Didn’t You Used To Be Nigel Wilde? – a short story

‘Didn’t You Used To Be Nigel Wilde?’
A short story by Paul Carden
(The continuing story of Nigel Wilde, albeit misplaced in time)

The throaty buzz of a dying doorbell shook Nigel awake.
‘Oh shit it!’ he cursed as consciousness and a hangover closed in around his skull. The blurred lounge of his flat seemed smaller than usual and more unsteady, but this was the kind of vodka hangover where nothing is quite as it seems for at least two days.
As he shuffled towards the door he checked carefully to see if he was wearing trousers and fortunately his eyes answered in the affirmative.
The shape behind the frosted glass seemed rather short. ‘Dear, God! Midgets!’ he thought.
Nigel gingerly twisted the latch and peered out into the hallway.
‘Mr Wilde?’ said the short person.
‘Mmm?’
‘I’m Toby. I’ve come to interview you.’
‘Toby? Interview? What is this clapjabber?’
‘For my school project. My Dad said it was okay.’
‘Your what?’
‘Martin from The Three Feathers’.
‘Oh, dear God, yes…I think,’ vague memories stirred somewhere in Nigel’s head. ‘Well, don’t just stand there on the landing like a bag of nails, come on in Tony.’
‘Toby’.
‘Of course you are. Excuse the mess but I don’t have any reason to be remotely tidy.’
Nigel ushered Toby in and the boy seated himself on the pink armchair in the lounge. Nigel seated himself on the green one with its makeshift cushion of drying clothes.
‘I’d offer you a drink, Toby, but you aren’t legally able to drink any of the liquids I keep here.
‘That’s okay, Mr Wilde.’
‘Call me, Mr Wilde.’
‘I did.’
‘Of course.’
Toby brought out a note pad and pen, which startled Nigel slightly.
‘What programmes did you used to be on, Mr Wilde?’
‘Ah,’ sighed Nigel leaning back in his chair and gazing at the ill-chosen orange lamp shade hanging from the ceiling, ‘You’re too young to remember any of them.’
‘My Dad says they were really good.’
‘He’s right. Let me see…there was the quiz show ‘Know Your Oats’, a historical sitcom, ‘Here Come The Lullards’, not a great success. The sketch show ‘A Right Barrel of Onions’, ‘Apricot Halves’ and my crowning glory ‘Nigel Wilde’s Hour O’ Fun.’ Nigel fixed his eyes on Toby. ‘That was a show my lad!’
‘And where did it all go wrong?’ asked Toby matter-of-factly.
‘You journalists never let me dwell on the good stuff do you?’ Nigel sighed, ‘Ah, you know how tastes change. My old-school entertainment fell out of favour. You’re only allowed to tell offensive jokes now if you’re being ironic. Ironic! These days I can only manage dyspeptic.’
‘Wasn’t there a charity you embezzled and the nervous breakdown?’
‘Yeah, that too. It’s a rich tapestry. You’re rather well-informed for a school boy.’
‘My Dad’s a huge fan of yours,’ smiled Toby.
‘Hmph! I could do with a few more like him.’
‘He says you could be famous again if you really put your mind to it’.
‘Famous?’ Nigel smiled, ‘It’s not about fame for me, or success or money. It’s about making those faces light up. Seeing them shine and knowing that you’re making it happen. The only offers I get now are calling bingo and MC-ing at British Legions and WMC’s.’
‘But if you just want to make their faces light up you can do it there too.’
Nigel looked at Toby’s hopeful little face.
‘Oh, shut up! What would you know? I’ve crawled round enough shit-hole clubs, ‘scuse my French, to last me a lifetime. I never thought I’d have to go through that again. But one mistake and I’m out on my arse. ‘Scuse my French. No-one in TV-land gives a sh…monkeys about Nigel Wilde anymore.’
‘Perhaps you’re just not looking in the right places?’ suggested Toby.
Nigel frowned, ‘Explain, Toby-showbiz-guru?’
‘You won’t find an answer if you look in the past, like variety shows, quiz shows and sit-coms. Take what you can do, your abilities, and see where they can fit today.’
‘Toby, I wish I wasn’t as hung over as I am, then I might understand what you’re on about’.
Toby flipped over a blank page on his notepad.
‘I’d say your main skills are improvisation, dealing with the public, able to make jokes out of situations, all particularly suitable for live TV or radio.’
‘Mmm? I suppose so.’
‘So,’ said Toby, beginning to jot, ‘your opportunities might go along the lines of Home Shopping, Local Radio…things like that which require a lively creative mind, someone who can work off the cuff as it were.’
‘You know too much, who are you working for?’
‘It’s all quite obvious if you think about it,’ Toby enthused.
‘Are you working undercover for Equity?’
‘Mr Wilde, there are things you can go for, you’re just looking in the wrong places.’
‘You remind me of an agent I fired once.’
‘Try it, Mr Wilde. Just go for a few of these things and see what happens. You’ve got nothing to lose’.
Nigel looked around his rather forlorn little flat. ‘This is true’, he concluded.
‘I have to go for my tea’.
‘Tea?’ I’ve only just got up! Oh, good grief is that the time? I must have been in bed all day.’
‘Think about it, Mr Wilde,’ said Toby as Nigel showed him out, ‘What have you got to lose?’
Nigel shut the door and walked back into the lounge. He looked at the empty bottles that seemed to have become his only ornaments.
‘What have I got to lose?’ he muttered.

‘Much-loved TV entertainer, Nigel Wilde, was found dead this morning at his home in Surrey. Nick-named ‘the comeback king’, the controversial comedian experienced a spectacular renaissance in his career after working on Regional Radio and the Home Shopping Channel, which led to a revival of his ‘Hour O’ Fun’ show on the UK TV Network. He was also due to guest star in a new drama series next year. Hundreds of flowers and cards have been left outside his home by fans and well-wishers. A spokesman from the Surrey ambulance service told the BBC that Mr Wilde had suffered a heart attack. He was 68.’

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Everybody’s Wild About Nigel – a short story

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Everybody’s Wild About Nigel
by Paul Carden

Nigel looked at the clock. The clock looked back.
‘What time is it?’ asked Nigel.
‘Five thirty-two and twenty three seconds, Mr. Wilde,’ replied the clock.
‘Thanks.’
‘Don’t mention it’.
From the penthouse window of his hotel room Nigel could see the crowds already gathering outside the stadium. Another cloud of dust was heading towards the town from the east; another truckload of nomads from a desert settlement somewhere out in the wastes. Sometimes Nigel even surprised himself with how popular he was; and tonight would be his greatest moment: a full two hour one-man show, going out live on the Trans-Global Network to the biggest audience since the pre-Flare Up charity concerts of the 80’s and 90’s. After this, Nigel would be like a god. In fact, to many post-Flare Up citizens, Nigel was a god. He was the only one who offered salvation of a kind they could understand. Nigel’s weekly variety specials were shown all across Europa. With his mixture of comedy, glamour and the humiliation of innocent citizens, “Nigel Wilde’s Hour O’ Fun” was the first post-Flare Up show to capture the imagination of a weary, degraded and faithless society.
The show had been running non-stop for six years and now the T.G.N. special would stamp his name on post-Flare up history forever.
A knock at the door jolted him from his thoughts.
‘Damn!’ he muttered. One last interview before the show. ‘Come in,’ he said, putting on one of his special smiles, across between ‘I believe you’ve got a funny story to tell us about that,’ and the infallible, ‘Didn’t they do well’.
‘Er, hello, Mr. Wilde. I’m Louise Butcher from The Inquisitor’.
‘Call me Nigel’.
The pair seated themselves by the window and Louise began by asking him how he felt appearing in front of millions of people. Was he nervous?’
‘No more nervous than a wastes-rat caught in the headlights of a dust-nomad’s truck!’
What was it like the first time he appeared in front of a live crowd?
‘Tough, because at least dead crowds don’t ask for refunds.’
This was the kind of interview Nigel liked. If anybody can still read, they’ll love this, he thought.
‘So on your “Hour O’ Fun”, and your programming in general, you cater for exactly what the viewers want?’
‘Absolutely. We’re here to entertain’.
‘And this attitude permeates the whole of Network Europa and is largely your responsibility?’
‘Er, ha! Well, one doesn’t like to boast, but, yes. Network Britannia started the tumbleweed rolling with my show and the rest of Europa soon followed suit.’
Louise looked up from her notes and turned her coal-black eyes on what felt like the core of Nigel’s brain.
‘But surely, if a child loves chocolate you’re not going to let him eat it all the time?’
‘Eh?’
‘What I mean, Mr. Wilde, is that you are feeding Europa with a diet of junk TV.’
‘Junk? This is what the people want!’
‘But not necessarily what is good for them. Your job, as someone who has influence over scheduling, is to ensure that there is a balance of programmes on offer, but all the shows that you broadcast are made up of the same mindless bilge as yours.’
‘Now, hang on a minute…’
‘The viewers need to be made to think now and again and not have the same vacuous clichés spelled out for them. Expenditure on educational, topical and documentary programmes is virtually non-existent. There are no serious news programmes. You can’t let people vegetate. You know full well that T.V. is all that people have these days. Your programmes don’t let them think and that’s why nobody tries to rebuild their lives from the ruins of the Flare-Up.
‘Now look here…’
‘Your own show,’ she continued, ‘is nothing but a stream of meaningless drivel, and you’ve got people lapping it up because they don’t know any better; most of their memories begin with the shock of the Flare-Up. It’s only the few people who are prepared to research into pre-Flare Up times who truly realise what we’ve lost.’
‘But our shows are the only thing that keeps the people going’.
‘Going where? To the toilet and back? You have induced these people with a false sense of well-being. You make them forget the shambles their world is in. You should be telling them to rebuild, not vegetate. People are starving and turning to crime because all their credit allowance goes on their Euro-Net subscription. How did you feel when your own mother died through neglect, simply because she was hooked on the programmes you produce?’
Nigel’s eyes misted over and he gazed hopelessly out the window. His mother was the only one of his family to survive the Flare Up. He didn’t know whether to feel angry or guilty at the accusation.
‘She was all I had’, he whispered almost to himself, ‘I never wanted to hurt anyone…’
‘Teleddiction is now the number one attributing cause of death. You’ve created a monster that has destroyed people’s perception of reality and prevented them from rebuilding their world. I hope you’re proud of yourself, Mr. Wilde’.

Nigel watched the grains of sand run through his fingers. The people hadn’t listened. Well, they had listened, but they hadn’t understood. Everything he said was a joke to them. That was what they expected from him. He could have recited the periodic table of elements to them and they would have laughed. But when he had tried to tell them something really important, they just laughed the same empty laugh they always had.
He told them what they ought to have known years ago, to get up off their armchairs and rebuild civilisation. They didn’t need T.V. in their lives twenty four hours a day. They needed to think. But it was all a joke. Just one big, sick joke.
His skin prickled as the wind whipped up the sand around him. He walked back to the door of his corrugated iron shelter, taking one last look at the city far away. At least he couldn’t hurt anybody out here. Maybe they would learn and maybe they wouldn’t. It was up to them now.

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Gumbrich – a short story

Gumbrich

Gumbrich – The Scariest Monster of All

A short story Paul Carden

Gumbrich lived in an old ruined tower on top of a hill overlooking the village of Spidgewell. He was employed by the Guild of Baddies to be the town monster but unfortunately he wasn’t very good at it.  With pointy teeth, pointy ears and green skin he certainly looked the part, but when it came to scaring and terrorising the villagers he just wasn’t up to the job.  Instead of frightening old ladies he would usually end up helping them home with their shopping, instead of scaring children he would usually end up playing in goal in their football games, and instead of causing people to be too afraid to venture out after dark he would go around lighting the street lamps for them as he was quite tall and could reach the lamps easier.  Basically, Gumbrich was not very good at being bad.

The Guild of Baddies were not at all happy with his work and Gumbrich was regularly warned that if he didn’t shape up and start terrorising people they would find another monster to replace him.  Gumbrich liked living in Spidgewell and the villagers liked him so he didn’t want to be replaced.  After many years the Guild gave him a final warning, their executive committee would visit Spidgewell on Halloween, the scariest night of the year, and if they found the villagers were not as terrified as they should be then Gumbrich would be sacked.

Gumbrich was terribly worried.  He wanted to stay in Spidgewell but didn’t want to have to scare his friends in the village.  When he didn’t turn up to play in goal at the children’s football game they became worried and wondered if anything was wrong.  A group of the children decided to go up to his tower to find out if he was okay.  When they arrived they found that he was terribly worried about what would happen when the committee from the Guild of Baddies arrived for their inspection on Halloween.  None of the children wanted Gumbrich to have to leave so they decided to hatch a plan to save him from being replaced.

The children assured Gumbrich that everything would be okay and went back to the village to tell their parents their plan.  They would decorate their houses in such a way as to make the usually jolly and quaint village of Spidgewell look bleak and scary with fake cobwebs, jack o’ lanterns, rubber rats and all manner of spooky decorations.  Also, instead of the usual smiling villagers, they would dress up as ghosts and monsters in order to fool the committee from the League of Baddies into thinking that all the villagers had been driven away because they were all too afraid of Gumbrich.

When the committee arrived they were overjoyed to see such a bleak, sinister place and when they saw it was now only inhabited by ghosts and beasties they congratulated Gumbrich on his excellent work.  In fact they were so impressed that they apologised for ever doubting him.

After the committee had gone, the villagers told Gumbrich that they had all enjoyed dressing up and decorating their houses so much that they had decided to do it every year on Halloween, and at the next meeting of the Guild of Baddies the executive committee declared Gumbrich to be the scariest monster of all.

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Finn Can Fly – a short story

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Finn Can Fly

A short story by Paul Carden

Finn had often dreamed that he could fly.  He would dream that he could just spread his arms wide and he would float up into the air and fly around inside his dream wherever he liked.  He sometimes drew pictures of the places he had flown to in his dreams and showed them to his mum.  She thought it was wonderful that he could dream such fantastic things.

But one Saturday morning Finn’s mum got an incredible surprise when she came to wake him up, because Finn was floating a metre above his mattress while he was still fast asleep.  Finn’s mum was astonished and whispered quietly in order to wake him without startling him.  Finn slowly opened his eyes as his mum called to him.  He knew something was wrong straight away and started to panic but his mum asked him to try to think himself down gently like he did in his dreams.  Once Finn was back on the ground he was very excited.  He quickly washed and dressed and came down to breakfast where his mum was anxious to discuss what to do.  Finn was full of plans to fly to all the fantastic places he had been to in his dreams, like the Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal, but his mum suggested that it would be safer if he didn’t fly so far to start off with in case he got lost, so first of all Finn, with his mum watching, flew to the park and back.  After this was a success he flew to the shops and back.

Finn was now really excited but his mum was still worried about him travelling too far in case he lost his way, so she came up with the idea of mowing a large X on the lawn so that when Finn was flying overhead he would always be able to see where home was.  Finn rushed upstairs to get a book about things to see in Britain and put it in his rucksack so that he would be able to find all the places he wanted to see, and, after his mum had made him a packed lunch, he spread his arms wide and rose gently into the air.  He checked his dad’s old compass to make sure he knew which direction to go, and flew off through the clear summer sky.

First of all Finn flew over London and saw Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.  After that he flew to Dover to see the white cliffs.  He then flew west to see the sunny coasts of Devon and Cornwall.  Then Finn headed north to see Snowdonia in Wales and then up to Scotland to see Ben Nevis and Loch Lomond.  On his way back through England he saw the Angel of the North and after a full day of sight-seeing he decided to head home.

Just as he was flying towards his home town a passenger jet roared past him and sent him into an uncontrollable spin.  Finn could see the lawn with the X that his mum had mown onto it so that he would be able to find his way back, but he was out of control and falling fast.  He thought he saw his mum run out into the back garden as he tumbled towards the ground.

When Finn woke up he was in his bed.  His mum came and asked him what he would like for breakfast and he asked her what had happened when he had landed.  His mum didn’t seem to know what he was talking about so he explained everything that had happened to him when he had flown off around the country and then lost control and fallen towards the garden, but his mum told him it must have been a dream.  Finn jumped out of bed and rushed to the window but he couldn’t see an X mown into the lawn.  He sighed with disappointment but then told his mum that he was actually glad it had been a dream because flying had been far too dangerous.

As his mum went downstairs to make his breakfast Finn decided that he would draw some pictures of where he had been in his dream, but he couldn’t help feeling that, before he had woken up, he had heard the sound of a lawnmower.

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Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast review

The Number of the Beast was Iron Maiden’s breakthrough album. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s guitar harmonies were in place and Adrian had started contributing really strong songs. The band had also poached singer Bruce Dickinson from Samson with his extraordinary stage presence and incredible voice. The next piece of the puzzle for this album was that Steve was about to write some of his greatest songs.

Listening to the opening track, Invaders, it’s not as bad as I remember it, but the chorus is terrible. Children of the Damned follows and the songwriting goes to another level. An epic sounding track, albeit only 4:36 long, that starts slowly, building to a powerful chorus, and then to the time change as it races to the finish, with a final piercing scream from Bruce Dickinson. The Prisoner is one of my favourites, with its spoken opening, included with Patrick McGoohan’s permission. The song has one of Maiden’s greatest, most uplifting choruses, and a brilliant middle section where Adrian and Dave trade brilliant guitar solos. 22 Acacia Avenue continues the story of Charlotte the Harlot. Despite the lyrics by Steve, which haven’t aged well, this is another great Adrian track with cool time changes, awesome riffs and a lovely soulful guitar solo in the slower section. The title track begins with its famous spoken intro by Barry Clayton. This is obviously one of Maiden’s greatest songs and has featured in their live set ever since. For many years during Adrian’s guitar solo Bruce would lift Dave up on his shoulders and run around the stage with him, which was a great surprise to Dave the first time it happened. Run to the Hills follows, another of the band’s greatest songs with a brilliant chorus and the famous galloping rhythm which was to also feature in some of the band’s future songs. Bruce’s final scream is also extraordinary. Gangland features some great drumming by Clive Burr and has a nice instrumental section with the twin guitars playing some lovely harmonies, but the track suffers from being surrounded by some of Maiden’s greatest ever songs. Total Eclipse did not feature on the original album as it was the b-side of the Run to the Hills single, but it was included on the 1998 re-issue. It’s not bad, despite the section near the end where the vocals go wierdly high, but it ends up feeling like an unnecessary obstacle in getting to one of Maiden’s greatest songs of all. Hallowed be thy Name is the band’s first genuine epic, clocking in at 7:15. This is another track the band has to play in every live set. Steve Harris has long regarded it as one of the very best songs he’s written. The music is full of drama, brilliant time changes and blistering guitar solos.

Looking at the tracklisting, it’s easy to see why TNOTB is regarded as one of Maiden’s very best albums. With the title track, Run to the Hills, Children of the Damned, The Prisoner and Hallowed be thy Name being some of the band’s very best songs, and with Bruce Dickinson in place as the new singer, this was the album which broke band worldwide. Next, we meet Sooty’s best mate.

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Iron Maiden: Killers review

Killers marks the beginning of Iron Maiden’s long association with producer Martin Birch. He has revealed that he was surprised the band hadn’t asked him to produce their first album, but at the time they were a bit too intimidated to approach a man who had worked with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac. The other important new arrival on this album was Adrian Smith, a fantastic guitarist who has written some of Maiden’s greatest songs over the years.

The Ides of March instrumental kicks off the album, leading into the classic Wrathchild and then Murders in the Rue Morgue, three songs it’s hard to follow, and Another Life doesn’t quite manage it. Yet another instrumental, Gengis Khan, follows, showcasing some great Clive Burr drumming. Innocent Exile is a great example of the difference Martin Birch made to Maiden, as Steve’s bass in particular sounds really full and rich.The track shows the quality of the album’s songs picking up again. The title track is another stone cold classic, from the pounding bass intro and Paul D’Ianno’s screams to the thunderous main section with Adrian and Dave’s chugging guitars and Clive Burr’s ferocious drums. The guitar solos are also pretty awesome. Prodigal Son which follows is quite a contrast; a really beautiful ballad full of Steve’s prog rock influences and some gorgeous bass playing, not to mention Paul’s soulful vocals. Purgatory is a ferociously fast Maiden classic which perhaps isn’t as well known as it should be. I would certainly love to see them play it live. Twilight Zone didn’t feature on the original tracklisting but is on the remastered album, and for an album with a noticeable quality dip it’s a welcome addition as it’s a really strong song. My favourite track is the final one, Drifter. From Paul’s first scream of “Rock ‘n’ rooooooolllllll” the track oozes excitement and exuberance. Who cares what the words mean when a song is this infectious? So a couple of tracks are a little weak but Maiden’s first album with Martin Birch contains enough classics to be considered pretty damn awesome, and it is also the swansong of the excellent Paul D’Ianno whose rich and powerful voice gave Maiden such a strong start. Now bring on the Air Raid Siren.

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Iron Maiden: Iron Maiden review

Steve Harris has often expressed his disappointment with the first Iron Maiden album, but its raw roots are its strength. Even if the band were doing their best with a producer who didn’t seem interested (Wil Malone), what they ended up with was amazing. The ferocity of Prowler leads into the prog rock of Remember Tomorrow with Paul D’Ianno showing what an amazing singer he was during Maiden’s early years. Running Free remained a favourite encore for a long time and provided Maiden with the first of their few Top of the Pops appearances. Phantom of the Opera is one of the great Maiden classics, immortalised on the Daley Thompson Lucozade advert in the 80s. The version on Live After Death features an arguably better dual guitar section due to Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s telepathic guitar harmonies (Dennis Stratton and Dave featuring on this album version). Transylvania is a superb instrumental with too much going on to become self indulgent or boring. Strange World is another early foray into prog rock, showing Steve’s progressive influences, including Genesis. This is another showcase for Dave Murray’s beautiful guitar solos and a very restrained Paul D’Ianno showing the richness of his voice. Charlotte The Harlot brings the album back down to its raw, punky roots but includes a slow, melodic mid-section, giving a hint at the depth of Dave Murray’s early songwriting. Finally we have the band’s title song that has ended their main live set for many, many years. The words are largely irrelevant, apart from “Iron Maiden’s gonna get you,” which, in all probability, they will. They got me a very long time ago.

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