Thursday, December 03, 2009

The wheel just keeps on turning...

I'm a cynical bastard at heart.

For instance, when I heard that Michael Jackson was dead I immediately thought, "Hoax!". He was in a lot of debt, old, and in danger of becoming irrelevent, never mind that half the world thought he was a kiddie fiddler. So why not fake your death, cash in on the increased record sales through third parties and, I dunno, have facial reconstructive surgery, change your name and move to Armenia. Or something.

Similiarly, when I first read on the web that author Robert Jordan had died, my immediate thought was, "BASTARD BETTER NOT BE DEAD BETTER BE FAKING IT BASTARD."

A little more to the extreme side than the reaction to Jacko, I admit, but I cared not a jot for the so-called King of Pop, whereas Jordan was responsible for the literary equivelant of Star Trek in The Wheel of Time series.

I picked up the first part of this series in 1998 and immediately fell in love with it. It's rich, incredibly detailed and complex. Complete nerd-bait, in fact. I remember being told by a Waterstones shop assistant while I was buying book seven that he'd stopped reading at the fourth one as he "couldn't keep up with all the plot lines". Christ, did he get out easy.

Jordan ended up prevarivating too much, spending two chapters where a page would have done, introducing extra plot lines and characters just - it seemed - to keep us all reading. The series moved further and further from the giant of the fantasy world, and closer and closer to becoming a commercial shill, a £20 hardback shat out every other year for guaranteed returns. It reached its nadir, in my opinion, with books nine and ten which were essentially the same damn novel. The eleventh book (not bad for a six-part series, how Adamsian) moved things on a bit, perhaps because Jordan knew his health was failing him. I didn't know he was sick until he died, but even then I was hoping - just as Stephen King hoped of himself - that he would live to finish the series.

And then he died.

But! The wheel turns on and on, especially when there's money to be made. The announcement that a little known "fantasy author" would pick up the baton and complete Jordan's magnum opus filled me with little more than dread. I'd long lost my love for the series, but was determined to read to the end, if only to find out what the ending actually was. Book 12 (book twelve-and-one-third to be more precise) has reignited the torch I once held for the world of The Wheel of Time.

It's obviously another authors work. There are shifts in tone and the dialogue is a little less, well, "fantasy" (the word "homicide" stands out as being blatantly out of place) but the pace of the series finally picks up and there are more threads tied off and more plotlines closed in this chapter of the series than, it feels, in the previous two. Only a million more to go then...

I had feared that the series would veer off into a completely commericalised and empty experience - much like Raymond Fiests work has ended up - but I'm glad to see that Brandon Sanderson has completed the best entry into the series since, arguably, 1994's Lord of Chaos. That's a long time waiting, but, to continue the analogy, Trekkies had to wait 13 years between First Contact and Star Trek.

The wheel keeps turning. Hopefully, soon, it'll stop, and we'll get the ending to this series we've been waiting for.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1 of 100 Part 1

“You are one of one hundred,” says the big black dude in front of me. He's heavy, muscled and tall and he's as intimidating as all hell. I don't know who he is or which direction he came from but all of a sudden he's standing in front of me and I can smell the coffee on his breath and see the street light shining off his bald head.

“You are one of one hundred,” he repeats, “and your training begins now.”

I get the chance to think, What training?, except even in my mind it comes out Whaooooophrgh! as the big black dude throws a short, sharp punch into my stomach. I start doubling over, eyes bugging out and spit hanging from my lower lip. He throws a knee up, connecting with my chin and all of a sudden I'm on the ground, on my back, and I can feel blood on my face. The big black dude is standing over me, smiling. I start pissing myself and scrambling backwards on my elbows and arse, muttering and squelching and building up to scream.

The big black dude reaches up to a gizmo mounted on what looks like his stab proof vest. It looks like the kind of radio the police use, the kind of body armour they use too, except the police aren't usually known for violently assaulting passers by on a quiet Tuesday night in Glasgow city centre. I look around as I'm scrambling but I can't see a soul and I realise I'm shouting “Help me! Fuck's sake help me!” but there's no one to hear, there's not even a parked car.

He comes after me slowly, still smiling, and he's muttering into his gizmo or radio. I can't hear all of what he's saying but I think I catch “No resistance” and “Good show” and then he's laughing like he's just shared a joke and then he's growled and raised a foot and stamped and oh christ I think he just broke my ankle.

I'm sobbing now, really sobbing and I'm crying for my mum and I don't know what's happening and then he's crouching down and he's patting me on the cheek and smiling and he says, “I'll see you next year.”

And just like that, right before my eyes, he disappears. Evaporates. Disintegrates. Like Scotty just beamed him up only without the special effects. I blinked and he was gone.


Fourteen hours later I'm propped up in a hospital bed and no one is believing my story. A very tall and very stern policeman gives me a serious expression and a serious voice while taking down notes in a tiny pad with a pencil smaller than a cigarette end. He's not best pleased at my comparison of the big black dude's body armour to his. He asks me how many drugs I'd been taking. I say none. He just raises his eyebrows as if to say Aye right pal and asks what I'd been drinking, why I was there, where I thought the big black dude came from and went to and why he did what he did.

I just stare at him, slipping into shock.


That was my sixteenth birthday present. A brutal assault by a still unfound crazy man, three days in hospital and weeks of scrutiny by police who thought I was just another Weegie drug peddling wee shite. And I wasn't! Okay, maybe I moved a couple of bars of hash every now and again for pocket money but lets face it, who hasn't? I'm not a bad guy, I didn't do anything to deserve that. I don't even know why it happened, but I tell you what, you wont find me walking the streets of the town alone these days. I barely go anywhere alone unless it's in a nice crowded place.

It's the day of my seventeenth birthday and I'm in one of those new shopping malls that sprung up around Glasgow after the millennium. All white tiles and mirrors. Makes the place look like a giant public toilet. I've got cash in my pocket and a song in my heart and I'm off to buy something Playstationy, or perhaps X-Boxy. I wont decide until I see what's on the shelves. First of all though, I need to do something about my aching desire to pee. My Dad's with me and I leave him in a golf shop to go look for the lavs.

Up three escalators and round a corner and I'm in the generic public toilets in this giant generic public toilet. As usual with these places the whole room smells of pish and three of the cubicles have “Out of Order” signs sellotaped to the doors. Can't use blu-tak after all, cos the locals would only steal it. For all that it's busy in the mall it's surprisingly empty in here.

I approach the urinal, unzip and....relax...

There's a tap on my shoulder.

“You are one of one hundred. What have you learned?”

My eyes open wide and my piss arcs over the wall and my shoes as I turn just in time to catch a fist on my jaw. It's him. He's here. How the. What the. I've fallen with my cock out. He's picking me up and I'm trying to hide my penis, ashamed of being seen and then he's punched me in the belly again and it's him, it's the big black dude, he's here and oh please god don't kill me.

“You are one of one hundred. If you die, you die, but I can't kill you until you start fighting back. It's the rules”.

What the fuck? Did I say that out loud?


He grabs me by the jacket, two handed, and throws me across the toilet floor. I slide on the tiles, coming to rest against the line of cubicles. It's him. It's the same guy, same outfit, but this time it's light and I can see him. He's tall, muscled, really muscled and he's wearing some sort of body armour. Not police-issue stab proof, but molded to perfectly fit his frame. There's a gizmo on his shoulder and it's flashing red, little lights like LEDs. He's got big fuck off bone breaker boots on – and I should know – and he's coming towards me. He's grinning again. The flourescent lights shine off his skin which is almost proper black like you see in some African guys, not the watered down browns and mauves and creams you see on the streets.

“You are one of one hundred,” he says, leaning down and grabbing my aching jaw in his hand, “and you have been chosen. These are the rules. Every year on your birthday I will come to you. If you do not fight back, you will not die, but you will be badly hurt. If you do not fight back on your twenty-first birthday, I will kill you. This is authorised.”

He looks me right in the eye. He's got really big teeth.

“If you fight back and kill me, you win and go onto the next stage. But you are one of one hundred, and you must fight until you are one of one. Only then will you win.”

He gives me a big shit eating grin.

“Can you win?”

“Win what?” I stammer.

“Your life.”

I see his other hand raised in a fist and then it's coming down quick and then it...


I wake up slowly, listening to two old men bicker.

“Christs sakes Jack, who'd dae something like this?”

“Probably some junkie Victor. Why wont this blasted mobile work?”

“Just go oot and find a flunky for gods sakes. The poor wee fella needs somebody a wee bit quicker than you tae help him.”

“Aye right, fair enough. Here, take this.”

“What dae I want your bunnet for ya lunatic?”

“Tae cover up the wee fella's wee fella. He's in enough bother right noo, he doesny need a crowd a folk gawpin at his willy”

“Oh christ just go and find someone, would ye?”

The blackness comes again.


Then I'm in an ambulance, covered up, neck brace and gas mask on. There's a paramedic pottering about and my Dad's ashen faced and silent beside her.

“It was him Dad,” I manage to croak. “It was him again.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To all things an ending

Today Statecorp decided to die.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Comme ci, comme ca?

I've been watching with interest the furore over Caster Semenya, the new womens World 800m champion... or is she? The IAAF are conducting gender tests to ensure that she really is a woman, although it all seems a bit complicated to me.

Surely they've seen her in the showers?

According to the BBC, 'external genitalia can be "ambiguous"', which I'm sure is reassuring to all those men suffering from LWS*. As if they don't have enough to worry about having a small dick, now they have to worry that perhaps it's really an enlarged clitoris.

The most worrying thing about the whole affair is of course the question of genetics. If it turns out that Caster Semenya is really a man who's had his trouser snake turned from an out-y into an in-y just to gain an advantage then fair enough. The game is up and he's caught. If, however, she is a she, as her parents assure us, and they would know, but it turns out that genetically she is a hermaphrodite, then what effect will this have on modern sports? Random gender tests along with the random drug tests? And what would happen if the results where publically disseminated?

Would the gender gap in society close if it turned out that David Beckham was really 40% more female than his wife? Or that Margaret Thatcher was genetically closer to male?

Obviously any intrusion of genetics into sport poses questions. Does Usain Bolt have a genetic advantage that allows him to run so fast? (And is he a man?) And if he did, would his times be struck from the record books and his medals removed? Will athletes in the future have to prove that they're just normal folks and don't have any natural born affinities or advantages in certain sports? And if they do, then what's the fucking point in competing?

*Little Willy Syndrome

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Salvation at last?

I must admit that when I first heard they where making Terminator 3 my initial thought was that it would be set in the future, during the war. That is I hoped it would be set in the future. Obviously it wasn't and T3: Rise of the Machines was the result, a rather lacklustre last hurrah for a franchise. Upon hearing that Terminator Salvation would be set in the future and be directed by the guy behind Charlie's Angels I though: "Oh shit."

I'm not the only one, I'm sure.

Call me pleasently surprised. Of the big three effects movies I've seen this summer, Terminator Salvation is easily the best. It may take some liberties with the franchise (i.e. mankind doesn't seem to be doing much hiding. Why hasn't Skynet used infra-red to track down their heat signatures? Or am I just being a bit too geeky?) but it ultimately succeeds where T3 failed: a worthy successor to James Cameron's original two films.

Obviously it's a set up for further entries into the franchise: Christian Bale's John Connor doesn't seem to be the leader of the resistance after all; Kyle Reese seems more a stereotypical smart-arse teen than the battle-weary scarred veterean we saw in the original; there was no mention of time travel equipment, nor the fateful encounter where Kyle and five terminators are sent back into the past, nor do we see Connor ultimately die... I wonder if McG will be brave enough to change that unhappy ending?

The future is not set, after. No fate but what the writers make...

Monday, July 06, 2009

EVE: Even virtual banks are in trouble... - EVE player steals 2 billion ISK of invested ingame cash and sells it through Real Money Traders to finance medical bills and a new house

The most surprising thing about this story is that it's reported in a fairly straight laced manner, giving it more credibility and importance than it may have received eighteen months ago or so. As virtual worlds become more prevelant and more important to more and more people I suppose that this change in opinions was inevitable. It just seems to have started sooner than I thought.

I wonder how long it will be before game developers like CCP start to pursue legal action against people who exploit RMT sites. If this guy had managed to steal more ISK from the 2.3trillion fund, could have had sold it for £10, 000? £20, 000? Even thirty thousand? At what point to developers say enough is enough and call their lawyers? Is there even a case for them outwith the terms and conditions of the game, or is permabanning accounts their only available solution?

I think it's inevitable that there will be a test case sooner rather than later... but I wonder how many subscriptions will end up being cancelled if RMT is made illegal by the courts and not just by the developers. Could they end up cutting off their nose to spite their face? Only time will tell.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Star Trek: Wrath of Retcon

I was brought up watching the original Star Trek on BBC 2. Every Monday (possibly Tuesday. Or any of the other weekdays. It was a long time ago) at 6pm there'd be an ace sci-fi TV show on the Beeb's second channel and I'd settle down to watch with Mother. Star Trek was always amongst my favourites, mainly because I really, really, wanted to be Captain Kirk. I must confess though that that was only because my Mum told me that TJ Hooker used to be Captain Kirk. That confused my little child mind, but I did know that TJ was the bestest cop in the whole wide world. That surely meant that Kirk was just as good! Fuck yeah!

(Actually I never said things like "Fuck yeah!" at that age. I'd've got a skelping, and they're never good. )

Over the years Star Trek was of course followed by The Next Generation (the one with the robot), Deep Space Nine (the one with the space station that wasn't Babylon 5), Voyager (the one with the Holodeck and yet no imagination) and finally Enterprise (the one with no viewers) but none of them captured my imagination like the original show. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and friends made the show what it was. The characters in the subsequent shows just couldn't match up, never mind your baldy diplomat blokes or your shouty black men.

So, geek factor nine engaged. New Star Trek movie ahoy. The old ship, the old characters, new, prettier actors and a CGI budget larger than the gross national product of Bolivia. Is it good? Well, yeah. It's a reboot, innit. Re-energising an existing franchise for newer, younger viewers to capture a whole new generation of geeks and enslave them to the brand. Boldly going forward cos we can't find reverse, as someone once put it.

As a bog standard sci-fi movie I'm sure it would work - the MacGuffinry in there could easily be expositioned away in a non-Star Trek manner - but it's somehow hard to swallow it as real, proper Star Trek. Perhaps I'm too old, too set in my ways. Perhaps I'm too used to Star Trek having cardboard sets and ridiculously inexpensive special effects. JJ Abrams brings wobbly camera angles, far more shiny things than the 1960's Enterprise ever had and lots of explosions in an attempt to "action up" the franchise. It's explained about halfway through the movie that this is an alternate timeline where literally anything could happen - a good excuse for subsequent entries to ignore the futures laid down for the crew in the TV shows, movies, books, comics, cartoons, lunchboxes and bed spreads of the last 40 years. Here we have a more emotional Spock, a Uhura who does more than answer the phone and a Chekov who is all of a sudden a mathematical genuis.

Each of the main characters have their moment to set themselves up but they all feel oddly empty. Sulu is missing George Takei's rich voice, Kirk is missing The Shat's awesome charisma and Spock just isn't Leonard Nimoy. What's worse is that when he finally appears, Leonard Nimoy just isn't Spock.

I think it's sour grapes. Or possibly regret. Regret that The Shat got old and Bones died and someone shot Scotty's ashes into space and missed. Regret that they're not making new stories with them anymore. Regret that these pretty young upstarts just can't fill the boots left for them - they cant replace, only succeed, as someone else put it.

It's not a bad movie. In fact it's probably a very good one. But for me it just isn't Star Trek.

Transformers: Robots in...oh god I'm so bored

Let me get one thing straight: I loved the first Transformers movie. Loved. It was wish fulfillment writ large, writ huge, writ gargantuan even. My inner geek got a serious woody at the first sight of Optimus Prime and repeat viewings have done little to lessen the wow factor. Yeah, the plot is complete bunkum, the characters are either annoying or Megan Fox but the special effects money shots make my little eyes go wide and shiny every time.

Also, it was, believe it or not, the date movie for me and The Missus. This makes it special.

I sat in an extremely comfy cinema seat to watch Transformers: Vengeance of the Fallen with a gigantocola, a megapopcornosaurus, a smile on my face and a lump in my shorts, certain, certain that I was about to, yet again, be blown away...


Micheal Bay should really stay away from sequels. Bad Boys 2 was immensely self indulgent, ridiculously overblown and mildly offensive. T:VotF repeats those first two sins but manages to fall on the side of schoolboy humour rather than frat boy nastiness. It's two and a half hours long for goodness' sake, at least 45 minutes longer than necessary, the irritating cast is expanded by far too many other annoying characters, the plot is even dafter... but oh, those money shots.

It'd be churlish to write the film off as a complete loss as it does offer a grand spectacle, but given that the Transformers themselves are some of the most detailed and complex CGI characters ever created it's sometimes hard to see what's going on with any great clarity - there are so many small, intricate moving parts making up each character that the whole can be lost in a muddle. When the camera moves back to allow a wider shot the motion capture takes over and these behemoths move like athletes - Optimus Prime's battle in the forest is a highlight.

Eventually, though, things grind to a slow halt and you find yourself wishing for the credits as armies of identikit Decepticons take on Earth's Mightiest (American) Soldiers (well, with a token Brit) plus a handful of Autobots. Megan Fox's part is even thinner than in the original, although if there is a Best Naked Midriff Oscar next year she's a front runner - the camera caresses her like a lover and it's hard not think of it as almost voyeuristic. Like everything else about a movie that thinks more is better, it begins to grate.

A dissapointing sequel overall, but perhaps on DVD with the benefit of fast forward (and pause for the Fox lovers out there) it'll prove a better watch.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Statecorp story

It's been a while since I thought about my EVE Diary but recent discussions with members of my EVE Online corporation have brought them to my attention again, purely becuase it looks like the corp will dissolve soon after nearly five years together. We've lost a few key players in the last few months - including myself - and it's nearly time to wind things down and move on.

The EVE Diaries where to be a play diary displayed in a library within Second Life by fellow former State forumite Always Black, but I stopped after some pretty negative feedback for the fifth entry. It wasn't uncalled for to be honest - I'd tried to relate something that we all found pretty momentous within the game but didn't do it very well.

Now, over three years since that last entry into the EVE diary I'm thinking of writing some more, retrospectively, filling in the history of StateCorp as I remember it. Obviously with myself as the hero. Obviously.

Fatherhood and gaming

Honestly, before you have a child, can anyone really say they know what's coming to them?

The best present I received on my most recent birthday was a badge that said "World's best Dad". Corny, cheesy, stupid, but it gave me a warm rosy glow and a tear in my eye. Being a Dad is truly great.

But sometimes I miss the old days. The days where I could do 48 hour gaming sessions in my pants, surviving on frozen pizza, coffee and beer. The days when all my time was my own and I didn't have this little bundle of chaos demanding attention 24/7.

Only sometimes though.

I've spent a lot of time staring at this screen recently, wondering what to do with my PC. It seems incredibly selfish now to even think of spending £30 on a new game when that gets three weeks worth of powdered milk, but I'm desperate for a new gaming experience. After four years of EVE my once wide and varied gaming lifestyle has wittered away to nothing - and now even EVE has taken a back seat. I know the missus wont be pleased when I tell her I want to resubscribe :)

My son will have a lot more exposure to gaming at a younger age than I did, even though I was playing an Atari VCS 2600 at the age of 5. I often wonder, though, how his gaming education will differ from mine. I grew up with the industry, learning the rules and conventions of gaming at the same rate that developers were discovering them. Now with genres firmly delineated and perceptions of what each particular type of game should let you do almost set in stone I wonder how easy it will be for my son to learn. I had Mario Bros - right now he has Mario Galaxy. Although the basic concept of the platformer may be little changed, the execution is worlds apart.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Diana all over again

I've been amazed at the scenes show from outside the hospital in LA where Michael Jackson died, astonished at the devotion still shown to him given that he'd released only three albums in the last twenty years and especially given the publicity surrounding allegations of child abuse.

It's going to be Diana all over again, isn't it, although I guess American TV will feel the brunt of it. BBC News 24 was certainly given it complete coverage until the early hours of this morning - nothing else happened in the world during that time of course - but I see there's been a distinct lack of paranoia surrounding his death. No rumours of foul play, no sense of paranoia.

He was one of a generation of truely global stars, people who are part charicature, part phenomena from the golden age of broadcast TV. Now with the spread of the internet, web 2.0 and user created content I doubt we'll see another Michael Jackson, for good or ill.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Memories, absent friends and avatars

I've never, it must be said, been a constant blogger,as can be seen from the archives of this blog, recently and accidentally rediscovered after four years in the wilderness. However I have had the hankering to write now and again in my life, most notably (in my own mind) on ye olde State forum/website/webzine. Ooh, there's a memory.

Where do internet people go when forums die? There's names and fac... well, not faces I guess, but names that pop up on sites here and there and instantly the thought occurs: "Is that wossname from that old forum? Is that thingyummybob from that old IRC room?"


Or it could be that person who had a discussion with you about ISS and FIFA six or seven years ago. Or it could be another internet person with the same handle. That's the problem with anonymity. That's the important thing about it.

I often wonder if the day will come in my lifetime when my own preferred internet psuedonym becomes a bigger part of my RL identity. Perhaps it would be more likely if I were an internet superstar, but then I find that a lot of internet superstars end up using their real names anyway.

But anyway, writing. I intend to throw some words at this blog in the form of short stories. I shall see what sticks and what falls off before I can reach the "Publish post" button. It's time I started to use this five year old blog for what it has always been primarily designed for: self indulgence on a potentially worldwide scale. Yay for me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Bus Stop

I could hear it, but I couldn't see it.

We always just called it the "Eddie Road"; there's one in every Scottish town I guess, possibly barring Edinburgh itself. The ancient road leading to the nations capital, tarmacadamed and given an A-road number, ultimately leading nowhere but another road map grid reference.

This particular one runs through the Glasgow's east end, long and lightly curved, with less than a handful of junctions to break up its run. From a standing start a corporation bus builds up a lot of momentum by the time it gets to our stop.

I could hear one now, but I couldn't see it past the trees. It was still some way off, round the curve between the primary school and the petrol station, a bright orange double decked behemoth, as aerodynamic as an iceberg and just as implacable. The drivers tended to the surly, not surprising given the average Glaswegian attitude to those in public service, so they drove like they had a point to prove, a bone to pick. "We're getting there eventually so don't complain about the ride quality."

Corporation buses stank of smoke and beer and piss. Upstairs the seats would be torn and melted by bored school kids with their stolen lighters. Graffiti would obscure the windows, names and dates and football slogans slapped across the plastic in pen or ink or just carved straight in. There'd be a week old Daily Record on the floor and an empty Irn Bru can rattling about somewhere. That's just the way it was. Downstairs the old folk in the front few rows would be hanging on grimly, dentures clenched and handbags clutched tight. At this time of the day there would be a pram folded up and thrown into the joke of a luggage tray at the front. Everyone in the back half would be carrying a poly bag of shopping.

Mid afternoon on a clear July day. The traffic was light, the sun was poking its wee face out in between the expected showers and I could hear the bus powering its way along the Eddie Road towards me. I had a brick in my hands and my throat was dry. I still couldn't see the bus, but it was getting closer. A green car wooshed past, a small child peering out the back window at me, index finger pointed and thumb straight up. I could almost hear him say "Ptchoo ptchoo!" as he shot me. I raised my free hand and shot back as he dwindled into the distance.

Across the dual carriageway at the bus stop for the other direction, an old man was staring down the road. He could see the bus I was waiting for. I could only hear it. A breeze was picking up. It made the stitches on my face tickle.

The last corpy bus I'd been on, I'd got on at the stop, heading to the shopping centre. I'd been allowed to go myself, to pick up my Dad's fishkeeping magazine. It was an adventure, of sorts. I had bus fare and magazine money and some change for whatever I wanted – football stickers, sweets, comics. I'd got on, paid my fare and ran upstairs to the front seat. Somehow bus rides where always more exciting from there, right at the front of the bus, as close to the road as the driver was but higher.

At the next stop four older boys got on. They all wanted the front seats and I told them no, I was sitting there. They dragged from the seat, kicking and punching. When the driver finally stopped the bus, halfway between where I came from and where I wanted to be, he threw me off, bleeding and crying, dishevelled and sore, with all my money stolen and my glasses broken. It was easier to get rid of one than four. He dragged me off the bus and left me on the pavement, wiping my blood off his hands and onto the sleeves of my torn jumper. "Sorry, wee man," he said. He had a moustache and curly hair and a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth and he didn't care.

I could hear old women tutting and muttering from the front seats of the lower deck, but no one offered to help me, no one tried to get my money back. They drove off and no one looked back.

The corner of the bus appeared round the trees, slowly gaining size and speed and momentum. The roar of the engine washed over me as it drew nearer. My fingers tightened on the brick. The wind was getting stronger.

I got home that day, eventually, still bleeding and disoriented. Fourteen stitches in various places, including seven above my eye. "No, I couldn't describe any of the boys who did it. No, I didn't know any of them." I did, though. They were from the scheme on the other side of the Eddie Road, boys we would regularly fight with – as long as you counted throwing stones from 60 yards away and trading insults about each others mothers as fighting. One of them was Jai Hendries big brother, another was a boy in sixth year at my school. I could have told the police who they where but at the end of the day I'm not a grass.

"No, I couldn't tell you what the bus driver looked like. It was an orange corpy bus, number 41, and he was just another driver."

The bus was ten seconds away, looming in my vision, hurtling towards where I stood on the edge of the pavement, brick in hand and lump in throat. I could see two boys about my age in the front seats of the top deck, feet up on the window, probably talking about football or films or trying to invent new swearwords or complaining about school or any of the hundred things I would do with my mates when we were together. Nine seconds.

I could see a pram in the front luggage tray, handles forward, wheels sticking out at odd angles. It didn't look like it was folded properly. Eight seconds. My arm swung back and I could see the driver looking at me.

Seven seconds. He had a moustache and curly hair and he drove by here every day around this time. I started my arm swinging forward. The drivers mouth opened and I saw recognition.

Six seconds before the bus reached me and I let go of the brick as my arm completed its forward arc. The brick sailed slowly upwards and forwards and I turned to run, feet slipping on the muddy verge. It took me two seconds to cross the pavement and start running down the grass towards home. I imagined the look of surprise on the drivers face as he saw me run, saw the brick in mid air, wondered what it was. How quickly would he react? Would the brick even hit the bus? I hadn't practised it, perhaps I'd used too much force and it would fly past.

Three seconds, two. One. I was twenty yards away when the brick hit.

I couldn't see it, but I could hear it.