting through boundaries. I look around me today, I see black faces, brown faces, white faces, yellow faces, faces that look suspiciously middle-eastern. (I’m not sure how those guys got past security by the way. Can someone look into that?). I see African-Americans and regular white Americans. I see Latinos and Puerto Ricans. I see people who I’m guessing are Chinese, although of course they might be Japanese, or even Korean – you can’t always tell the difference right? But anyway, as I said, the point is, Whitney reached out to all of us.

Actually, having said that, there is one group of people I don’t think is represented here today, and that’s the Native American Indians. I mean, I might have missed somebody out there in the crowd; it’s quite hard to see everyone with the lighting in here. But if I am right, then I gotta be honest and say to those Navajos: Really? After all I did for you guys? You know, a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Hey Kevin, how come you made a movie about Indians sitting around and talking? Why aren’t those warmongering sons of bitches riding round, killing and raping innocent white people, like what really happened?’ Well, to those people I say one thing and one thing only: “artistic license”.

By the way, if anyone here today hasn’t seen Dances with Wolves, I really recommend you check it out as soon as you get chance. Just fast-forward through most of the stuff with the Indians. The good bits are where you get to see me hanging out with a wolf.

You know, whenever I think about Whitney Houston, I can’t help but think of Michael Jackson also. Leaving aside Stevie Wonder – who, as a disabled man, we need to put into a different category, like they do for athletes, because it wouldn’t be fair otherwise – Michael and Whitney were the two most important figures in black popular music.

Michael and Whitney: they had so much in common. Both were huge in the 80s; both trailed off a bit in the nineties; and, if we’re totally honest, both have been increasingly disappointing over the last decade. Both of them liked to sing, both liked to dance, and both of them had a genuine talent for dressing up.

But though there was indeed so much they shared in common, there were differences also. For example, whilst Michael chose to remain very much in the public eye right up until the time of his death, demonstrating to the world his increasingly tenuous grasp on reality, Whitney opted to retreat into a more private world, so she could act our her own delusions largely (if not entirely) away from the cameras. And, of course, there was another key difference: Whitney Houston was never alleged to have held sleepovers at her house for underage children, where those children were doped up with ‘Jesus Juice’ and taken advantage of sexually.

Note that I say ‘alleged’. Whether or not Michael actually did these things, that’s not for me to say. All I’m saying is, allegations were made. And, as we all know, there’s no smoke without fire. That’s all I’m saying.

Actually, that’s something my mom used to say to me: There’s no smoke without fire. She had a lot of sayings, that lady. Some of them made sense and some of them didn’t, not really. I’ll give you an example. She used to say: ‘Kevin, you can’t have your cake and eat it.’ I mean, that doesn’t make sense, right? At least, it didn’t at the time.

But let me tell you a little story. My mother died almost five years ago now. And on that day – on the day of her funeral – you know what I did? Right after the service, after we’d laid her into the ground, I went out to the first bakery I could find and I said to the guy behind the counter: ‘Give me the biggest, most expensive cake you got.’ And so the guy pulls out this enormous cake. I mean, I’ve seen some cakes in my time, but this really is something else. I was like, Wow. So I say to this guy in the baker’s hat: ‘Ok, big guy, I want you to take that cake, and I want you to cut it into four equal pieces. That’s right – four. I don’t care how big they are.’ Well, he cuts the cake, just like I told him. So then I drive back to the cemetery, all by myself, with this cake in the car. When I get to the cemetery, I walk up to my mother’s resting place, and I kneel down and lay two pieces of cake right there on the freshly turned earth.

I say, ‘Momma, it’s me, Kevin. I hope you’re doing okay down there. Now listen, I’ve brought you some cake. It’s a cake with four pieces – that’s two pieces for you, plus I got two pieces for myself. Now, I’m gonna take one of my pieces and I’m gonna eat it – I’m gonna eat it right here and now. And you know what I’m gonna do with the other piece? I’m gonna keep it. That’s right: I’m gonna have it. You can do whatever you want with your two pieces, but that’s what I’m doing with mine. I’m gonna have one piece and I’m gonna eat the other.’ And you know what? Hands down, that was the single best day of my life. I drove out of that cemetery that day and I said: Hey, momma, guess who’s making the rules now? That’s right. Me. Kevin. Kevin’s making the rules.

Ladies and gentleman, if there’s one thing that life has taught me, it’s this: It’s ok to want a happy ending – but you can’t just lie there and expect it to happen. Sometimes you’ve got to take matters into your own hands; you gotta create that happy ending for yourself.

Did Whitney Houston’s story have a happy ending? Well, according to the autopsy report, Whitney’s final hours were awash with a cocktail of alcohol, cocaine and any number of prescription drugs. And let’s be honest – there’s gotta be worse ways to go, right?

So farewell, Whitney Houston. You have a new bodyguard now; and we take comfort in that. Amen.