John Durnin

One of the published articles I wrote for AFC Liverpool’s Matchday programme.

As you would expect from a local team, Waterloo Dock have seen their fair share of Liverpudlian talent. One such local lad was impressive enough to be picked up by Liverpool FC, John Durnin played for Waterloo Dock before being spotted and snapped up at twenty one. John joined the reserve team squad and played regularly but found first team opportunities scarce, appearing only twice for the senior squad, both times in the league cup. A short loan deal to West Brom allowed John to play first team football before he moved on to Oxford. The wandering attacker laid down roots in the university town and enjoyed four and a half years at the club. The U’s enjoyed a good period and were promoted to Division One in 1992 though John left shortly after for Portsmouth, the club where he is probably best remembered. John was a first team regular on the south coast making 181 appearances over seven seasons, and it wasn’t until age started to show in those industrious legs that he was loaned out to Blackpool and Carlisle. After a short spell full time at Carlisle John began the inevitable gradual drop down the leagues with Kidderminster Harriers then Welsh side Rhyl in a player/coach role. John spent less than six months in Wales before returning to England with Port Vale. Thirty six year old John put in an impressive 47 appearances for the Valiants though his strike rate understandably was not quite what it had been with Oxford and Portsmouth. John played his swansong season with Accrington Stanley in the conference before hanging up his boots in 2004, aged 39, his professional career lasting 18 years and spanning the breadth of the football pyramid. All this started with Waterloo Dock giving a chance to a boy from Bootle.

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Fur and Thunder I

The beginning to a novel I began writing at age 12 and revised at age 15. Untouched and unedited since then, I just thought it would be an interesting post. I imagine that there are quite a few typos and cliches but it is ten years old…

Ferguson Falkirk stared out of the window in his room in the north tower of castle Loyan. A soft, cooling, dusk breeze teased his clothing, causing his brown dungarees to flap lightly against his slight, muscular frame and stir his gold hoop earring. He took in the glorious summer scene below him, young hares somersaulting in the rich green grass and the last rays of sunlight flooding in through the window casting a distorted shadow on the stone floor behind him. Suddenly this vision of tranquillity was shattered as the ferret’s weasel sergeant rushed in, tripped over the lion-skin rug and would have rolled out of the window had Ferguson (or Fergus as he sometimes was known) not have caught him in time.
‘Yes Lennox?’ enquired the albino ferret, casually as if it was normal for a weasel to attempt to fly out of a window.
‘Sir, his majesty wants ter see yer’ replied the weasel in his gruff northern voice.
Fergus followed his sergeant down the long winding staircases leading down to the battlements. Upon reaching the battlements Fergus sat and admired the rare beauty of the sunset, two doves could be seen courting, dancing in the crimson sky. The weasel sergeant was becoming impatient, the king wanted to see the lieutenant urgently and the throne room was directly below them. To get there it was a good five-minute walk around south tower and down a long corridor. Suddenly the lithe ferret stiffened up and leapt over the battlements, did a smart somersault, grabbed on to the wall and slid through the window into the throne room. Lennox Xanicus (for that was the sergeant’s name) shook his head in disbelief and followed his example.
His Royal Highness, king Braus was pacing the throne room. He was a most majestic and elegant sight, wrapped around his lithe, sinewy frame was a beautiful cape of deepest aqua blue, over his torso he wore a plate of gold armour and a gold helmet with a dove feather plume was covering his regal head. As the ferret and the weasel rolled in through the circular window he looked up, not in the least bit taken back by the fact that Fergus had smashed the stained glass pane upon entering and that Lennox had further more spread the priceless glass when he shook himself.
‘Lieutenant, do you know of Hanan?’ Enquired the king in a casual manner
Fergus like every fighting mammal knew of Hanan, the volcanic island ruled over by the mink triumvirate Wernin the slaughterer, Kjarno Riktooth the berserk psycho and Granos the valiant. Braus and the rulers of Hanan were in constant conflict. The minks were persistently sending their captains over to Brausinia (the small island where Fergus lived) to overthrow Braus and make Brausinia part of their growing empire. The last attack on Brausinia, two years ago had been driven back at a bitter cost, the minks had sent waves upon waves of marten warriors, almost three thousand of them. Such ferocious and regular assaults were common practice for the armies of Hanan so it made little sense that there had been no news of marten troops for two years. Such bitter peace was both welcome and unnerving for Braus. Unfortunately, peace time was, as always, desperately short and psychologically consuming.
‘Yes sir’ Replied Ferguson after a short delay.
‘You also know that, James Saint-Verlese, the heir to the throne of Brausinia is in a high security prison falsely charged of high treason?’
‘Yes sir’ Ferguson, like most well informed members of Brausinia society knew of Saint-Verlese’s recent diplomatic summit with the triumvirate, a summit which was of course an elaborate trick, resulting in the capture of the young prince. Ferguson often wondered why on earth he had been the only creature with the foresight to warn Braus and Saint-Verlese against this venture.
‘I fear that the current state of peace may be more to do with the Hananian’s plans for Saint-Verlese and less to do with any mercy they may feel towards our ailing nation. Thus Ferguson, in the interests of retaining our nation’s pride, I charge you with a rescue mission. I have had the cooks prepare your supplies; you will march south and gather troops to sail to Hanan. You will report back here with the force and I will prepare a galleon for you. You will rescue Saint-Verlese and bring him back to the castle. Now go and tell ‘The Empires Vagabonds’, you will march at dawn’
Fergus bowed quickly and scurried out of the open oaken door followed by Lennox. Ferguson was deep in thought; such an order was drastic and shockingly sudden. How long had Braus been planning such an excursion, and why send the Vagabond’s? Fergus’ platoon wasn’t often entrusted with rescue missions due to their erratic nature and wild spirit.
Lennox was thinking too, though his mind was only concerned with finding a solution to the age old problem of fur dye. He preferred his winter white fur but was frustrated by the fact that as soon as it had appeared it was a matter of weeks before the dull brown of summer returned; if only he could find a way to make white fur last longer, or, better still, make it permanent. Lennox often dwelled upon such trivial matters and was viewed, mistakenly by some, who when conversing with him had often found him to be preoccupied and muttering about fur, to be absent minded.
As the pair crossed the vast banquet hall a pretty female stoat, a friend of Lennox’s, stopped them.
‘Fergus I heard you’re sailing to the volcanic island’ she said quietly in the controlled, soothing voice endowed to those rare figures that embody serenity.
Lennox replied for Fergus ‘Yep that’s right Relmin’.
‘I assume then you’ll need as many warriors as you can recruit? My brother’s warrior tribe, the Wichinars will help you; they live in the Goldiern Parida’.
And with that she left heading down a staircase towards the gymnasium.
Fergus and Lennox made their way across the hall and across the grounds to the barracks where Fergus’ regiment ‘The Empires Vagabonds’ were lounging around, playing cards, sleeping, sharpening blades and generally being idle. Naturally, all forty weasels leapt to attention as their lieutenant entered.
‘Weasel’s, we must prepare to march at dawn, we’re going recruiting!’ commanded Fergus in his rich, baritone voice. As soon as the command had left his mouth the troops ran over to their bunks, strapped on their steel breastplates, pulled on their gum boots and started polishing their shields. Satisfied, and shocked by this obedience Fergus left Lennox to inform the Vagabonds of the mission’s details and left for his quarters, in the north tower.
As he strolled along the dark, quiet corridors, contemplating the events of the day Fergus decided to stop and lean heavily on the stone wall. He often paused to digest some of the more pressing issues of the day. As is usual in such a situation, the ferret’s eyes roved around his immediate surroundings until they fixed on a large hole, just above his head height on the opposite, external wall. The curious ferret decided to investigate. The gap was about a foot across and a foot high, enough for a creature to enter. He gazed into the hole and noticed it soon became a tunnel and, by the darkness emitting from said tunnel, it seemed to go on for some way. Fergus wondered how long there had been a hole in this wall. This ground floor corridor led up to the main hall and he’d walked down here many times earlier in the day without noticing such an obvious opening. Curiosity overcame him and he was just climbing up to the opening when he heard a call.
‘Sir, what are you doing?’
Ferguson Falkirk turned to see three of his Vagabonds. Likya, a young, kind, and cheerful female healer weasel, Marvin Quickpaw, an agile and muscular weasel who was renowned for his skill and accuracy at throwing blades and Yangfur, the wrestling weasel who bore as many scars and wounds as Lennox.
Ferguson explained to the youngsters and motioned for them to follow him. Fergus was the first to clamber in; the air was cold and still as though it had been frozen in time. Fergus waited for the others to join him and then led the group down the dark tunnel. After roughly thirty yards, Fergus reasoned that they must be underground now, though whether they were under the foundations of Loyan he did not know, the tunnel got higher and broader to the extent that all four creatures straightened up and stalked along on their rear paws. Ferguson drew a short dagger that he kept in his boot. It was basic instinct and he was glad of it when the procession turned a sharp corner.
Ferguson didn’t see the beast until it was upon him, snarling, suffocating him. Yangfur leapt at the attacker and pounded away with his powerful fists. In the pitch darkness confusion ensued and the wrestling weasel landed as many blows on Fergus as on the attacker. The creature was at least twice Fergus’ weight and had a strong grip on the ferret’s neck. Fergus was thrashing wildly at his assailant and with Yangfur’s help he wriggled from the creature’s grasp. Yangfur was having problems, he felt as though he was hitting bone, his knuckles were raw and he was getting tired. With Fergus loose the creature turned its attention to the small weasel, Yangfur. Meanwhile Marvin, who had been searching for a blade in the darkness, drew a long dagger and thrust it at the hulking monster; he felt the weapon drive through soft flesh, warm blood ran onto his paws and he heard the piercing shriek of the animal as it collapsed. All this time Likya had been trying to strike a light, she finally succeeded and the glow was quite sufficient. Likya lifted the blazing torch and took in the scene around her. The tunnel ended abruptly a few feet ahead of her and outside on the grass laid a large creature and her three companions. Fergus, who had been soothing the sharp cuts in his neck where the beast’s claws had pierced, went over to the large form. He inspected the creature.
‘It appears to be an armadillo’ he announced. Likya scurried out from the tunnel to join the others, they were now outside of the castle grounds, by the northern wall. The armadillo was still breathing and Fergus, mercifully, asked Likya to treat its wounds. Fergus thanked the weasels and then helped them bind the Armadillo. Fergus prided himself on the fact that he did all the work that his soldiers did, which was why he would not accept the rank of general as the other commanders had done. He felt that the other commanders, Mawr of the Starlights, Rener of the Purple Dawn, Leinad of the Riladers and Kluron of the Legin Valiats, had become distanced from their platoons and viewed them as plebians. Fergus understood the value of his troops being able to identify with him. That wasn’t to say Ferguson disliked any of the commanders, with the exception of Kluron who was always getting his arrogant troopers to mock and jeer the Empires Vagabonds, he actually found Mawr in particular to be quite enthralling company. As for the Legin Valiats, Ferguson was comfortable in the knowledge that these nobles and princes were poor soldiers and preferred to lead an infantry division that he had assembled on merit rather than social standing.

Seraca I

She was making a right hash of it, the milk wasn’t frothy, the coffee had ran down the side of the mug. The boss was leaning on the counter, his chin wagging rhythmically, keeping time with the low drone of his voice while the frankly plain object of his affections giggled sycophantically. And still the girl persevered with the milk, each…
“…and you’re not even fucking listening again! This is exactly what I was talking about, you just aren’t ‘here’, you’re never even present anymore. I mean, that’s the least I could ask for and you can’t even do that, you can’t even be here.”
My thoughts had been interrupted, again. I glanced back to the defiant face in front of me, rounder than it had been three years ago (when had that started happening? It must have been pretty gradual, a gradual transformation from a waif to a walrus. ‘Curvy’ they called it in her magazines), her eyes were narrowed and her brow furrowed in a way which she must have imagined to be appropriate for conveying her disaffection but struck me as merely comical. I suppressed a smile. Poorly.
“What are you fucking laughing about? I’ve had it with you. I don’t want this, you hardly say a word and when you do it’s something sarky.”
“I choose my words carefully to suit the moment.”
Breaking my silence seemed to infuriate her further.
“You always have to be so contrary, is it hard being you? Is it hard? You were born with this great gift, this supposedly great mind and what do you do with it? You sit around idly and make others feel small when you’ve accomplished so little with your life. I used to like that about you, no, I used to tolerate that. I used to tell Sarah and mum, when they said things, that you were a genius and one day you’d do something great and then they would see what I saw in you. But now I think they’re right, you are a loser. If anything you’re worse than a loser, you’re worse than those Jeremy Kyle scum because you have the ability and potential to be so much more, you see that don’t you? Of course you see that, that’s the main problem, how fucking aware you are of your superiority, how you sit in quiet judgment, looking down imperiously at everyone else yet you’ve done nothing with your life. You have this gift and you piss on it and piss on all of us ‘normal’ people who would do anything to have your mind, you could study anywhere, teach anywhere, work anywhere and i’m sick of all your bullshit excuses. You’re a boy, you’re an idiotic boy and after all these years I thought you would’ve become a man, I’ve changed and maybe th…”
My concentration wavered, she had repeated herself several times now and I knew where the rant was going, some kind of ‘shape up or ship out’ nonsense. I wondered where that expression came from, a maritime phrase I imagined, one possibly born out of the days of empire, when we ruled the waves, or maybe it was another of those misleading sayings. Like the one about hell having no fury like a woman scorned, that was never in the bible, maybe shaping up and shipping out had nothing to do with naval maintenance.
The girl had finished ruining a cappuccino and was now idly wiping the table nearest to us. Her short brown hair and slightly-too-short-for-work skirt reminded me a little of Jade when I had first met her, that seemed more of an age ago than a period measurable in years. Her clothing was somewhere between playfully suggestive and awkwardly outgrown, which matched her lanky, slender frame. She continued cleaning, looking a cross between a newborn deer and a harlot.
“…as though you understood everything about me and that the rose symbolised that, was I wrong? I look back at things now and I realise that everything I had thought was symbolic was just something you chucked together, I applied meaning to them afterwards. I was in love with the You that I created in my mind, never really you. Do you agree?”
I was suddenly on the spot. I didn’t care. Sometimes people say that they don’t care in order to seem relaxed or somehow, by exhibiting apathy, a better person. I genuinely did not care, I had begun to view Jade as a minor irritant whose presence served no practical purpose, much like a laconic fly which lands on your cheek just as you are drifting off to sleep then buzzes away, inconsequentially, to a corner of the room only to flyby your ear the next time sleep approaches. I shrugged at Jade. She stood up quietly, adjusted the neck of her top, looked at me with something between pity and hatred, then walked past and out of the cafe door. My eyes followed her slightly larger frame out of the door before returning to the table. The specials menu, a small blackboard hung on a piece of stringy rope above the counter, featured “scons and butter”. I took each and every spelling mistake as a mild personal insult. The girl had finished her time wasting cleaning display and approached my table, grabbing at both my empty mug and Jade’s abandoned tea cup. Her green eyes radiated from her pretty, sharp face, flooding colour over her porcelain skin as her thin lips idly offered “another drink?” in a thick Norse accent. I held her gaze and smiled, she blushed a little.
“A cappuccino, sweetie”

The Pledge and The Turn

Lyrics to The Pledge and The Turn by The Fall Of Science

Promise me
Sitting here, I remember
Assure me
Where I was when you told me
That this trust
In so many words it’s imperative
Was not misplaced
To show what you stand for

As clarity cuts through cecity
Integrity will end this nightmare

Promise me
Sitting here, I remember
Assure me
Where I was when you told me
That this trust
In so many words it’s imperative
Was not misplaced
To show what you stand for

I’ll hold this up as evidence
That every word you ever said
Was meaningless though eloquent
Promise

I’m not one for conflict or dramatic stands
I guess that’s why this internecine drags inexorably on
But you could not repent for my soul
But it’s never you with the white flags
Or fresh made bouquets

I’ll hold this up as evidence
That every word you ever said
Was meaningless though eloquent

Take a look inside your self and promise me

When loyalty is just an empty word
That’s when your weight is not your worth

Poets and Visionaries

Lyrics to Poets and Visionaries by The Fall Of Science

Every century is defined by great men
But who do we have
To carry the torch of the time of our lives

I doubt you will ever see with a dose of clarity
Do you not hunger for something more demanding to pull you through
A brave new world, subsides in stagnant seas
For this I will never be happy with this life

And I promise you, for all your gold
They won’t know you in ten years time

So go and seize the day and hold it close
And never let it go because time is both
Your lover and your enemy
The meek shall inherit the earth but I can’t wait til then

All our poets died long ago and our visionaries are blind
To a culture in decline and choking for breath
We are choking for breath
Your fame doesn’t mean a thing if you do nothing to enhance the story of mankind

For this I will never be happy with a little life
Now you’ve taken my soul and turned it to dust
For this I will never be happy with a little life
Now you’ve taken my soul and turned it to dust

A brave new world