Welcome to the fictional blog of Pete and Jeff, two thirty-somethings sharing a flat, united by their social detachment and love of Doctor Who. Out of pocket, out of luck, and clinging to the hope that life begins at forty...

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Hello all,

It's a great time to be a Doctor Who fan, and not just because of an appearance from you-know-who in the Fiftieth Anniversary episode...

Yes, you've guessed it... 'Behind The Sofa', the long-awaited sequel to 'Life Begins at 40', the hilarious comedy about Doctor Who fandom, is here at last. I'm literally holding a physical copy as we speak. You can pick up your copy here http://obversebooks.co.uk/product/behind

It's also available as an ebook here http://obversebooks.co.uk/product/behindtsebook/ and anyone who hasn't yet read 'Life Begins at 40' can download a copy here http://obversebooks.co.uk/product/fortyebook/

Whilst you're waiting for copy, check out this long lost interview we did whilst at a signing in Buckinghamshire ... It was for some bizarre hippy digital station that we're no sure actually exists. Though lost forever, the tape turned up in Nigeria. Or something...


Monday, 14 October 2013


Well, it's been a long wait, but we promised you a sequel to Life Begins at 40, and here it is! We're delighted to announce that BEHIND THE SOFA will be released on Obverse Books this November, just in time for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. (Apparently they found it in Nigeria with all those lost Troughton episodes.)

Also, For any of you who have yet to read the first book, Life Begins at 40 will be seeing it's first release as an eBook to coincide with the sequel.

The book will be available for pre-order in the coming weeks over at obversebooks.co.uk

Anyone who pre-orders Behind The Sofa will automatically be entered into a competition to will a limited edition Doctor Who postcard signed by the Doctor himself, Matt Smith.

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of what's to come. When we left them in 2011, Jeff was trapped in a burning building and Pete had fallen from a second storey window... Needless to say, they survived, but the incidents were not without consequence.

Read on for a sample of what's to come. Last time we saw Pete, he'd just fallen from his bedroom window, seemingly to his doom ...

Pete: Tuesday 7th December... Maybe

A rush of blinding light flooded my vision, as a series of half-remembered events from my life flashed in high-speed sequence, like a VHS on fast-forward. My barely coherent muttering didn't make much sense and came out in little more than a husky gasp. “...Shoes...”
Suddenly, there was a flurry of noise and activity: lights blinking, babies crying, bleeps bleeping. Shock #1: I wasn't at home. Where the hell was I? I poked my stomach a few times to make sure I was still myself... Whoever I was supposed to be. I needed a mirror. There was probably one around somewhere, but... Shock #2: I couldn't move! My body felt leaden, stiff, bruised in every possible way, and there seemed to be tubes coming out of me. Tubes! I wanted to cry out, but I couldn't for the life of me think who for. So I flapped my arms about like a pigeon and, by chance, laid my hands on a pocket mirror. Bracing myself, I squinted into the glass to see... A dandy with a mane of white hair, shouting repeatedly, a serious expression on his old-young face. It took some minutes, and a great degree of effort on my part, to realise what he was saying.
“Resist! Channing is controlling your mind!” But what did it mean?
“What?!” I screamed, trying to make it stop... And, mercifully, it did. Or, at least my hearing came back into focus.
I blinked and a mad-eyed guy with a crazed grin appeared over me, just inches from my face. “I said, looks like you're losing your mind!”
“I... I don't know where I am...” I stuttered helplessly.
“I'm Barry Waterhouse!” A disembodied hand thrust enthusiastically into my line of vision and promptly pulled away again. “I've got a famous brother, you know!” He spoke with the guarded cheeriness of a total idiot, his accent definitely Geordie, but almost as certainly Brummie too. “What's your name?”
“B...B... Barry?” I asked quizzically. He spoke so quickly. It was all I'd been able to take in.
“No way! You're called Barry too?” His curly golden hair jumped up and down, as he nodded vigorously, making him look like a cocker spaniel. “Are you sure?”
“I... I don't know. I don't even know where I am. Where am I?”
“Ehhhhhhh!” His dazed eyes lit up. “I like your sweater!” I found this hard to believe, until I saw that his t-shirt had a picture of Bob Marley on it. “I like sci-fi! D'you like role-playing? We should be friends! I've got a famous brother, you know!”
“What... Yeah?” I wasn't really listening. Looking past the Bob Marley shirt, I could see a line of beds in a long sterile corridor, people in white coats bustling frantically. “Hang on! Are we in a hospital?”
“Duuuuuurrrrr!” He stuck his tongue out and began began slapping his forehead. “Don't you know what's wrong with you?”
“No... What's wrong with you? You seem fine... Ish.”
“Me brother says I'm a moron!” He announced proudly, weird accent coming across particularly thickly. “Normally 'e looks after me... When e's not busy being famous, like!”
“Then who am I? And why am I here?” I whimpered. “I don't remember anything.”
“Ah, it'll come back to you, mate.” He slapped me on the shoulder with surprising strength. “Eh, you've got a nametag on your wrist. It says 'ere that your called... Erm, Mr. R-O-T-H. So your name must be Barry Roth!”
“Yeah, that's right!” I breathed a sigh of relief, and drifted back to sleep.

Pete: Tuesday 7th December... Probably

The next time I came round, a tall bloke with severe eyebrows was leaning over me, wiggling his fingers. Pen clutched in jaw, he scrutinised me critically. I tried to speak, but he reared backwards and cut me off with a clap of his hands. I felt my whole body reorientate, clicking painfully back into consciousness.
“Marvellous!” He said. “Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Roth. You're making sterling progress... And you've got a visitor.” The man had a badge swinging from his pocket. It showed his picture, except that he was much younger, eyebrows only marginally offensive. Next to the photo was the name 'Dr. Dre'. Of course, I was in hospital! Hang on... Dr. Dre??! Now why did that remind me of...
“PETE!” Another man, with a summer fete blazer and silly quiff, leaned in, seemingly about to hug me until Dr. Dre yanked him back. It was only then that I looked down, straining to see past my nose, cross-eyed. The shock hit me in gradual waves of horror, much like a 70s B-Movie where they could only afford a certain quantity of 'horror' per scene, 'Devil Rides Out' notwithstanding. Shit - my leg was in a cast. Then something else. Shit. Shit... Leg? Not 'legs', plural???
“My leg! My fucking leg! What the hell have you done with my leg?!”
Dr. Dre chuckled. “I think you may have miscounted, my boy!” Now, why did that sound familiar? “Don't worry. You've still got all your limbs in tact. The only things you've lost are...” He studied a clipboard. “...A little mobility, and a tiny bit of memory function. But it's nothing major. In fact, we've been surprised how quickly you've been healing.” He ran a finger to the bottom of his chart, head shaking as he muttered. “Temporary surge in intelligence... Possible extra-sensory abilities... One might almost say you're recovery is miraculous. Say... You haven't been exposed to any radiation recently, have you?” The man in the tweed blazer shook his head vigorously, a finger pressed against his pursed lips.
“No?” I replied, genuinely uncertain. Although I was starting to remember some things. Like... The man in the blazer was... “Jeff! What's with all this 'Pete' business? My name's Barry.”
“No it's not!” He spluttered. “Who the hell told you that?”
“That guy in the next bed...” I angled my head round, but he'd gone.
“Now then, Mr. Roth.” Dr. Dre replaced my notes over the bed-rail. “I must get on with my rounds, but I'll be back to check on you later. In the meantime, I'm sure you'll relish some catch up time with your boyfriend.”
Jeff spun round to call after him. “He's not my...” But he was already gone. There was an odd silence between us. It was all coming back to me now. Obviously, it hadn't been that long since we'd last seen each other, and already we had so much to talk about. But neither of us had any idea where to begin. It was just too much to take in.
“What happened to you?”
“Ah.” I tried to shrug, and found I was unable. “Don't really wanna talk about it.”
“Alright. Don't you worry. I've just got this feeling everything's going to be okay. And they assure me you're gonna be back on your feet for Doctor Who at Christmas. Which is the most important thing, eh?”
“Yeah... Jeff?” I smiled politely. “What are you talking about?”
“You know... The Christmas Special? That other thing we watch after the Queen's speech and The Royle Family?” He was doing that voice people do when they jokingly play something down.
“What? Wallace and Grommit? Only Fools and Horses?”
“No! Not Only Fools and Bloody Horses!” He spat. “Autons! Daleks! Cybermen! Yeti! Matt Smith jumping over duck ponds, shouting 'Oh Blimey!'” He grabbed me, panic stricken. “Amy? Rory? The gang? Off having adventures in time and space? Somewhere the tea's getting cold?!” I shook my head, as he violently shook my shoulders. “Wibbly wobbly? Timey Wimey!! Doctor Who?!”
“I'm sorry... What's Doctor Who?”

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Back Behind the Sofa...

Pete: Saturday 30th April

After spending nearly twenty minutes bashing out a detailed and thought provoking critique, detailing my issues with 'Day of the Moon', and posting it on 'Last of the Timeboards', I have to say I was horrified by the responses. Someone calling himself 'BonerBaz' (I'm assuming this alias wasn't thrust upon him by his parents) said he 'didn't get why the Doc went all girly when River planted a smacker on him' and boasted that – true to his nickname – he 'had a hardon just watching'. 'Princess_Lolita' said she 'wouldn't mind a threesome with Matt Smith and Rory the Roman’. 'Sylvester McCock' weighed in with his thoughts on how much he'd like to 'give Amy one' and even went as far to suggest that he was probably the baby's father, which means he's obviously a liar or the kind of moron who confuses real life with television. And 'Douglas' said he was 'well up for a four-in-a-bed with Nixon and the male itinerant of the TARDIS crew', then asked for the ASL of the OP (???). I wish everyone wouldn't resort to nonsensical abbreviations these days. I mean, WTF?
But that's not the point! The very fact that the internet forum (previously the sanctum absolute of intelligent science-fiction discourse) has been reduced to gossip about who's giving one to who (no pun intended) just shows how much The Moff is playing with fire. I'm not saying The Doctor shouldn't have romantic interests. Maybe... Behind closed doors. But this is all too much. It's interfering with the very fabric of the show we love. What are we going to do if River Song becomes a full time cast member? It'll be like Sapphire and fucking Steel in space! The Doctor won't be our best friend anymore, cause he'll be too busy with his girlfriend for Fifa ’98, Playstation and the tin dog (metaphorically, of course). It'd be like if Jeff moved abroad. I'm not sure I could cope.
There was a time when Doctor Who was elitist and for the fans. Now they're marketing it as the sort of thing just anyone could watch. But it means more to me than BonerBaz. I bet he hasn't stopped to question the potential continuity errors, even for just a second.

Jeff: Monday 2nd May

Work was manic. The authors of “Beam Me Up, Dotty!” had come in to do a book signing, and I'd spent the day fighting back crowds of fat Klingons. I'd been given a complimentary copy, the blurb of which I perused once I slumped onto the sofa.
Beam me up, Dotty! Is the story of two Sci-Fi fans: best buds united by their social detachment and love of Star Trek, but divided by their love of the same girl, Dorothy Williams. Will their friendship survive? Will they like the new Star Trek Film? And Who will boldly go where no man has gone before and win the heart of their beloved Dotty?
What utter toss! Still, I could hang onto it. Doms birthday was coming up. I felt geeked out, I needed a healthy dose of a certain renegade Time Lord to put things right.
However, upon opening the case of Return To Devil's End I noticed the video had been replaced with a leaflet, which read “JESUS LIVES! Beware of False Gods.” Instead, I watched that Sherlock DVD that Pete got me for Christmas and it got me thinking. I know there's been a lot of nonsense about how Benedict Cumberbatch was the first choice for the Doctor, or that he's going to be the next Doctor – but I realised, if I had to pick someone to be the Doctor, it would be Benedict.
Now, I'm not saying I want him to be The Doctor! But, when we found out the show was coming back (I still get teary at the thought!) my mind was full of actors that I wanted to play the part. Alan Davies, Bill Nighy, Mark Gatiss, Richard Coyle and of course Paul McGann. But definitely not Paul Daniels. Now I know that none of those choices would have worked, but at the time I had no idea what kind of show would be coming back. But once the show was firmly re-established, and it was announced that David was leaving, I was absolutely stumped. I knew that I didn't want Paterson Joseph to be The Doctor, but other than that I had no idea who should be – and that's not right. In the 70s and 80s, there were always actors who should or could be the next doctor. When I heard that “the guy from hitch hikers guide was going to be “the new Doctor Who” I was really excited. Then I realised that “the guy” in question was not, in fact, the cool, eccentric, charismatic and handsome Ford Prefect, but the big pig. But the point is, in the 80s David Dixon was the guy who could be the Doctor. In the 70s, I always thought that Peter Cushing could have been a great Doctor – a chance to play the part properly, rather than his human “Dr. Who” on the big screen. I loved those movies as a kid and, secretly, I always thought that Cushing would have made a better first Doctor than Harnell, although I know that's sacrilege. Even I find it hard to forgive the lines “I am Dr. Who” and “This is my ship, TARDIS.” But that wasn't Peter's fault, it was the studio. I always hoped he'd be given another crack at the whip at some point.
The very fact that there were always actors who could be The Doctor demonstrates the extent to which Doctor Who was ingrained into British culture. It wasn't just that these actors happened to be Doctor-ish, it was that Doctor Who was such a massive influence on everything that it was absorbed by everyone. If a film, book, cartoon or TV show needed an eccentric hero – or any kind of hero that wasn't a gun-toting macho type, inevitably the writers or producers would say “Well, he needs to be like Doctor Who-ish then!” Because The Doctor is a British treasure, he's like red phone boxes, London cabs and Big Ben – only he'll outlive them all. But in the 2000s, there weren't any Doctorish actors on TV. Because everyone had forgotten about it, it was no longer an important part of culture. Christopher Eccleston saved the show and reminded us that, for all the Twin Dilemas and Dragonfires there was a Genesis of the Daleks. David Tennant became a Tom Baker for the 21st century, cementing the Doctor once more as a natural treasure. But at the same time, those actors and the era of their episodes were very contemporary. It was an old idea getting a makeover and fitting (spectacularly) in with the new kids. In 2005, Doctor Who was a transit van trying to park in a taxi lane, but miraculously it fit perfectly, and then all the Taxi drivers started driving transit vans. And then, before you could say “Geronimo!” Matt Smith exploded onto our screens and Doctor Who wasn't apologising for being Doctor Who anymore – because now it's the greatest show on television. (Well, obviously it's always been the greatest show on television, but now everybody else agrees.) And now, I'm looking at Benedict Cumberbatch and saying “This guy could be The Doctor.” Whether or not he ever plays The Doctor is irrelevant – the fact that I, and probably many other people, think that he could me can mean only one thing: DOCTOR WHO IS BACK!

Jeff: Friday 6th May

Two emails from Dad in my inbox. The subject of the first was “IMPORTANT – DO NOT IGNORE”, but confusingly the subject of the second was “IMPORTANT – IGNORE PREVIOS E-MAIL”. I opened the second one.

Dear all,

Apologies for my previous e-mail. The intended recipients were my former work colleagues, however, there was clearly an error on the part of my Personal Computer and the letter in question was eroniously posted to everybody in my address book. Although it may have been lacking in the relevance department, (That is, relevance to you.) I imagine you will have found it entertaining and been able to emphasise none the less.
Sorry for the inconvenience, but as we used to say in my days in the Armed Forces: You don't regret your mistakes, you learn from them.
Apart from the ones that kill you.


Mr. Slater.

Out of curiosity I just had to read the first one...

Dear all,
Now, as many of you know I returned to the staff room yesterday (8/4/11) having not set foot upon the premises after the management and myself came to the agreement that I would like to leave in back in 2008. June 2008. Thursday if I'm not mistaken. The sky was unusually Grey for summer, but there was a humid feel to the air.
I digress.
The reason for my visit – apart from to check up on you all! - was to reclaim an item of my own personal property that had somehow been overlooked by certain members of staff on the day I left. The item in question was a mug. Plain white, five inches high, with the manufacturers name: “Olympus Mugs” printed on its base. Although my description here his hardly needed as I am sure that many of you are more than well acquainted with it by now!!
Yes, I'm sure the few honest and decent members of staff among you will be shocked to hear that in my absence, my own personal mug had BEEN USED.
Now, share and share alike is one thing. I humbly remember the occasion on which I borrowed Ian Chesterfields ruler to make sure that the shopping centre's wheelchair ramp was in accordance with the latest Health and Safety booklet. (Which reminds me – the council will be issuing a new booklet come the end of this month. Now, obviously I'll be coming in to guide you through these, but please feel free to make a start on it without me: There's no harm in double checking.) But on this occasion I had the written consent of Mr. Chesterfield and I reciprocated by buying him a half of bitter.
Not only had my mug been used without permission, it had also not been washed! There were numerous stains tarnishing the previously pearly white interior of the mug. I struggle to think what drives a society to use a mug for one of these “instant-cup-of-soups” and then coffee WITHOUT washing it in between. What's more, there was a used teabag balanced upon the rim, causing residue from said bag to run down the exterior of the mug, thus staining the outside too.
I'm not pointing fingers, but I shall be launching a full investigation.
Your Former Head of Security,

Mr. R. Slater.

Pete: Saturday 7th May

Come on, ‘Curse of the Black Spot’, we need a romp! A good, old-fashioned, paradox free romp through time and space with silly hats, pirates and jelly babies. Ever since The Doctor got shot in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, I’ve been constantly on edge. It’s like that feeling you get when a beloved relative’s in hospital, and you just can’t relax. But worse! I thought I was getting better. I didn’t think the continued well-being of The Doctor was quite so inextricably linked to my own nowadays. But it suddenly seems like I haven’t come very far at all. How could you do this to us, Moff? Over the last few weeks, me and Jeff have had the inevitable ‘beginning of the end’ conversation more times than I can remember (well, three). I try to be rational. I try to argue that everything’s okay. But, deep down, I don’t know if I believe it. How else could I explain the panic attacks? The cravings? The morning sickness? I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant, although that can happen to men, because I read it in The Sun, and there was that Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary. Nevertheless, I haven’t had sex in 22 years, and that’s usually a bit of a stumbling block for people who are trying to conceive.

These are samples from the forthcoming sequel to Life Begins at 40, which is currently available now from Hirst Publishing.

You can also check out the Lancashire Writing hub's review of LB@40 here

Saturday, 19 February 2011

'Life Begins at 40' Book Now in Stock! Pre-Orders Dispatched!

Thanks to everyone who's ordered a copy of 'Life Begins at 40', the debut novel from Chris Newton and Mark Charlesworth. Your patience is about to be rewarded, as all pre-orders have now been shipped first class, and should be with you very shortly!

It's been a slightly lengthier wait than originally anticipated, but we hope you'll be as excited to receive the book as me and Chris were to see it for the first time this week. With its glossy cover and thick spine, it really is something to behold!

Anyone else wishing to pick up a copy can do so via the following link, where books are now in stock: Hirst Publishing

Or, if you're a Doctor Who fan and local to the Essex/London area, why not come along to the ('Invasion' Convention), in Barking on February 26th, where both myself and Chris will be signing copies of 'Life Begins at 40'...

If anyone has any queries or comments about their order - or suggestions, questions and feedback about the book in general - please contact me via 'mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk' and I'll be happy to hear from you.

In the meantime, enjoy the book!

Mark & Chris

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Life Begins at 40: Book NOW AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER

Thanks for taking a look at these latest extracts from 'Life Begins at 40', the bizarre world of Doctor Who fanatics (ahem... enthusiasts!) Pete and Jeff. Pete and Jeff's adventures will be continuing in print, in a hilarious new novel (published by Hirst Books) due for release in December 2010. The entries on this blog are only the very beginning! If you like what you've read so far, and want to know how the story continues, why not pre-order a copy direct from the Hirst Books website here.

As a thank you, your name will be printed in the credits and you will receive a signed copy before the book hits the shelves.

And in the meantime, here's a sample to be getting on with...

TARDIS LOG #5: Terror Nation!

Jeff: Thursday 1st July

“Wow.” Said Pete, slightly breathless.
“Yeah.” I nodded, much like when Amy showed The Doctor her wedding dress.
“I mean... Just... Wow.” He fumbled at the air in an attempt to find the right words.
“Well, I suppose it had to happen some time...”
“You know, now it's gone...” I began tentatively. “It's like... I don't...”
“...Miss it. Yeah, I know. I actually, you know, kind of prefer it this way.”
He was right. Replacing the life-sized cardboard cut out of David Tennant in the bathroom with the new Matt Smith one was the best thing I'd done all year.

Jeff: Friday 2nd July

I had a message from Rachel on Facebook saying she'd like to meet up again! I was in such a good mood I found myself just pacing up and down, listening to the new Doctor Who theme, too euphoric to actually do anything. Which was a shame, because before I checked my messages, I'd been getting some sterling work done on our new 'Vaporiser' novel...

Drew Ardon stalked the futuristic corridors of the metallic bunker. Penelope Foxxworth was captive somewhere within the compound, and if he didn't get her to safety by 1500 hours, his ass would be on the line, and he knew all too well that the Senator slapped asses with a scythe.
Just as he rounded a corner at the end of the corridor, there came a sound from far down the corridor to his left.
“So you have returned!” A sinister voice crackled. Drew didn't need to look around to see who it was. When he did, there was no mistaking it. The crash helmet, the custom green Nikes, the spandex body warmer: The Vaporiser! “We melt again, Mr. Ardon! Hahahahaha!”

Jeff: Saturday 3rd July

It's pissing me off that Open Office insists 'Vaporiser' is a spelling error, telling me to spell it with a 'Z'. I'm not American!

Jeff: Sunday 4th July

Upon further reflection, perhaps I should spell it with a 'Z', to make it a bit cooler, more modern and transatlantic. Sex it up a bit.

Jeff: Monday 5th July

No. That whole 'Americanisation' thing is a terrible idea. We don't want another 'Doctor Who – The TV Movie' on our hands!

Jeff: Tuesday 6th July

I awoke to find a slightly bizarre text in my inbox: 'Brilliant. I'd love to be friends. Maybe we can go for a drink sometime? I'll even wear the costume! Your pal, Adric.'
Pete promised me he wasn't the culprit, but I wasn't convinced.

“Jeff... Why has Daisy put up a 'Women's Nutritional Chart' above the sink? We're both men. And I've never heard of a...” He squinted at the word. “Celeriac. Jesus! It looks like an Ood.”
“D'you reckon the Ood count as proper Doctor Who monsters?” I asked, trying to ignore the chart.
“Well, I mean, I was thinking about K9, and how iconic he is. But he kind of missed all the good stories, didn't he?”
“I don't... Really... What are you... Hang on! What about 'City of Death'?”
“You can't count 'City of Death' just because Tom Baker says 'Hello K9'!”
“He is still in it though.”
“That's not the point. The fact is, K9 is synonymous with Doctor Who.” I held aloft my Doctor Who mug and pointed at the picture of K9 to prove my point. “And yet, he came in fairly late in the game. Don't you think it's weird that by the time we first heard about The Master, the show was already a decade old?!”
“8 years.” Pete abruptly cut me off.
“Whatever. But... You know? Doctor Who is: Time Lord, TARDIS, companion, sonic screwdriver, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, K9 and Autons. But some of those came pretty late on.”
“Ooh! Wait! I'll draw a chart!” He squealed excitedly.
“Well, that's not really what I-” But he'd already got out his marker pens, and was hastily scribbling.
“And the winner is...” He announced proudly, spinning it around for me to see. “The Daleks!”

63 – Daleks / 66 – Cybermen / 67 – Yeti / 67 – Ice Warriors / 68 – Sonic Screwdriver / 70 – Autons / 70 – Homo Reptilia / 71 – The Master / 74 – Sontarans / 75 – Davros / 77 – K9

“Actually, I think you've proved my point!” I boggled. “That's it. 1977 must be the cut off point! I mean, that stuff's all proper Doctor Who! Can you imagine how excited people would be if the Ice Warriors came back?”
“What about the Zygons?”
“They were only in one story. Does that count?”
“Of course it bloody counts. I'm putting it in! Zygons... 75...”
“But seriously... Did they invent anything new in the 80s? Anything that people would actually get excited about if it returned?”
“I don't think... I mean, there was literally nothing.”
“Just Cybermen standing around saying 'Excellent'! And I can't really imagine the Glam-Droid from 'Visitation' making a welcome comeback...”
“What about Sil?”
“Oh, come on. You can't compare Sil to the Autons!”
“At least he got to be in it twice. It's like, they invented all these aliens like the 'Terileptils' and the Vervoids, but they didn't have the audacity to bring them back because even the writers knew they were rubbish.”
“'Terror of the Vervoids' is a-” I leapt to its defence, but Pete held up a hand to silence me.
“Whatever you're about to say, forget it. You can't seriously compare 'Vervoids' to 'Genesis of the Daleks'!” He was right. “The 80s was just a big rehash fest! I mean, they even reused The Black Guardian!”
“Yeah! And that weird, big-headed Omega in 'Arse of Insanity'.”
“We said we'd never talk about that!” He yelled, his eyes widening. “Omega dies at the end of 'The Three Doctors' and that's that!”
“Sorry... So... What was I saying? Oh yeah, the Ood! Are they a proper Doctor Who monster now? What are the new modern standards?”
“I don't think we'll know for at least a decade, but I can't realistically see anyone getting excited by another Slitheen story.”
“You're right. Celeriac is a weird vegetable. And I have no idea where that chart came from.”

Jeff: Friday 9th July

It occurs to me... Uma Thurman was in two films in 1997 – 'The Avengers' and 'Batman and Robin' – which were, on separate occasions, both voted the worst film of all time. Whereas, to my mind, 'The Avengers' is one of the greatest films ever made. That's all I really have to say on the matter.

Jeff: Saturday 10th July

I had a route under my bed and found the box of doom. At the bottom were all my high school love letters from Rachel, all perfectly preserved in a plastic wallet. I listened to 'Undisclosed Desires' as I leafed through them. Valentine's cards, Christmas present tags, photos, drawings... I came across my favourite, torn from the geometric page of a maths notebook and speckled with black dots where the ink had run as I'd stood reading it in the rainy schoolyard. In the top right hand corner I'd drawn stick figures of the two of us, holding hands outside the TARDIS.

...It's hard to tell you how much I love you because there just aren't enough words to describe it. I don't even mind about having to go to school, because it means I get to see you. I love you so much. I've never felt like this before. I want us to spend the rest of our lives together...

I went on Facebook again and looked at the countdown to her wedding day. I suppose this happens in every relationship eventually. One of you gets a fairytale, and the other gets an old box stained by raindrops that fell a thousand years ago, somehow still wet.
I was dragged out of 1984 by the buzzing of my phone. Bloody hell – my Mum? What did she want?
“Jeff? It's your Mum.”
“I know.” Try as I might, I still couldn't get her to understand the concept of caller ID.
“It's your father. He's gone a bit... Mad.”

Jeff: Monday 12th July

“Where the hell have you been?” Shrieked Pete, as I stumbled home at 1am.
“You know how you always said my Dad was mental for spending all day pacing up and down Hound's Hill shopping centre in his security guard uniform?” I sighed, sinking into the sofa.
“Even though he retired ages ago?”
“Yeah. And I always said that he was just very proud, and that he was just making sure they were getting on okay without him?”
“Well... I think you were right. I think he probably is a bit... Mad.”
“What happened?” Pete raised an eyebrow.
“Well, he was pacing around as usual, but then he caught someone shoplifting.”
“Well, at least he's still being useful-”
“Except they weren't actually shoplifting. It was just an old woman trying to fit a bag of cakes into her trolley.”
“So, what happened?”
“Well, the police arrived, but he insisted she was a criminal. So when they refused to arrest her, he accused them of being imposters.”
“Yeah. Well, specifically Russian spies, disguised as police officers on some sort of mission to overthrow the monarchy.”
“He's always had it in for the KGB, hasn't he?”
“So he took the old woman hostage with his air rifle, and barricaded himself in that chicken shop. I had to go and reason with him until he let her go.”
“You were a hostage negotiator?! That's amazing. You're like Sylvester Stallone or something... You'll definitely get a job at the BBC now!”
“It was my Dad. I don't think it counts.”
“So you were negotiating until 1 in the morning?”
“No, we had to go with them down to the station.”
“He's in prison?”
“Out on bail. They've suggested counselling.”

Jeff: Wednesday 14th July

Daisy and I went to Comet. I'd forestalled getting a new laptop for too long. Before I was even fully across the threshold, I'd been pounced upon by a salesman. I told him I wanted a decent laptop.
“What you need is the Advent Roma 3001!” He trilled. “Would you like to be introduced?” I thought this was a highly unusual thing to say. Was this computer sentient?
“Introduced? It's not... Self-aware or anything, is it?” I asked, as he led me to a glass cabinet.
“Almost! It's terribly interactive. It's time to step into the 10s!”
“Well...” I was uncertain, slightly afraid of his almost inhuman demeanour. “...I suppose I'll be up to date at last.”
He unlocked the window and pointed to the laptop on its little stand. “Intel, Celeron Dual-Core T3100, Genuine Windows Home Premium 4096 MO, Hard Drive: 250 Gigabyte, DVD-RW Rewriter, sexy black shell, 15.6 Widescreen and Immediate response!”
“It's not that impressive.” Daisy snorted.
“What?” The salesman looked hurt. “It has seven computer languages and five protocols!”
“Protocols?” I asked.
“Yes. That's how it talks to other computers.” He gave me a well rehearsed wink. “The FBI and the CIA use Advent computers, sir. They're favoured universally and used for all sorts. You could design ships. Run power stations. Oil! Gas! Who knows where the energy industry would be without Advent computers.”
I ended up leaving with a Compaq for a hundred-and-twenty quid.
“You have a nice day now, sir!” The salesman yelled, before sidling up to me and whispering in my ear. “Oh, and by the way sir, I strongly suggest you marry the girl.” He winked in Daisy's direction. I left feeling a little unsettled and with the strangest sense of deja vu.

“I've had a really productive day!” Proclaimed Pete, as I stepped through the door.
“Right.” I found this hard to believe, as it was 4pm and he was sat in his underpants, drinking a Mars Bar milkshake and watching the Spice Girls movie.

Jeff: Thursday 15th July

I am now officially and inescapably in the red. I've exceeded my overdraft and I maxed out my credit card buying the new laptop. And still no sign of any benefits! I bit the bullet and rang them, only to be informed that my claim was in “processing hell” and that if I was desperate for cash, I should apply for a “crisis loan”. He transferred me to another department.
“Hello? I'd like to apply for a crisis loan.”
“Can I take your number please?”
“National Insurance number?”
“No. The number you were assigned in the telephone queue.”
“Oh... Err... 6.”
“Okay, Number 6. May I have your National Insurance number?”
“WH 24 11 63 O.”
“I see. Unfortunately, Number 6-”
“Stop calling me that. It's weird! My name's-”
“I'm afraid we take a very strong stance against individual personality in our clients. It creates room for bias, Number 6. As I was saying, it appears that you already have a claim open with the DWP. I cannot authorise a crisis loan to someone already receiving benefits.”
“But... I'm not getting any benefits! My claim's in processing hell!”
“In that case, Number 6, I suggest you take it up with your local Job Centre.”
“But they told me to call you!”
“That will be all, Number 6. Be seeing you.”

Jeff: Friday 16th July

“What the hell is this?” Asked Pete, as I placed his tea in front of him.
“It's bangers and mash.” I said.
“These aren't bangers! They're carrots!”
“I couldn't afford any sausages!” I snapped. “It was either this or carrot and potato stew.”
“Stew? But only old people eat stew. It's just stuff with bits in!”
“Exactly. So shut up and enjoy it.”
“When are we going to get some real food? My parents are coming over soon!”
I couldn't help it. I sniggered.
“You know. It's just...”
“I thought his life support system was so efficient he didn't need to eat. I thought he lacked teeth. And taste buds.”
“That is not funny!”
A silence fell. “It is a bit funny...”

Jeff: Monday 19th July

I tweaked my bow tie (a red one today!) and surveyed myself in the mirror.
“Come on, look at me! No plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn. Oh, and something else: I don't have anything to lose! So, if you're sitting up there in your silly little spaceships with all your silly little guns, and you've got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who's standing in your way!”
I was ready for my appointment at the bank.

“So, Mr. Greene. I understand you wish to extend the overdraft facility on your account?” Said the chubby man with the moustache. He looked like a Dickensian villain.
“That's right, yes.” Shit... Was the bow tie a bad idea?
“And the reason for this?”
“Oh, just a temporary cash flow problem. I'm between jobs right now... Looking into going into... You know how it is... Can't make money without spending money. Haha!”
He asked for my NI number, mobile telephone number, email address, and the name of my favourite uncle. I squinted at his name badge: 'Mr. William Eckerslike'. After a few minutes of frenzied tapping at his keyboard, he eventually spun the computer monitor around and I was a bit confused – if not downright horrified – to find that I was staring at my Facebook page. “According to your latest status update, Mr. Greene, you are – and I quote – 'Skint! Skint! Fucking Skint!' Would you care to elaborate?”
“Well, you know how it is...”
“I'm not sure I do. This evidence hardly convinces me that you are a reliable investment, and hardly capable of repaying a larger overdraft – especially in this time of recession. If I may take a moment to review your situation, you are an unmarried, non-home-owning, unemployed debtor, with no savings or premiums, who currently owes £400 on his credit card, and is £250 over his £2000 overdraft limit. You have an outstanding library fine of £24, and...” He peered at the screen. “...You owe someone called 'Dom' a tenner. Given the circumstances, I am reducing your overdraft. We'll introduce a repayment scheme as of today.”

Jeff: Tuesday 20th July

I received a letter from the DWP, telling me that my claim for benefits had been rejected.

Dear Mr. Greene,

Unfortunately, your claim has been rejected by the computer.
I refer you to the payslip for £800 from Blackpool Transport LTD, dated 1st July. This exceeds the amount you are permitted to earn whilst claiming benefits. May we remind you that we take fraudulent claims very seriously. In future, you could face a fine or even a custodial sentence.
Mr. Ratcliffe

I examined the attached payslip, and saw that it was dated 1st July 2005. Still, it wasn't all bad. Now I wasn't technically receiving benefits, I could re-submit my crisis loan application before correcting their error! I reached for the phone.
“Hello?” Came a dull greeting.
“Hello. I'm ringing about a crisis loan.”
“What is your number?”
“Err... 6.” I said, somewhat uncertainly.
“Ahh, Number 6. I'm afraid you are not eligible for a crisis loan as you do not currently have an open claim for benefits.”
“But I thought I couldn't get a loan if I was on benefits?”
“Yeah. It's just that if you don't have a claim registered on the system, the computer won't recognise your existence.”
“Well, what can I do? I need to pay the rent!”
“Well, according you your Facebook page, you live in very close proximity to your parents. I suggest you ask them to put you up.”
“I'm 38!”
“39, actually, Mr. Greene.”

Pete: Wednesday 21st July

I normally find my life busy, hectic and fulfilling but today turned out to be a bit of a non-starter, so I decided to deal with all the tedious jobs I'd been putting off for ages. I reasoned the place was probably due for a clean up before my parents came anyway. The soul of my slipper got stuck to the sticky lino this morning and ripped clean off when I lifted my foot. Even though I'd bought them from 'Shoesaverz' 8 years ago, that probably wasn't supposed to happen.
I cleaned the kitchen; stacked the pans in order of size and brand; combed the sofa; changed my sheets; dealt with that green area on the carpet, where me and Jeff had drunk too much Horlicks and decided to try our hands at alchemy; scrubbed between the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush; and re-applied any posters that were peeling. Then I checked my watch. Shit: it was only 11:31am. Why is it that when you clean out of obligation, it seems like an unending task of unbearable tedium, but when you do it willingly, you breeze through it? I'd have to turn my attention to matters of personal grooming to kill some more time, but even when I'd showered, plucked my eyebrows, shaved, rubbed my entire upper torso in roll-on deodorant and done my clenching exercises, it was still only lunchtime.
I was going to have to do it. I was going to have to go through all my unread emails. I started with junk mail. I couldn't believe the number of messages telling me I needed cheap Canadian medicine to help my libido, rid me of alleged erectile dysfunction and – mysteriously – add an extra couple of inches to increase the size of my penis. It defied logic. Where was that extra length supposed to come from? Did the pills come with their own plastic surgeon or was it all done by some kind of rudimentary torsion machine?
It was all getting a bit depressing. I was about to give up when I saw a message reading 'Comedy Dan has suggested you rejoin the Facebook community. Why not catch up with all those old friends who are missing you?' I was reasonably sure I didn't have any friends that actually liked me enough to seriously miss me, apart from maybe Jeff, and I'd just seen him a few hours ago, so if he was itching to get in touch again so soon, I'd be a bit worried. Nevertheless, setting up a Facebook profile would kill a little time.
I’d originally deleted my account, after I got a crazed phone call from Dom telling me that the whole thing was a secret brain experiment set up by the giant lizards, but now that I thought about it, that didn’t seem particularly plausible. I was mildly freaked out, however, when I followed the link and found that it remembered all my details. Photographs that didn’t really look like me anymore; an insincere biog that made me sound like a confident, fun and outgoing socialite (all bollocks, of course); and, disconcertingly, my credit card number. It was as though I’d never really been gone at all! Even all my old school ‘friends’ were there. Why? It didn’t make any sense that the sort of people who used to beat the crap out of me now wanted to be best friends. Craig Brickstock, who once held me by the ankles and poured milk into my nostrils – before stealing my shoes – had become a Community Support Officer with six kids. In year 8, Jenny Goldstein humiliated me by tearing up the ‘Caves of Androzani’ Target Novelisation, in which I’d written her a love note, in front of our whole food studies class. Now she looked like Blackpool’s answer to Delia Smith and had repeatedly ‘poked’ me (not literally, it turns out) for failing to ‘fertilise her Little Green Patch’. What did it all mean?! Was it some kind of sexual innuendo, or a new development in hyperspace flirting to which I was completely ignorant? There was something else niggling at me too – all these people seemed to be doing quite well for themselves. They all looked ‘normal’. Push the thought out, Pete. Just ignore the bad thoughts and they’ll go away.
It wasn’t all bad, after all. Terry Williams, who I hadn’t seen since primary school, had sent me a ‘friend request’. I quickly perused his photos to make sure he wasn’t doing too much better than me before accepting. Overweight – check; balding – check; wife/girlfriend – negative; embarrassing mid-life crisis car with flame transfers on the bonnet – check, but I’d let him off the hook for that one. Not only was I going to add him, I was going to send him a message and invite him over for a drink. Perhaps a healthy dose of reminiscence and pointless nostalgia would help me work out where it had all gone so drastically wrong. I wrote out a couple of friendly, concise emails and then picked the one that made me sound the least weird. I was proud of myself. I hadn’t agonised over it for too long, and I’d even included a little joke.
Sure enough, it was only a couple of minutes before a new message came through. I opened it eagerly, my head swimming excitedly with warm recollections of the past. Except that it was from that girl Daisy had tried to set me up with, Tracey: 'Sure. I’d love to come over for a drink! Wait until you see my new Chinese dragon dress. It’s REALLY tight!! XXXXX'.
Shit. Shit. Shit! I pressed the ‘back’ button a few times and glanced in horror at my ‘friend requests’ page. Tracey had been the next one down from Terry. But all of a sudden, I was struck with a genius plan, and reached for my mobile to give Andy Pond a call.

Jeff: Wednesday 21st July

It was with a heavy heart that I logged onto Job-Finder.net. Its homepage was garish and yellow, depicting a smiling Asian woman with a disfigured lip, sitting in a wheelchair. She had short, spiked hair, an eyebrow piercing and was brandishing a selection of power tools. I clicked on the 'situations vacant' tab to see a picture of some pest control officers in a sewer, all with their arms raised and inane grins on their faces. A caption below read 'Proud to be a TEAM!'
I couldn't take it anymore and crawled into bed, where I spent the remainder of the day eating Coco Pops from the box, and reading 'White Darkness'.

Jeff: Thursday 22nd July

I decided to be assertive and go to the Job Centre. I'd tell them that the payslip was 5 years old and try to find a job that wasn't subterranean. After breakfast, of course.
I watched 'The Avengers', just to occupy me, whilst I ate my toast. But then Pete got up and suggested we eat spicy beans, so I watched a bit of 'The Infinite Quest' whilst he prepared them.
By midday I was ready to leave, but decided to check my emails first. After watching a really well put together Youtube video, featuring every single jelly baby reference in Doctor Who, back to back, I was straight out!
Just as I was leaving, Pete handed me a 'Value Noodle-Pot' and said there was something I just had to see that would blow my mind.
By 3pm, having watched the silent, black and white footage of the film crew from Fury from the Deep, I was at last at the Job Centre!
The man behind the desk apologised for the mix up, but said it would be at least 14 days before I received any money, and suggested that I apply for a crisis loan in the meantime. He handed me an application form. I reigned in the impulse to scream, stuffed the form into my tweed jacket and made my way to the War Machine type things that were supposed to help find you a job.
I typed my details in using the touch screen. I explained that I had a degree in English Literature, almost 20 years of work experience and a cycling proficiency certificate. I specified that I was looking for something in the media. Who knows – it might get me a job at the BBC!
It took a few minutes to digest the information, before returning its findings: 'The following position is suitable for you: stripper'.

Pete: Friday 23rd July

For the seventh time in a row, an electronic voice had just interrupted a polyphonic ringtone version of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ to apologise for keeping me on hold. This always got to me. Unless they’d installed this particular robot with some sort of empathy chip, how could it possibly make a sincere apology? I’d been putting it off for weeks, but had finally decided to take the plunge and phone about sickness benefits. There was something about the whole process that made me kind of uneasy. Admitting it to a legitimate government agency seemed like making my 'condition' official, and I wasn't sure I was ready to admit it to myself yet... They’d told me to think of the call as an ‘informal chat’, but then warned me that it would include some pretty rigorous questioning (interrogation?) and would last about 45 minutes. I’d been waiting nearly that long already. Time wasted whilst I could have been getting on with my life. ‘Deal or No Deal’ was due to start any second, and Mum mentioned that Noel Edmunds has stopped colouring his beard. I couldn’t miss that!
Just as I was drifting off, a polite – if clinical – female voice announced its presence.
“You’re not a computer too, are you?” I quipped. My humorous remark didn't go down well. Her tone instantly became frostier, like a school teacher sternly reprimanding a misbehaving child.
“May I remind you that this call is being recorded.”
“And furthermore, antagonising a Benefit Officer for Sickness Services will only result in a delay in your claim.”
“But it was only a joke.” I protested.
“A joke? Didn't think there'd be much time for fun and games in your condition, Mr. Roth.” She reprimanded me. “Perhaps you're not as depressed as you say you are?”
“I'm not depressed. I'm agoraphobic!” I already felt like hanging up. “And it's Ross, not Roth.”
“Surely you're not accusing the government of keeping inaccurate records?” Her tone became even more stern. It was as though she tensed with every word.
“No, I'm just saying that my name's Ross.”
“Could you spell that for me, please?” I did, and listened to her spelling out the letters, scribbling with a pencil. “So that's... R-O-T-H.” I ground my teeth, but couldn't be bothered correcting her again. “Okay, so let me just get your details up on the computer. Ah, yes... And... I see... So you filled out a postal application, and...” She stopped dead. “Oh dear.” That didn't sound good.
“What is it?” I asked nervously.
“Well, it says here that you don't have a doctor's note to authenticate your claim?”
“Yes, I do!” I didn't mean to sound so hostile, but Doctor Kowalski had been very reluctant to make a house call. He showed up in a foul mood, possibly drunk and conducted a very forceful examination which I now realise might have been a bit 'hands on'. Surely confirming a patient's psychological condition shouldn't involve anyone dropping their trousers?! “I spent bloody ages trying to fax a copy of that thing over.” Already, I was on the verge of tears. No one had used the fax machine for years since it had 'gone rogue' and eaten a poisonous plant.
“I apologise.” She sounded even less sincere than the robot. “I'm afraid there must have been some sort of processing error.” I was gripping the phone so hard that my knuckles had turned white when I heard these words. “It seems that there is a medical report on your file, but it's not yours.”
“Then who the hell's it for?!”
“It's for a Mr. Pete Ross. I can see how they'd have made such a silly error. What with you two having such similar names.”
“We don't have similar names. We have the same name. I'm Pete Ross.”
“No. I'm afraid it says quite clearly on our form here that your claim is registered under the name 'Pete Roth'.”
“Look, I don't want to argue about this, but that's only because it's not open to discussion. I think I know my own name.” She paused for a moment. I could hear the sound of long fingers drumming against a desk.
“Well, the way I see it, there are two options here. Either you don't know your own name as well as you think you do, or you've just submitted a fraudulent claim under a false identity, which is a criminal offence. Which is it to be, Mr. Roth?”
“Look...” I tried to sound authoritative, but my lip was trembling. In the space of one short phone conversation, or 'informal chat', this woman had got me down on my knees begging to be acknowledged as the sort of certifiable idiot who doesn't even know his own name, in order to avoid a prison sentence. “Isn't there any way I can sort this out?”
“The only thing I might be able to do is book you an appointment at your local job centre.”
“But I can't leave the house.”
“Can't leave the house, Mr. Roth? That's not the sort of attitude we take too kindly to. How are you supposed to get yourself a job if you can't be bothered to-”
“No, I mean, I have agoraphobia. We've been through this. It's what this whole thing's about.”
I heard her take a long breath, click a series of keys on her computer and sigh heavily. At length, she said “Have you heard of a website called Face-Book?”
“Yeah, of course I have. Everyone's on it.” Why was this relevant? “I only restarted my profile a few days ago.”
“That's not the point. I draw your attention to a photograph from the folder 'birthdays', which shows you, dressed as a medieval knight, outdoors. Does this foray into the outside world – presumably to consume some kind of hallucinogenic drug – sound like the behaviour of a so-called agoraphobic?”
“No, but that was taken four years ago. And I wasn't dressed as a knight. I was dressed as a Cy-ber-man.” I knew that rejoining Facebook was a recipe for disaster.
“Be that as it may, Mr. Roth, I'm afraid things don't look good. I've keyed in all your variables into our computer, and it hasn't been able to output a single directive. Obviously we can't act without instruction from BOSS.”
“Can't you just... Hang on – sorry..?” I hesitated. “What did you just say?”
“It looks as though we're going to have to terminate your claim.”
“No, I mean... BOSS. What's all that about?” I'd been about to hang up, but now I was curious.
“Oh, BOSS is our new computer. It stands for Benefit Officer for Sickness Services. We let him do all our thinking round here.”
“Riiiggghht...” I really should have hung up. Any minute now, a giant maggot was going to crawl from behind the sofa. “And might you be able to tell me what your name is?”
“Stevens. Letitia Stevens.”
That was it. It had all got too weird. I hung up. There was no doubt about it. They were giant insect larvae. They were in league with Facebook. They were the league of evil. Maybe Dom had been right about the lizard people.

Jeff: Friday 23rd July

Stayed in bed all day with phone off.

Pete: Saturday 24th July

It was an ordinary Saturday night – Jeff was cooking up something in the kitchen, the Quantum Leap repeats were on in the background, and I was sat on the floor eating a cornflake toastie – when the sofa started making a weird noise. I craned my head down to the groove between two cushions, recoiling in horror when I heard it.
“Je-efff?” I called. “Have you still got your new phone set to 'caller announce'?”
“I don't know.” He appeared in a spattered apron, 'Smoke Me a Kipper' written across its front. “I can't work out how to turn the bloody thing off. What does it say?”
I swallowed hard. “Hello sweetie.”
“Oh no... She hasn't? Surely?”
“What is it?”
“Daisy said she'd done something hilarious with my phone, to surprise me when she called. She must have changed her contact name.”
“And she thinks that's funny? Doesn't she realise that any issue relating to Alex Kingston is no laughing matter? You're going to have to change it.” I chucked him the phone.
“I don't know how. You do it! You're The Computer Doctor.” He chucked it back.
This isn't a computer!” I threw it back again.
“I know!” He wailed. “If it was, it'd have a mute button and I could shut the fucker up!” He swung his arm back and hurled the offending phone towards the wall. I couldn't let him smash up another one. Daisy would have lectured me about 'provoking him with my negative chi' again. I lunged to catch it, but knocked the answer button in doing so. Shit! A wave of panic flooded through me. Jeff left the room, and I was forced to do the only sensible thing a man in my position could. I pressed the receiver to my mouth, put on my best comedy Welsh accent and pretended it was a wrong number.

Jeff: Sunday 25th July

Pete won't let me eat anything yet, even though his parents won't be here for another hour. I persuaded him to let me have a slice of toast, but things didn't look good when I opened the 5kg tub of butter. (At the same time as buying all the Doctor Who pasta, Pete also bought twenty catering sized tubs of butter. He'd watched the news for the first time since 1996 and was starting to panic about nuclear war.) It was coated with a layer of green fur. We'd only opened it yesterday! I resisted the urge to gag and began scraping off the worst with a dessert spoon.
“What the hell are you doing?” Pete yelled, as he caught me about to throw the offending matter in the bin. “You know what my parents are like with their cleanliness inspections! You can't just put mould in the bin. It'll grow!”
“Well, what d'you want me to do? Eat it?” I snapped.
“We'll have to flush it down the toilet. It's the only solution.” He proclaimed.

Following a lot of scooping and four flushes, the greenish-yellow mass was still bobbing around defiantly in the toilet bowl.
“They'll be here soon!” Pete wrung his hands frantically. “They can't see this!”
“We could scoop it back out with a fishing net or something?” I ventured hesitantly, cringing at the thought.
“No... Then we'll be back to square one. It's too solid to flush. We're going to have to melt it.”
Melt it? How?”
“We'll pour boiling water on it. It's the most logical solution. It's what Peter Davison would do!” I wasn't convinced, but Pete was already tearing towards the kitchen.
10 minutes later, it still hadn't melted, but did seem to have expanded somewhat. Pete was becoming frenzied. “Just one more! That'll do it!”
“Pete, I'm not sure if there's any more room in the bowl...” He flew back to the kitchen and promptly returned with another kettle full of boiling water. Despite my efforts to apprehend him, he poured the lot in and the toilet overflowed.
“Shit! Flush! Flush!” He yanked the handle.
“That's the worst thing you could've done!” I cried. The flush caused another surge of water to cascade out of the toilet bowl, not only saturating the bathroom floor but ejecting the offending article which began to float towards the doorway. Then the doorbell rang.

Pete: Sunday 25th July

The day was upon us. Doomsday. The end of time. My parents were coming round for Sunday lunch. This meant trouble. There's no way I'd be able to relax. I'd have to spend the whole time attempting to impress my Mum, whilst simultaneously trying not to disappoint my Dad, and keeping Jeff's Dalek impressions to a minimum. So then my brain would be in three different places at once – four if you counted the one inside my head. I'd be bound to wrong foot it somewhere. And to make matters worse, Mum said she had important news. If she didn't tell me what it was right away, I'd spend so much time trying to guess what horrible thing it might be (and how it would affect me) that I'd suddenly realise I hadn't been listening. Dad's voice-box could be difficult to understand at the best of times.
I hadn't really slept properly. I woke up shortly before 5, clutching a Clockwork Robot head. This made for a puzzling start to the day. Not only had I no memory of getting up in the night to get it, I didn't remember buying it, being given it, or ever owning it before, so god only knows where it had appeared from. Had I sleepwalked to 'Thunderbooks', broken in and nicked it? No, because that would involve going outside and I wasn't convinced that even my subconscious could handle that sort of strain at the moment. But it didn't seem like the kind of thing I would forget about owning either. The thought did occur that it was the actual real head of a Clockwork Robot, but I quickly dismissed that and got up to do some obsessive tidying. The naked Katy Manning shot on the mantelpiece was replaced with the boring geranium vase photo I always put up when Mum came round. The sofa stains were easily concealed with one of Daisy's brightly-coloured Indian throws. I even dug out my most up-market clothes: a green and red stripy blazer with those trendy big lapels like John Travolta had, a pair of brown flared suit trousers, and a swirly orange shirt – button up, no less! Even Peter Davison had never looked this good.
Lunchtime came, however, and things didn't get off to the best start. Whilst Jeff tried to soak up the tide of butter, the sofa started talking again. It was that new phone, and this time I knew I hadn't misheard it.
“Jeff?” He ran from the bathroom, frantically wringing a greasy dishcloth.
“This better be important! We've got a race against the clock on here. And one of our pans was practically on fire when I went back to check on the food a minute ago.” He whispered it, looking cautiously over his shoulder, as though the very mention of fire might send dinner up in flames again. “Why did you insist on cooking with alcohol anyway?”
“You know my Dad won't eat anything unless it tastes of whiskey. Anyway, why's your phone saying 'Davros'?”
“It,erm, isn't... For sure.” He looked guiltily down at his slippers. “It's Dave – Dave Ross. Your Dad must be calling to let us know he's nearly up the stairs. That's good, isn't it?”
“No, it's NOT good, but I don't want to get into that right now. I've got to be calm – not stressed. That's not easy though, when your fucking phone's quite clearly saying 'Davros'!” I punched the wall. “Which is completely discrimina... Well, disable-ist, or... Something. The point is, it's not funny. That's what it is. Isn't! Ah, forget it. But I tell you what: if we get through this lunch alive, I'm divorcing you as a friend!”
“I knew it!” An electronic sounding voice rasped accusingly from the doorway. I spun round to see Dad, leaning heavily on its frame. Oh god – he'd heard me talking about divorce. It was going to fuel yet another round of cruel jokes about me and Jeff being gay lovers. Except he started going on about something else entirely. “I knew you wouldn't have installed that stair-lift. You just want to watch your old man suffer. That's it, isn't it? Can't think of any other reason you'd live on the top floor. Well, ha! Cause I win. 10 quid!” He stretched out his hand, but remained where he was. How he'd got this far when he was only supposed to be able to walk a few steps unaided was a mystery. The answer soon presented itself. My Mum hobbled into the room, out of breath from carrying his heavy looking, state-of-the-art wheelchair. Dad fixed her with a disparaging glower. “42 seconds from car door to here, woman.” He tutted. “I could have been dead by now!”
“Calm down, dear.” She shot him her 'be on your best behaviour or else' look, as Jeff sauntered into the room, wisps of smoke rising from his singed sleeves as he served up drinks. “Thanks, love. And don't you listen to him, Peter.” She sunk gratefully into the sofa, mercifully stifling Jeff's mobile. “He's got his wires crossed again. It was Stanley who bet you he'd put a stair-lift in.” The way she spoke, it was like she was talking to a child, or someone with an extremely limited intellect.
“Yeah, well 'es a lyin' bastard an' all! Didn't even pay up!”
“He had a stroke!”
“What? Is that Sex-Offender Stanley you're talking about?” Jeff took a seat.
“Yes!” Mum's eyes lit up. “He used to be something of a 'player' back in the day!”
“I don't think that's quite how they put it in the paper.”
Nobody was paying any attention to my Dad, so he pressed the 'emergency help' button on his wheelchair, and, when everyone turned round, started to complain about the lack of central heating. Mum told him off, pointing out that it was the middle of summer, and then launched into a long description of someone-I'd-never-met's holiday plans. Dad began talking about how the gas company were trying to bleed him dry, and how they would rue the day they crossed him. Jeff kept trying to usher people to the table. And I hadn't said a single word in the 15 minutes since they'd arrived. It was exactly like my house when I'd been growing up: everyone talking, but no one listening to each other. I may as well have not even been there for all the input I had. I could have put my cardboard Matt Smith cut-out at the dinner table and saved the bother of having to hear Dad recount what seemed like every one of my childhood sporting failures. He even dug out his old 'results book' from when we used to have head-to-head general knowledge quizzes at mealtimes, to show how I was “inferior stock”. He laughed at this remark like it was some sort of joke, but no one else joined in. Instead, Mum kept looking at me apologetically. After pudding, everyone was relieved when Dad was escorted to the bathroom for his regular post-dinner toilet session.
“I was tempted to press the big red self-destruct button.” Jeff muttered when we had a moment to ourselves. The last part was in his best Dalek voice. Even Nicolas Briggs would have been impressed.
“You'd never believe he used to write romantic poetry before we were married.” Mum spoke mournfully.
“Whatever did happen to Dad's poems?” Hearing my own voice at last sounded strange.
“He thought the Communists were going to come and steal his identity, so he burnt them all.” I could hear him laughing maniacally from the bathroom. Mum lowered her voice. “Look, that's not why I came here today. I wanted to talk to you about something without your Dad interrupting. I'm afraid I've got some bad news...”
“Oh no...” A sense of foreboding flooded through me. “Tedric's not fallen apart in the wash, has he?”
“No, It's about your Uncle Julian.” Mum continued, placing a sympathetic hand on my leg. “I'm afraid he recently... passed away.”
I couldn't help but find myself saying “Oh”. I didn't really know what to think. When I'd thought of Tedric's furry arms disappearing and being chewed up by the lint trap, I'd felt close to weeping. Did it make me a bad person that I was relieved when I found out it was just my Mum's step-brother? I mean, don't get me wrong. Julian was a nice guy, if a bit peculiar, but no one in my family really saw much of him. It didn't seem like especially big news. Of course, I couldn't be totally nonplussed, but I couldn't break down in hysterics either. As far as I was aware, there was just no etiquette for the adequate amount of fuss to make in this sort of situation. But maybe that was just because all my reactions and emotional responses came from TV and books: they never made a fuss when minor characters, who'd only ever been mentioned a few times, died.
“The only consolation is that he died doing what he loved, and he probably went in the way he wanted.”
“Oh right. So... He was sleeping then?”
“No, erm, sadly not. He had a violent heart-attack whilst on a photo shoot for a new brand of extra tight-fitting swimming trunks.” Jeff immediately covered his mouth. I hoped it was through shock, and not because he was trying to stifle a laugh.
All I could think to say was “That's... Unusual.” Why do we always make such inane comments when someone dies? Are we really that emotionally immature that we can't deal with it head on? If only Tedric had been here. He'd have made it all better. Mum's grip on my leg tightened as we heard the toilet ominously flush.
“Look, I can't go into detail now, because your Dad isn't going to be very happy about this, but I've been looking over your Uncle Julian's will, and... Well, it seems he must have taken quite a shine to you that time you met, because... And you might want to brace yourself... He's left all his money... to you.”
At that moment, Dad emerged from the bathroom and rolled towards us. Evidently he'd heard about the inheritance, because the veins in his neck were protruding more severely than I'd ever seen. “What did you just say?!” You could tell how angry he was from the amount of feedback resonating off his voice-box. “This insubordination will not be tolerated!” He seemed to become more angry with each syllable, spittle flying from his wrinkled lips. “That money should have been mine. My campaign money to become president of the golf club!” He was working into a frenzy, stuttering and repeatedly striking the side of his chair with his burnt hand. “I should have been a god!” Mum looked terrified. Jeff was in stitches. I felt too numb to feel much of anything.
The Doctor Who cliffhanger music should have gone there, but it didn't. Mum poured my Dad a large drink to calm him down, but he just sat seething in the corner as she got ready to leave. She told me she'd call about Julian's estate. As they were about to go, Dad rolled up to me, a dark glint in his remaining eye, and whispered just out of Mum's earshot. “I've left a little unpleasant surprise for you in the bathroom. Think of it as a parting gift.” And cackling, he left. Only then did I notice the huge clump of butter clinging to his wheelchair spokes. Oh god- it was going to go in his booklet of things to humiliate me with at our next 'dinner party'. I'd never hear the last of it.
I went through to the toilet, ready to deal with something horrific, but it was just a note taped to the cistern: 'I haven't forgotten that stair lift, you bastard. I WANT my tenner!'

Jeff: Monday 26th July

Daisy came round and asked me to go to Hamburg with her next weekend. I said I couldn't afford it and she started nagging me about getting a job. My mind raced desperately for a way to placate her.
“Yeah, but... It just doesn't seem right, you know? I mean, there's little kids starving to death in Greece-”
“I mean Ethiopia!” I should have remembered that one. It was on South Park. “And here we all are...” Think, Jeff, think. Something clever. “It's like half the world's starving to death, and the other half's too fat to do anything about it!” Ha! Nice one, Eccleston!
“What's that got to do with getting a job?”
“Well, there wouldn't be all those problems in the third world if we didn't keep buying stuff. Probably. So, it's like, how can I be a part of a system that's destroying the world?” This was easy. If only the Job Centre people were this easy to convince, then I could just stay at home watching 'Shakedown' everyday.
“Aww, Jeffy!” Her voice went all gooey and she gave me a cuddle. “It's so sweet that you care! But all we need is love! A revolution won't bring down the system. We just need to start loving everything, even the stuff we don't agree with. The system is afraid of love. It governs by fear. So the best way to fight it is to love it! Embrace it. Finding the joy within the soul of capitalism is the only way you can help all the poor and needy in the world!”
“Right. Yeah.” Shit. She's going to force me to become a stripper.

Pete: Monday 26th July

After seeing the way my Dad behaved last night, it got me thinking about myself. Obviously, we lead very different lives, but I had to wonder if the demon gene might kick in at any time. Was I in danger of turning into him? I came to the conclusion that if there was any chance whatsoever of this happening, then I'd have to rebel against my DNA. From this day forward, I'd take the high ground. I'd be a mature, sensible adult: considerate, intelligent and emotionally developed. This was the day when everything changed.

Pete: Tuesday 27th July


Jeff: Tuesday 27th July

What's the point in anything? Life is shit, and then you die. I got round to drinking that Morrisons own brand whiskey and filled out my crisis loan application form. I explained I needed £5000 to fund the construction of a death ray.

Jeff: Wednesday 28th July

OMG! The new DWM has the most adorable picture of the gang from Amy's wedding day on the cover. Rory, you lucky bugger!

Pete: Friday 30th July

I logged on to Facebook and saw that my Mum had added me as a friend. When I accepted, and looked at her page, I realised that she'd had a profile for ages. Surely this was the ultimate generational reversal? I was supposed to be The Computer Doctor, but not only was she more technologically advanced than I was, she had a better social life too. Her photo albums were numerous: attending 1950s style soirées with her friends, sequence dancing classes, a Women's Institute flapper's evening. My Dad wasn't on any of them. So that was how she coped with him... They were never in the same house together.
And then I got a message from her. It'd only been a few minutes since I'd pressed 'accept'. So she could type quicker than me too!

Hello Peter, I thought I'd catch you on here to talk about your inheritance somewhere your Dad can't listen in. He's doubled his medication since the weekend, and keeps droning on about how you tried to murder him with margarine (?) Anyway, I see from the 'status updates' page that you're apparently in love with a man named Andy? What's going on, dear? Surely you've not decided to sample the rough and tumble world of homosexuality? It's not as though I have a problem with... That sort of thing... But your Dad would go spare. You know how he gets. When England got knocked out of the football cup, I only managed to confiscate his gun after he'd shot three pigeons.
By the way, you'll be pleased to hear that Eloise Cartwright's hip replacement went swimmingly. She'll be tangoing again in no time! Keep in touch. Mum XXX

I was immediately struck by two thoughts. 1.) Who the fuck is Eloise Cartwright? 2.) Why has Andy broadcasted to the world that we're in a relationship? This called for direct action. It was time to put phase 2 of the plan into action. I picked up the phone and dialled for Comedy Dan.

Pete: Saturday 31st July

“Comedy Dan?!” Jeff was aghast, as I spooled through the adverts on our 'Pic N Mix' video.
“Alright! Keep it down, will you? 'Horror of Fang Rock's about to start, and we always end up talking through this one.”
“That's because it's sub-par.” His mouth was full, but even that barely stifled his comment. He must still have been in shock about my brilliant plan.
“Shhh... Do you want Terrance Dicks to hear? Let's just keep quiet and watch the episode, shall we?” Despite my stern tone, I gloated inwardly about the brilliance of my brilliant plan. It was brilliant.
“Alright then.” He was quiet just long enough to see the TARDIS materialise on the rocks. “Who else is coming to the meal from hell then?”
“Well, obviously Andy Pond has to be there... Then there's Big Dougie. Oh, and Tracey of course. Now, come on – we said we wouldn't talk.”
“Yeah, you're right. I suppose I owe Fang Rock another chance.” He was silent for all of 8 seconds. “So remind me again why exactly you want to invite this bunch of losers over... on your birthday? Don't you want to give yourself a fighting chance of getting your 39th year off to a good start? Why don't you just go all out and invite your Dad? Oh, and Eloise Cartwright whilst you're at it?”
“Who is this Eloise Cartwright?”
“No idea.” He shrugged. “I just made her up.”
“No you didn't! My Mum was going on about her yesterday, so either you've developed ESP, or you've been spying on me online.” I fixed him with my best accusatory squint, but he barely flinched.
“Yeah, well like you said, maybe we should just keep quiet and watch the episode.” A-ha! The words of a guilty man! The Doctor had just met Reuben. They were exchanging some witty dialogue. Although, watching now it didn't seem as witty as I remembered. In fact, it was pretty tedious. This had scared the crap out of me when I was 8! Come on, Pete, must keep quiet. Got to set the precedent.
“Thing is, Jeff...” He jumped. “I'm going to need your help. On my birthday, I mean.”
“Uh-uh. I'm not sticking round to share dinner with The Munsters, birthday or not.”
“Go on... I'll buy you a milk chocolate Magnum?” He seemed to consider it for a moment.
“Well, alright... You've twisted my arm, but just this once. So what's the plan?”
“I'm going to take care of Tracey Grimeford and Andy Pond... Once and for all.”
“Take care of them? Shouldn't you hire a contract killer for that kind of thing...” I could see he was trying to think of a suitably witty name to call me. “...Dr. Evil?” 5-out-of-10.
“I'm not going to kill them. I just need to lose them.”
“I don't think that's going to be easy. It's not like misplacing a quid down the back of the sofa.”
“Ahh, but you haven't heard my brilliant plan in full yet! I've done some pretty thorough research on Tracey's profile, and it's full of pictures of her spilling out of PVC dresses, trying to cop off with big biker blokes covered in bad tattoos. And who do we know that fits that description?” I waited. “Exactly! Oh... You didn't answer. Why didn't you answer?”
“Big Dougie.” He said wearily. “But isn't he a bit suspect? You know? Writing all those poems about cocks?”
“He's just asserting his masculinity.”
“Yeah... But... Poetry?”
“He's in touch with his emotions, no matter how violent or warped they may be. And come on: he wears leather jackets and chains; that tattoo he's got's full of grammatical errors; plus he's been a builder, a police man and in the army. What could be more manly than that? Tracey'll love him. We won't even need to try and force them together. But Andy and Dan might be more difficult, and that's where you come in. Now, I've made this choreographed seating plan...”
“Can I just stop you there? I know Andy Pond's deluded enough to think you're actually interested in going out with him, but don't you think he'll be a bit turned off by Dan's... Problem?”
“Ah, no! That's the beauty of it. If I know my Andy...” I stopped. Had I just said my Andy? Jeff didn't seem to have picked up on it. Backtrack. Backtrack. “If I know Andy, he loves a sob story. He's bound to find Dan's stutter charming. I just need you to sit with them, and sort of gently, non-intrusively – and in a completely not obvious way – drop hints about what a wonderful couple they'd make.”
“But what if they make me talk about gay things? They might take a shine to me. I've been there, Pete. That time Daisy made me go to The Pink Handbag, cause she said I was prudish and homophobic? I don't want to go there again.”
“It's fine. I'll be there... Although we can't sit together, obviously.” His face fell.
“So you're putting me in unfamiliar territory? Making me handle a potentially dangerous situation? And we're going to be separated? It'll be like Year 10 science class all over again. Boy-girl-boy-girl seating, surging hormones and Bunsen burners didn't go together then. This sure as hell isn't going to now. And you do realise I'm not exactly flush with cash at the moment? I presume I'm paying for this meal?”
“Well, it is my birthday. And we talked about this. I'll pay you back when I get my inheritance.”
“You've no idea how much that inheritance is worth yet though. I know Julian got a lot of work doing those dodgy underwear shoots, but what if he blew all his cash? You might only get a couple of hundred quid.”
“Great! I could pay you back, buy a proper computer, stock up on Series 5 toys, and get a pair of new shoes with the change... Right?” Jeff's face tensed in a way that showed up all the encroaching wrinkles of his future, but he didn't reply. 'Horror of Fang Rock' part 1 was drawing to a close. The ship was heading for the rocks. “Hang on...” A revelation suddenly dawned upon me. “I've never picked up on it before, but I think that boat might just be a toy! And that used to look so convincing when I was little...”
“Nooooo! Next you'll be telling me that submarine in 'The Sea Devils' is just 4 inches long.” He rolled his eyes. “Look, I don't know about this whole dinner party thing.”
“How about I make it two milk chocolate Magnums?” The title sequence music started.
“I've got a bad feeling about this...”

Jeff: Sunday 1st August

It's August! We're getting old and we're going to die!

Jeff: Monday 2nd August

Shit! It's Pete's birthday in less than two weeks. When did that one sneak up on me? I need to get some presents, but there's still no sign of any benefits! I rushed into town to at least buy him a Matt Smith themed birthday card, but to my horror the Doctor Who rack had been replaced by Twilight cards. Oh God! It's all over! It's 1985 again. Any day now they'll be releasing “Doctor In Distress 2010”!
I'd allowed myself £20 for the rest of the week, but I spent £15 on a copy of Doctor Who Adventures, a sticker book and a Matt Smith action figure from Thunderbooks. How could I resist? It could be my last chance to buy Doctor Who merchandise for fifteen years!

Jeff: Tuesday 3rd of August.

I realise that I may have over-reacted slightly yesterday. I made some instant noodles and sat down to watch the 'Who Peter – Partners in Time' featurette on 'The Horns of Nimon' DVD when there was a knock at the door. Maybe Tommy Asbo had finally brought those DVDs round! It was the police.
“Jeffrey Greene?”
“Yes?” I stammered.
“I'm arresting you on suspicion of terrorism.”

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

TARDIS LOG #4: City of Death

Pete: Sunday 30th May

It took us at least forty-five minutes to stop crying about Rory after 'Cold Blood'. I'm not quite sure how, but we've already been through two full boxes of man-sized tissues this weekend. Jeff had to go to newsagents. He said the fresh air would probably do him good, but when he returned sometime later, he looked more emotional than ever. Apparently, he'd broken down in the shop, inadvertently collided with a shelf and 'accidentally' punched a hole through box of coco-pops. Omar had to take him into the back and make him a cup of milky coffee.

Whilst I had the flat to myself, I tried watching the endings of 'Earthshock', 'Doomsday' and 'The End of Time' in order to accurately update my empathy response chart, but the emotional commitment was just too much. Instead, I flicked through the channels hoping to find something to cheer me up. It'd been a while since I'd stepped out of my sci-fi DVD comfort zone, and I wasn't prepared for the horror of prime-time entertainment. Over the course of 17 channels, I saw teenage girls dressed in revealing snow white outfits, dancing provocatively with gay dwarves; people in tanks trying to stick five-pound notes to their slime-covered bodies; a Yorkshire Terrier pulling a cackling man in a skiing armchair round a brightly lit studio to rapturous applause; and Graham Norton trying to goad David Dickinson and Alan Sugar into eating Maltesers off one another's bodies.

I longed for the days when Patrick Troughton saying 'My giddy aunt!' was the most provocative thing on Saturday night TV. Was I born in the wrong century?


Jeff: Tuesday 1st June

I sat fidgeting in Cafe Nero. I was half an hour early, and my plan to sit coolly sipping a Latte was thwarted. I'd been so nervous I knocked back the whole thing in five minutes. My throat still hurt. I couldn't just sit here with an empty cup... They might arrest me or something. I had to go and buy another drink. But what if she walked in? It would look so undignified, for her to see me fiddling with change and balancing sachets of sugar. Also, I'd have to drape my coat obviously across my chair and a part of the table to make it clear that it was taken in my absence. If she saw that she'd think I was a naturally untidy, reckless sort of person. (Which I am, but I was hoping she might have forgotten.) Also, if she caught me just leaving the till, it would be rude of me not to have bought her a drink, so I'd have to queue again and that would spoil the whole greeting thing... So should I buy two coffees? But then if she didn't get here soon it'd go cold. You can't give cold coffee to someone you love, it'd be like telling them to fuck off. But, I suppose if it started to cool and she wasn't here, I could drink it and then feel less bad about occupying space in a cafe without actually drinking anything. That could work.
But no! Wait! If anyone saw me sat there alone with two coffees it would be bad enough, but if they saw me drink the second one they'd know I was some kind of lonely freak. But I'm not – I'm on a date.
No, it's not a date. Not a date.

I checked my phone but then abruptly switched it off. There was another conundrum. I had check it regularly to make sure she didn't text to say she was late or not coming, but I couldn't leave it on in case Daisy called. I'd have to lie, and I'm no good at lying to Daisy. Like that time I told her I couldn't go traveling because a potential job had opened up at Lazarus Industries in Cardiff. (The trip clashed with series three.)
Anyway, it's not like I had anything to hide from Daisy. I was just meeting a friend for an afternoon coffee, where was the harm there? But when you've been in love with this person since the age of twelve it still somehow feels a bit wrong.
Shit, I had to concentrate on looking good. What would the Doctor be doing right now? He'd have probably noticed that the coffee machine was behaving in a way that could only mean severe alterations to the displacement hyper-time vortex. The manager would be calling him a madman and insisting he leave, the Doctor (Tom Baker in this one) would fix him with a stern glare and say “Listen to me. You're all in grave peril, it's of the uppermost importance that you get these people out of here right now.”
But I couldn't do that, the coffee machine looked to be working just fine.
I thought about it. I hadn't seen Rachel for eleven years. In fact, I think it was here that I last saw her. Before the kids, before the engagement to captain wankface. He was the king of France. Yeah? Big deal, I was the Lord of Time! I snorted inwardly.

I smelt her before I saw her, the same imitation Vivienne Westwood perfume she used to wear at school. She looked the same too. My heart exploded and I was thirteen years old again. We talked about the usual rubbish. Work, TV, our families... But the way she looked at me, it was like nothing had changed. Like despite the fact we were grown ups having coffee, it was just a facade, and underneath we were still two kids having sharing an illicit cigarette. I don't know, maybe I was imagining it. I didn't really hear most of the words, but being there was just magical. Rain was cascading down the windows and a radio hummed faintly in the background. The rain made me think of Blink. “I have until the rain stops.”
“Oh, I love this song!” She said all of a sudden.
“Me too.” I nodded and smiled. I'd never heard it before in my life.
“Well, I'd better get back. I need to pick James up.” She laid her cup to rest on the table and with those words and that gesture the bubble was broken and it was 2010.
“It's been really good to get out of the house. It can all get a bit... You know? I mean, thanks. It's been really lovely to see you, we'll have to meet again soon.” We hugged, and she walked out into the summer rain and it stopped. I could still smell her.

I sat back, reeling from it all and then did something a bit ridiculous. I threw my coat on, jumped over the table and ran up to the man behind the counter. “Listen to me!” I did my best Tom Baker voice. “It's of the uppermost importance that you tell me what that last song was right now!”
“What?” He looked a little afraid. “Err... Muse, I think.”
I had to buy it! I tore down the street to WH Smiths and asked the girl behind the counter where the singles chart was and she looked at me like I was insane. How can they not be selling singles anymore? How are songs going to get into the charts?


Jeff: Wednesday 2nd June

The song was called Undisclosed Desires. I had it in my head all night, but awoke to a revelation, I could could buy it online as one of these new fangled mp3s!
I went onto Amazon to see it would only cost 60p for one song, what a bargain. However, when I proceeded to the checkout it said I couldn't download an mp3 without installing an Amazon mp3 installer.
After waiting twenty minutes for the infernal thing to download, I was asked to click to visit the mp3 store. What about the one I'd already bought? When I clicked, it opened the mp3 store in a different window, using Internet Explorer. I didn't even think I had Internet explorer, I use Firefox! Which meant I had to go about signing in all over again.
Once again I found the song I wanted. I clicked “add to basket” only to be confronted by “This Page Cannot be Displayed.” Refresh. Try again. Add to basket. “This page cannot be displayed.”
At this point I may have screamed the word “Fuck” very loudly. I'd been at this for over half an hour. How was this any better than buying a CD from a shop?
I gave up. Opened a new window in Firefox, found the track and added it to my basket, only to be told that I couldn't download an mp3 without installing an Amazon mp3 installer. “I already have a fucking installer!” I yelled at the screen.
After a few minutes shaking my fist, I eventually discovered some small print, telling me to click if I already had an installer. I clicked. I paid. An Amazon icon appeared on my desktop. What happens now? Does the song just start playing? Another icon appeared informing me I had to launch the installer, then the first icon disappeared and I was informed the mp3 was “being downloaded.”
Five minutes later, media player launched of its own accord. I clicked play, and then the screen went white. “Windows Media Player is not responding.”
I shut it down and sent an error report to Microsoft that I somehow felt they wouldn't be that eager to reply to. I sat waiting. I clicked the amazon mp3 icon, but all that did was start installing the installer again. Where had my song gone? I scoured my files. My Music. My Downloads. I even looked in the recycle bin, to no avail. I'd now been sat at my computer for an hour and eleven minutes and had singularly failed to achieve anything. I burst into tears and flung the laptop at the wall. The screen shattered and keys flew across the carpet.
Before I really knew what I was doing, I found myself kneeling in Pete's doorway wailing “I need a computer doctor! I NEED A COMPUTER DOCTOR!”


Jeff: Thursday 3rd June

It's been over two weeks since I signed on, where's my money? For a start I need to start saving up for a new laptop...

I called the claims processing department, and after being on hold seemingly forever, I was informed that my claim had been “shut down.”
“What? Why?”
“I'm afraid Mr Greene, you were claiming the wrong band of income support.” Band? “Our records show that you're caring for a child, Mr. Greene. You'll need to re-apply for single parent living allowance.”
“I'm sorry... What? I don't have a child!”
“Yes you do Mr Greene.”
“No! No! Really I don't ... I don't even have a wife...”
“You don't need to be married to have Children, Mr Greene.”
“That's not what I mean... I mean I'm footloose, you know, fancy free!”
“Footloose and fancy free, Mr Greene? May I remind you that you are only eligible for income support if you are actively seeking employment. It's not our responsibility to fund a lifestyle of decadence.” A life style of decadence on forty quid a week?
“But you've just said I can't have income support anyway!”
“Never the less, you made a claim. We take fraudulent claims very seriously, Mr Greene. You could face a fine or even a custodial sentence.”
“Look, I'm not committing fraud, and I don't want to go to prison! I just want some benefits that your leaflet said I was entitled to!”
“I've already told you, Mr Greene, you are not entitled to income support whilst you are caring for a child.”
“But I'm not!”
“According to our records, under living arrangements, you stated you were living as a single parent at your recent meeting.”
“No! I didn't say that at all! I said my flatmate had the mind of a child! It was a joke!”
“The benefits office is no place for tomfoolery, Mr Greene! May I remind you that at the bottom of the form you signed to authenticate that all information given was correct.”
“I thought it was!”
“Very well, but we won't turn a blind eye the next time you decide to abuse our system.”
“So, does this mean I can have my money?”
“No. I told you, Mr Greene, your claim has been closed. You will need to open a new claim.”
“But how long will it take to get my money?”
“The claim will take fourteen working days to process. You can fill out the online re-application form...”
“I don't have a computer at the moment, could you post it to me?”
“Why not?”
“Print is dead, Mr Greene. If you insist on filling out a form you must obtain one from your local office.”
“So I can go to Blackpool and...”
“No, Mr Greene!” I wasn't entirely sure, but it was almost as if I could near him banging a fist on his desk. “Our Blackpool office is merely a sorting office, you must visit a designated processing department. You're nearest department is Preston. Good day Mr Greene!”

I drove to Preston, where the Job Center was unfortunately located next door to my former place of employment. I scurried along, crouched beneath the low wall so they wouldn't see me. I felt like Tom Baker in Pyramids of Mars.

I filled out the form with information they already had, and then noticed it came with an envelope labeled “Processing department, Preston.” What was the point in that? I was already here, I could just give it to them. I made my way over to the information desk.
“Ahh, no I'm afraid we can't except this. I has to come through the post.” I was told.
“But... Why? I mean, it's here. Now. What's the difference.”
“Yeahh, it's just that with all standard issue claims they have to be received internally. I mean, I'm just here to give information, I don't actually know who to give this to!”
“So, you're saying I have to go across the road and post it so you can get it tomorrow?”
“No, as I say, it has to be received internally. Hand that in at your claims office and they'll forward it to us.”
“What, in Blackpool? But I've just come from there!”
I was beginning to despair when an idea struck me, I picked up a leaflet from a stand. “Invalid Carer Allowance”.


Pete: Thursday 3rd June

A Mr. Harrison, of South Shore, Blackpool, was on the radio tonight, appearing on a show about disability. He said he'd had agoraphobia and, at one point in his 30s, couldn't leave the house for years! The voice sounded oddly familiar, so I ran downstairs as soon as the interview had finished and knocked at the ground floor flat. It was as I suspected. No one replied, and I couldn't hear anything coming from within. So if this was the same Mr. Harrison I'd met a few weeks ago, it proved it – he couldn't be me from the future, because I DEFINITELY didn't have agoraphobia!!


Pete: Friday 4th June

Jeff thinks I have agoraphobia. It all started when I tried to repair 'sexybexy's laptop. I don't know quite what happened, but it wasn't fifteen minutes before the whole thing was in bits on the floor, each component artfully laid out, and I found myself asking 'How did I do this? Did I blank out or something? Maybe I can repair computers!' Unfortunately, my new burst of confidence was short-lived. When I tried to work out what the actual fault was and attempted to put it back together, I soon realised that any old spastic can take things to bits when they're bored. Conversely, it turns out that wiring circuits to the motherboard, rewriting the core programming, hooking up a monitor display, removing virus traces from the software, and getting the 'S' key to actually mean 'S' (rather than 'F') does seem to require some level of skill.

When Jeff walked in, things were looking bleak.
“I think I've thrown a spanner in the works!” I whimpered.
“I can see that.” He looked at the memory card slot, in which a half-submerged spanner was jammed. “How long have you been at this?”
I couldn't rightly say. I'd lost all perspective of time, but I pointed him in the direction of an absurdly large heap of teabags, spilling off the edge of the table.
“Shit.” He shook his head mournfully.
“I thought I was on a roll. I even managed to get that marmalade out of the USB socket.”
“Did you manage to get rid of the lisp?” He cocked an eyebrow.
“Well, I... H-how did you..?”
“The 'S' key doesn't work, right?” I didn't reply. Had Jeff been a psychic all along?! Had he been listening into my thoughts? It was too terrifying to contemplate! Whilst on the outside, I appeared personable, normal and well-adjusted, my inner monologue had a tendency to make me sound like a total wanker. “When you press 'S', you get 'F', so if you were to go onto a forum and type... 'this site totally sucks', you'd actually be saying 'thif fite totally fucks'... which doesn't really make sense, unless you're a total moron!”
“Jeff?” I shuffled back cautiously, my voice wavering. “Do you have special powers?”
He was laughing. “Well, that's got to be the only logical explanation, hasn't it? Unless, hmmmmm, let me think...” He stroked his chin. “The only other way I could possibly know is if... I used to own this compu- but, no. That defies sense!”
“Yeah, I'm not totally stupid!” (I wasn't even convincing myself). “Just cause you used to own a laptop exactly like this, you can't fool me!” Even as I went for the old self-confident head tap, I could feel myself faltering. “I happen to know for sure this isn't the same one.” It wasn't supposed to sound like a question. “This one belongs to...”
“That's absolutely... Wait! No... Because!” I raised my finger into the air, and clapped a hand to my forehead. If only I'd been David Tennant, my moment of mental revelation would have been accompanied by a liberal amount of hair ruffling, and some snappy editing. But I wasn't. I was just some guy, you know? Some guy who felt as though his brain was trying to leap in two different directions. I reached for the nearest beanie. It was all I could do to prevent my grey matter from escaping altogether. Thank god I'd spent last night alphabetically categorising my collection of mediocre hats. Didn't want another Morbius on our hands!
“It was me, Pete. I'm Sexybexy.”
“Noooo...” My self-confidence shifted down an octave. “Because you're Jeff. I can prove that.” I snatched a notepad, on which he'd been doodled the words 'Jeffmeister' repeatedly: was this some kind of nervous habit, or was he planning his own TV show? I waved the thought away. “So, if anything, it'd be SeffyJeffy, and that doesn't even work. It sounds like a brand of lavatory cleaner. So...” I tried to think of a suitably witty and urbane put-down. “Fuck off!” He just sat there, biting his lip. “Okkkaaaayyy... So, why did you do it? Was it some kind of joke?”
“Of course not. I was trying to be nice to you.”
Nice to me!? Couldn't you have bought me chocolate or flowers or something normal?”
I counted as he tried to start at least eight different sentences before any actual words came out. He chewed his lip, ruffled his hair, dug fingernails into his arm. I was about to get up and put the kettle on, when he said “Pete, this isn't the first time I've said this, and it won't be the last: I love you. BUT – and this is a big but...” (He'd already insulted my arse: things could only get worse.) “You're a hopeless computer repair man, you've got some serious stuff to work through, and I can't be your dad forever.” A formless, numb, 'O'-shaped sound escaped my lips, as he finished. “But I could be your carer...”
“Are you trying to suggest...” My voice came out as a whimper. “...That I've gone a bit mad or something?” I chewed at my fingers as though they were KitKat bits.
“I don't mean to be, well, mean... But look at you, Pete: you can barely leave the house these days, you're surrounded by toys and bits of circuit board. It's 6pm and you're half naked in a bobble-hat!”
“It's not a bobble-hat.” I protested. “It's a beenie. And I'm not mad... And some of these toys are yours!”
“Mine aren't toys. They're authentic collectors' memorabilia.” He sounded unusually tetchy. Surely he wasn't growing up. If he did, I was screwed! “The difference is that I don't line them all up and have pretend battles, setting fire to tiny cardboard castles with little matchboxes. And I didn't say you were mad. But I do think you've got agoraphobia. There's nothing wrong with it. It's not all that bad really. I did this to prove a point: I don't think you stand much chance of working if you can't leave the house, and I'm not gonna be able to pay for this place on my own anymore, so I think you need to sign up for Disability allowance. The government have money for people like you.”
“People like me??!” I leapt to my feet, strode into the kitchen furiously and slammed the door. My initial plan was to go on hunger strike. Unfortunately, however, the fridge was empty, and the emergency cake I'd left beneath the sink had gone kind of damp, so I'd have had no staying power. I spent the evening building a 3D Death Star jigsaw, ignoring Jeff, and trying to unremember what he'd said. I'd prove I wasn't mad for sure! I laughed long into the night.


Pete: Saturday 5th June

“Hahahahahaha!” I cackled, not remotely maniacally. Breath probably didn't expect such a jeffless greeting the moment he emerged from his bedroom, so I grabbed him by the dressing gown sleeves in case he tried to escape to the bathroom.
“I couldn't sleep after last night,” he looked guilty, “andiwasdoingsomethinking.” It all came out as one word; a formless mass of syllables; a creature from the pit.
“Are you alright? You eyes look kind of bloodshot.”
“I'm fine... Just... Fine. Been drinking a lot of coffee, but I'm definitely... Just... Fine. Just... Look, I don't know quite how to say this.” I took a deep breath. “I've been doing a lot of thinking about some pretty serious stuff, and I'm not gonna pretend I'm not worried.” I took six more deep breaths. I was going to have to spell this one out slowly. “One day... Stephen Moffat...” Jeff nodded. “Is going to leave... Doctor Who.” I waited for the shock to resonate, but he seemed more concerned with trying to shrug his arms free. It was as I thought. I knew I wasn't just being paranoid. He was going to lock himself in the bathroom and start a siege. If that happened, I wouldn't get to tell him my plan, and, to make matters worse, I'd have to piss into the 'Meals for Mum's Tupperware. I shifted my weight to block the door. “If you think about it logically...” I realised I was shouting a bit and tried to appear calm by winking, which, in retrospect, probably didn't help. “...They're not gonna let Mark Gatiss be showrunner anymore. So – and I mean this seriously – and I'm not trying to sound egotistical – and you'll need to stick with me on this – but the only people I can imagine taking over as head writers are... Me and you.”
I cut across him before he had time to say anything. It's a well known fact that people always come round to your way of thinking if you talk continuously for a long period of time. “Thinkaboutit: how many men in their 30s can there be that know as much about the Whoniverse as us?? Who've seen every surviving episode, and own the Target novelisations of all the missing ones? Who've religiously purchased 'Doctor Who Magazine' every month since 1979? Even during the dark 1990s when there was literally NOTHING to write about? Who actually listen to 'The Pescatons' despite its dubious canonicity? Who have a cupboard full of Dalek mugs, and disappointingly inedible spaghetti shapes? AND, we've got all these...” I rifled through a Kwik Save carrier bag, labeled 'Script Ideas: 88 – Present', with obvious enthusiasm. Some of them were written on the backs of old food packaging, such was the furor of our late night creativity. “You can't argue with titles like... Countdown to F.E.A.R., The Kraagan Masterplan, Timeray!, Aliens of Death, All Aboard the Horror Express, The Nightmare Machine... They're all potential classics, Jeff! And I've been working on what could be our pièce de résistance : let me introduce you to... The Armageddon Factor! Twelve episodes full of horror, adventure, and masterful plot twists. I tell you, there's no way the BBC are gonna turn this baby down. So, what do you think?” I picked up a toy spear. “Isn't it time we called Broadcasting House?”
“Well, I don't know quite how to tell you this, but... Most of those ideas are... Terrible... And there's already been an episode called 'The Armageddon Factor'... And it was shit! And...” I grabbed his shoulder with one hand, and pressed a finger to my lips with the other.
“Is that crack in the wall making noises again?” I felt my eye go into an involuntary spasm.
“Pete, have you taken your pills?”


Pete: Monday 7th June

We hadn't spoken about it for days, but sooner or later I knew the agoraphobia monster was going to rear its ugly head, except it would be far scarier – and, dare I say, more convincing – that the one in 'Vincent and the Doctor'. I couldn't help empathise with Van Gogh, but much as I tried to argue my case to 'Comedy Dan' on 'Forum from the Deep', I knew deep down that I was no genius. Vincent's bedroom was full of brilliant paintings. Mine was a mess of moldy mug-o-soup, creased magazines, 'vintage' cider bottles and Kwik and E-Z noodle wrappers. You wouldn't even have to buy the stuff to know that it was cheap. All the packaging was orange and white, and the labels were spelled out in text-speak, in an effort to sound cool and modern. I picked up a half-crushed bottle and read the imitation-handwriting slogan aloud: 'Tastes like shit, but getz u pissed'. It was so old and faded I couldn't tell whether the drawing of a downcast-looking homeless chap stroking a possibly deceased dog was part of the design or something Dom had scribbled on.

How had I let myself get like this? When had it all started? It wasn't as though I'd intentially stopped getting dressed and leaving the house. I just hadn't fancied it for a while... surely? Deep down, I suppose I knew the answer. Under my bed was a stack of old diaries. All I had to do was find the one with the David Tennant stickers all over it... except that they all did. If I'd found one of them in the street, and didn't know they were mine, I probably would have guessed them to belong to an eight-year-old. I rifled through until I found the one from...

Tuesday 13th February 2007

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I sprung up from my bed at the sound of a vigorous banging coming from the living room. I was still a bit dazed – it was, after all, not quite lunchtime – so the thought that Jeff might be sweating and naked barely crossed my mind (we'd been on something of a roll recently: neither of us had inadvertently exposed a part of our body to the other for nearly THREE weeks!)
“Back of the net! Spawn has left the mothership!” Jeff said, somewhat confusingly.
“What's with all the commotion?” I asked cautiously. I don't know why, but it came out sounding Scouse.
“Come and have a drink with your uncle Roger!” I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. A whole range of terrifying thoughts ran through my head. Was he on drugs? Was I going to have to restrain him, steward a rave or prevent an orgy? He indicated a spot on the sofa, shuffling up and flinging a bundle of yellowed tissues to the floor. I was careful to put a cushion over the chair before sitting down. “You may need to sit down.” He wore a serious expression now.
“I, erm... I'm already sitting down.” There was definitely something weird about him as he pointed to the screen with a trembling hand.
“I've just... Made the winning bid...” He was breathless with excitement, and I suddenly saw why. “...On a Tenth Doctor... FLOOR LENGTH COAT!” I was speechless. This was massive. Perhaps he'd let me wear it. I almost wished I wasn't going to France so I could see it arrive. That said, if it came right away, maybe Jeff'd be okay about me taking it, and people would think that I – Pete Ross – was The Doctor. I – Pete Ross – WAS The Doctor...


“So you're going for it then?”
“Yep. Gonna stop at The Crescent for a bit of Dutch courage first, but then I'm going to march right in there...”
Jeff raised a hand. “I wouldn't 'march' if I were you. I don't think they're allowed to sell to mad people, and you already look a bit... you know... since you permed your hair.”
“You know why I did that!” I snapped testily. “If I'm gonna go to Paris, then I'm gonna give it the full Tom Baker treatment. I've got the scarf, I've got the pretty girl. I needed the Fourth Doctor's curls to complete the look.”
“Yeah? Well you look more like Leo Sayer. Ooh, by the way, will you be around later? Daisy's coming round and we're gonna watch 'Spearhead'. I showed her a clip on the website, and she said the Autons bursting through the shop window was 'grisly'. Isn't she great?” He didn't give me time to answer, which was good because I didn't have time to turn my nose up. “So, you know what you're going to say in the shop then?”
“I think so. I mean, it's not really that different to buying cling-film or balloons, is it?” I tried to shrug nonchalantly, but it probably looked like I was having a little spasm.
“Just remember: everyone does it, everyone uses them. Be forthright. Be strong. Brave heart, Pete!”


I strode confidently to the counter, looked the cashier square in the eye, held out a fifty pence piece and – in my most authoritative, blokey voice – said “I'd like to purchase a condom please”. Except that the sound which came out wasn't authoritative or blokey at all, but high-pitched, pathetic, almost camp and stuck in default defensive mode as though I were battling away a fresh wave of high school 'Spotty Pete' insults all over again. Here I was, thirty-five years old, and I was back in the schoolyard. Except that my tormentor had a name badge, a degree and the sort of rehearsed smile you only got on a training course. (N.B. I am, of course, talking about the chemist, not the condom itself. Pinning a name badge onto the latex would somewhat defeat the object.)
At length, I realised that the man behind the counter had been talking and gesticulating wildly for some time. Shit! I hadn't taken in a single word. I tried to smile apologetically, but came out looking like one of those mad people who talk to bus drivers. When I repeated my request to shut him up, it came out sounding rude.
“And what kind would you like, sir?” I couldn't tell if it was out of spite, or a sincere desire to be kind and helpful, but he spoke in the same patronising voice that Daisy used to talk to Bucky when he wasn't wearing his 'Miracle Grow Extend-O-Stilts'.
“Well, er, I don't know. It's not like I've measured anything down there for a while, if that's what you mean? Just the usual, I guess...” Saying that made me think of country pubs, handled glasses and listening to 'Heavy Horses' on the jukebox, so I added “And a pint of bitter please!” But it didn't seem to illicit a laugh. What was wrong with him? Dom would've been in stitches.
“What do you usually get?”
“I usually just come in here for deodorant, anti-odor foot spray and sensitive skin face cream.” He narrowed his eyes. What else did he want from me? “I've got a sensitive face.”
“No, I mean, sir,” he elongated the 'ir', “what about the condoms?”
“But I don't think you're supposed to put them on your face.” My scalp was getting sore from all the head scratching.
“Oh, for god's sake!” I was getting the slightest impression I'd irritated him, though I couldn't for the life of me work out why. “Which one of us here is a qualified chemist?” I shot him a puzzled look, unsure of how to respond. Was he having some kind of personal crisis, or merely being rhetorical?
“It's you, isn't it... Surely?” He folded his arms, and my unique understanding of people told me it was time to move things on. I ended up asking for one of everything and took out my credit card.
He returned to the counter with a very full carrier bag, said “Stick it in whenever you like”, folding his arms expectantly.
Oh my god! Did he really want me to..? No! “I don't want to have sex with you!”
“I'm talking about the credit card, you wanker!” He slammed his fist onto the table.


I knew that going round to Simone's with the entire 'Big Mates' Contraceptives' range in a carrier bag would look a little unsubtle, so I concealed it in her bush before gaining entry. Her housemates, Joanne and Kitty, answered the door, giggling as soon as they set eyes on me. They always did that, like I was the butt of some kind of in-joke.
“Is Simone about?”
“Upstairs.” Joanne OR Kitty inclined her head – I've never been able to tell them apart: they both dress in that ironic studenty way, have curly hair and often finish each other's sentences. “She's with Rik.”
Goth Rik?” I could barely contain my outrage.
“What's she doing with that loser?”
“She's, er...” They smirked as one. “...Helping reboot his hard-drive.”
“Oh. She's been stealing all my business since I paid for her to go on that computer course. Rik should've come round my gaff. I would've given his hard-drive a good reconfiguring too.” This provoked a whole new wave of giggling, as though I'd said something hilarious. “Well, can I come in?”

They led me through to the living room, where the usual array of half-drunk alcopops littered the table, cigarette ash floating in the dregs of pink, sugary liquid. There was a vigorous and persistent banging coming from the ceiling above.
“Is that Simone?” I asked awkwardly. “Or do you need to get a man in to take a look at your pipes?” More giggling.
“Must be.” One of them replied. “Charlene's over at Greg's.” Charlene? Greg? Who were these people??!
“She must be giving his system a really good going over.” Smirked the other girl. I had to get away from these two harpies. Think, Pete, think! What would James Bond do?
“Mind if I pay a visit to the little boys room? I'm bursting for the loo!”
“Yes, but... Oh... My... God! Kitty, will you take a look at Simone's washing up?!” She clapped a hand to her mouth in exagerated shock. Kitty responded in kind, her mouth dropping open, like the scary bit in 'Fury from the Deep'.
“Oh, Jo'sers! She treats us like slaves!” She whimpered. “And it's not even our responsibility!” Theatrically, they both folded their arms and faced me as one. I knew that they were trying to manipulate me, but that wasn't enough to stop the waves of crippling guilt. This was probably what being married was like... Well, to a woman, at least. Now there were two of them, and the Helvetica Scenario was upon me. I was going to have to do someone else's washing up. They'd probably have me cleaning the toilet with a toothbrush and ironing their knickers next, while they peered over my shoulder, eying every crease critically and screaming if I got something wrong. I was their eunuch, their manservant... And I was powerless to stop them.

It was a good forty-five minutes before I emerged from the kitchen, having finished a mass of washing up, covered in soap suds and pasta sauce. I recognised very little of the mess as Simone's, although many of the plates were mysteriously marked with Js and Ks. The living room was free of its former annoyances: Joanne and Kitty seemed to have vanished elsewhere, and the rhythmic banging from upstairs had ceased. Sure enough, however, Goth Rik was slumped on the sofa, stroking his goatee beard and leaning heavily upon a cane. A trilby hat was pulled over his dirty-blond hair, and his whole posture exuded the air of practiced despondence. Even his roll-up hung wearily from his lips. I think he thought it made him look cool. It made him look like a cunt.
“Rik.” I acknowledged him with a nod.
“Steve.” He nodded back dejectedly.
“It's, er, Pete... actually.” He didn't say anything in response. Only an icy silence followed, punctuated occasionally by the sound of muffled swearing from above. “So, erm, what're you doing here?”
“I was passing...” He took a deep breath. Every syllable was labored, like the energy was constantly being sapped away from him. I'm sure he imagined that this sounded distant and enigmatic. “...On my way back from Skeletor's house.”
“His real name's Tony.” He croaked, and no further conversation was forthcoming. As soon as I left the room, I felt the tension lift from the atmosphere. Before I went, I shouted upstairs to Simone, eager to catch a glimpse of her so that it didn't feel like a completely wasted trip. After much clattering, and an exchange of words so strong they probably should have come with a 'parental advisory' warning, she called back “What do you want?”
“Just wanted to check we're still okay for tomorrow? 8.30? Squire's Gate?”
“Yeah, yeah. I'm packing now. Christ!” She sounded unnecessarily pissed off for someone who was about to be taken on an all-expenses-paid romantic break.
“Do you want me to take one of your bags while I'm here? Save you carrying it?”
“Nah, there's stuff in here I don't want you to see...” She wavered hesitantly. “...Yet. Girl's stuff.” I could barely contain my excitement. Tomorrow night was the night! I could feel it! Although when she said, somewhat bluntly, “Now go, will you?” my spirits were dampened.
I shouted “Farewell, my Rose!” but didn't get a response, although I swore I could just about make out the sound of an eerie giggling drifting ghostlike down the stairs.

As I was on my way out, I stopped to look at a picture by the front door, which showed Rik, Simone and the girls halfway down a roller-coaster drop. Everyone had their hands in the air, and mouth's wide open, apart from Rik, who looked as bored as always, still smoking a cigarette and still leaning on a cane. Simone, pressed next to him, looked happier than I'd ever seen her. I had to wonder where I was. I searched desperately on the pinboard for even the smallest photo, but I didn't feature at all. I tried to convince myself that it hadn't been updated recently, but even I couldn't ignore the fact that last week's date was printed in the bottom right corner of the most recent one – a shot of Simone, drunkenly leaning into the camera, a fake bridal veil on her head, and 'Just Married' scrawled across her cleavage in marker pen.


I stopped for a few drinks with Big Dougie on the way home, who wanted to read me his latest poetic ode to the male genitalia, so Jeff was already in bed by the time I got back to the flat. But he'd left a CD on my bed, with the note: 'Something for you to listen to on the train back' (I bet it's full of romantic songs!) 'And just remember, whatever happens, I love you.' The big puff! He must have been pissed.

The following pages were all scribbled over in black, and I remembered that the trip itself was written up in another diary. I had a feeling I knew where it was, but I couldn't bring myself to deal with it just then. Instead, I went through to the kitchen with the intention of making an Irish coffee. But I ended up filling my cup with whiskey to the top, and lay on the sofa, shoveling teaspoons of coffee granules directly into my mouth. Then I got a bit overexcited, wrote an incredibly moving short story about talking potato and forwarded it to all my email contacts.


Jeff: Saturday 12th June

It started just like an ordinary day. I'd been lying on the sofa eating Frosties and idly comprising a list of what kind of Christmas Present each Doctor would be likely to get you. I think it's remarkably astute...

William Hartnell – An expired book token
Patrick Troughton – A recorder
Jon Pertwee – A molecular hydrolic polarity reverser
Tom Baker – A bag of Jelly Babies
Peter Davison – An illustrated children's Bible.
Colin Baker – A cake made of Play Dough and and ABBA CD
Sylvester McCoy – Would have forgotten, but wowed you at the last minute with a remarkable performance with spoons.
Paul McGann – One Jelly Baby. However, he would magically and theatrically produce it from behind your ear.
Christopher Eccleston – A lump of coal and a clout round the ear.
David Tennant – A winning lottery ticket (smug bastard).
Matt Smith – A bow tie (Bow ties are cool) and a bowl of custard.

I'd finished my list and realised that it was passed midday, so it was now officially socially acceptable to get pissed. I went to bargain booze and got a four pack of Tuborg lager and some twiglets, which I then consumed whilst watching The Horror of Fang Rock.
It was only as I was folding away the cardboard and stuffing it in the bin (Thank God Daisy wasn't there, we were using her cardboard recycling box as a footrest.) that I noticed the enthusiastic font on the inside proclaiming “Congratulations! You have won two tickets to the Glastonbury festival!”


Pete: Sunday 13th June

I'm not ashamed to say that we cried fat tears of sheer happiness watching Matt Smith play football in 'The Lodger', and laughed like schoolboys during The Doctor's hilariously ill-timed 'Annihilate' speech.

As soon as 'Confidential' finished, I fired off an email to Omar, advertising for a lodger. It's not as though either of us actually want one. It's not as though we'd even have room if someone showed up. But you never know: we might end up with Matt Smith! He'd willingly watch Doctor Who with us; we could do amusing 80s montages; and we wouldn't even have to tie him up in the shower, like that bloke in Preston claimed to have done with Christopher Eccleston.

I couldn't wait to see the look on Jeff's face when he found out!


Jeff: Monday 14th June

I can't go to Glastonbury! I'm too old for all that now. I know my 18 year old self would be appalled, but I've grown quite fond of showering regularly, watching daytime TV and wearing shirts. When you're younger you think you'll never change, and if you do it will be some kind of massive compromise, but the thing you never anticipate is that you actually begin to genuinely enjoy some of the things you once shunned. Like slippers, pajamas and Trisha. I suppose this is why the Doctors never get on in multi doctor stories. I bet the first Doctor never thought he'd end up saying “Sor' of yeah.” or dancing to Soft Cell, just like the sixth Doctor probably wouldn't have thought he'd one day wear all black. And I bet the eleventh Doctor is really embarrassed by the fact he used to wear that cat badge... and that dreadful question mark tank top! I think I'll watch The Happiness Patrol...


Jeff: Tuesday 15th June

Daisy was on the phone, lecturing me on the fact that we never do anything nice together, I never have time for her and I never leave the flat. I couldn't help it. The words just tumbled out of my mouth.
“How can you say that? I'm so hurt! Here I've been planning an amazing surprise for you and everything...”
“A surprise? Really? What?”
“Daisy, I'm taking you to Glastonbury! So we can get back to our roots! Commune with the ... Meridians and all that.”
“Glastonbury? Jesus, Jeff! Why don't you just take me out for a romantic lunch at Burger King? This isn't 1994 anymore, the whole thing's just a big corporate firework display of capitalism and convention! I mean, who's playing, U2?”
“Yes, actually. And ... errm ... Snoop Dog?” She was silent.
“Besides, I can't get the time off work.”
Thank God, this is probably fate intervening. I mean, I can't be away on the 26th, it's the season finale!


Pete: Wednesday 16th June

Jeff stormed angrily upstairs, looking aggravated, and pulled the TV cable from the wall.
“Oi! I was watching 'Richard and Judy', you bastard!” I said, trying to speak between mouthfuls of mashed potato.
“What the hell do you think you're playing at?” He demanded. “Advertising for a lodger? Did you think Matt Smith – Matt Fucking Smith – was going to show up or something?”
“No...” I replied guiltily.
“I've had to turn away a nun with a prosthetic hand, someone dressed as a giant cockroach and a guy with a bag full of hacksaws!” He replaced the plug.
“Ooh, hacksaw man's still doing the rounds, is he?”
“That's beside the point, Pete. You've got to... Ooh, wrestling!”


Jeff: Friday 18th June

I received a letter from the council about my housing benefit claim. Apparently there was a “problem” and I had to contact them straight away.
“Ahh, yes.” Said the claims adviser as I sat in his office at the Town Hall that afternoon. “We've been asked to investigate your claim as we have reason to believe you may be having a relationship with your housemate.”
“As you know, different rates apply for live-in couples, married or not Mr. Greene.”
“But I ... I mean, well, he's ... for a start, he's a man!”
“Don't think we don't know what goes on Mr. Greene! Our records show that you've lived together for the best part of a decade. Why is this?”
“Well, we just... do. He's my friend.” The adviser gave a mirthless laugh.
“You recently ended employment as a barman, but as I see your partner Mr. Ross was unemployed during this time.”
“I see. So tell me a little about your living arrangements. Rooms?”
“A kitchen-”
“Yes.” He made a note of this. “A living room-”
“Yes... A bathroom-”
“Just the one?”
“Yes...” He raised an eyebrow.
“Most irregular. Do continue, bedrooms?”
“Shared?” How can two people share two bedrooms?
“Yes, we share them... One each!”
“According to the plans of the building one is a double and the other is a mere box room!”
“Yeah, but we keep most of the toys- I mean, the stuff in the living room. And obviously when Daisy stays over I need the extra room so -”
“Ah! So you have a tenant. You should have declared this Mr. Greene. Falsifying a claim can result in a fine or a custodial sentence!”
“She's not a Tennant, she's my girlfriend!” He considered me dubiously.
“Do you and your flatmate shop individually?”
“Yes, well.. no.”
“And does Mr. Ross ever prepare your meals, Mr. Greene?”
“Yes, but -”
“And the cleaning, the household chores, who deals with those?”
“Well, Pete, I mean, I'd like to but, the man's a clean freak!”
“So you ever socialise together?”
“Well, yes...”
“Do you go out?”
“No, he's agoraphobic.”
“I see. Cosy evenings in, eh? I think we have all the information we need, Mr. Greene. We'll be in touch.”


Pete: Friday 18th June

I found it buried at the bottom of a box, which was otherwise full of vintage comics: the book of doom. Considering all the heartbreak I'd come to associate it with, it looked inappropriately cheery, with its embossed Eiffel Tower silhouette and picture of a poncy-looking French couple riding a bicycle on the front. A cruel irony or just one more thing to hate the French for? Inside, all but a few pages had been torn out. Although I knew exactly what was written on the remaining ones – the diary of my last trip outside – I couldn't face reading it at that moment. Going back there would be like admitting defeat.

I was relieved when there was a knock at the door. I answered it to Andy Pond, and instantly began crying, except this time I wasn't putting it on. When he came in, we barely said a word: we just sat next to one another, drinking cup after cup of tea, both of us in tears. I had to wonder what his excuse was.

Before he left, he said “I hope you don't mind, but I've told my therapist all about you. He thinks this is really good for me. Same time next week?”


Pete: Wednesday 14th February 2007

My heart skipped a beat every time I heard somebody walking over the bridge, and I couldn't help but check my watch at least every thirty seconds: the minute hand never seemed to move. It had settled comfortably somewhere in the region of Rose Tyler's pink hoodie, nestled into her breast; who could blame it? It was 8.42am, and Simone was a good ten minutes late. A good ten minutes late is probably a bad choice of phrase, come to think of it. There had been nothing good about them. As if the morning hadn't been stressful enough having to get up at 4am; packing, packing and repacking – just to make triply sure; constantly scanning the tickets, scrutinising the dates and travel times, convinced they could shift at any moment so that we'd miss our Euro-tunnel connection; unpacking to organise the contents of my holdall more efficiently; changing footwear at least seven times. I'd rung my hands so many times they'd come up in a rash, and now, here I was... alone.

Just short of calling the whole thing off, I tried one last desperate attempt to phone her, but just as it started ringing, I heard footsteps coming slowly down the stairs. I hung up and spun round, full of hope and relief, only to be confronted by twin horrors: an angry looking chav lolloping towards me, and the train pulling into the station. This was it. Make or break time! Obviously, there was no question of me getting on the train. Simone must have been in some kind of trouble and it was up to me to rescue her, whisk her away to Paris and give her the night of her life. I'd be her David Tennant, her knight in shining armour, her prince charming, her – the train pulled in and I saw my reflection in the window – her... twat in a trilby hat.
“Oi, mate!” The chav snorted. “This the Kirkham train?” I nodded, and tried to make my exit, but he carried on talking at me. “Ah, thank god. Me bird's gonna be well pissed. I said I were only goin' out for an hour, or... A couple'r hour, or summit.” He made a noise like a tumble drier and heaved a glob of mucus onto the platform. “Thing is, I was out with Steve-O, an' Gary and Brian last night, and let me tell yer about Brian, right? Brian is a twat. And he, like, ended up getting' into this fight wi' this bouncer. It weren't 'is fault like. 'E 'ad it in for him from the start. Know what I'm saying?” I didn't know what he was saying. I hadn't the slightest idea. “Anyway, 'e only went an' landed himself in the Vic...” Hang on! What had happened? Somehow, I was on the train and it was moving. How didn't I notice getting on? Climbing up the steps? Taking a seat? I looked at my ticket and saw that it had already been stamped, but I had no memory of a conductor coming round. Had this moron's conversation really been so scintillating that I'd channeled everything else out??!
“I'm terribly sorry, erm, mate...” I started to say, but he cut in again.
“Hey.” He looked me up and down, a threatening glint in his eye. Thank god I'd packed the punishment spray. “I like yer t-shirt.”
“Really?” I looked down. But I was wearing my 'Keep Watching the Skies' shirt. No one liked this shirt! Not even I liked it!
“Are you like...” He rubbed at his nose and made an unpleasant face. “One o' them sci-fi geeks or summit?” Once again, I didn't have to say anything, because he saw my scarf. “Eh, lookarthat! Ah, let me tek a picture of you to show me mates. You could play the next doctor who!” Oh no... He'd done it. He'd made the ultimate mistake. It didn't matter that it would almost certainly end up with me getting kicked to shit. I was going to have to correct him. But, just then, there was a timely intervention. “Ah, don' worry about it, mate. This is my stop.” What?! We were in Kirkham already? Bloody hell. I was almost halfway to Paris, and I'd yet to do anything about the Simone situation. My overly-friendly antagonist left and I was relieved when no one else took his seat. I could make a phone call. One phone call to save the world. Except that I didn't have a signal. Bollocks!


I'd tried to relax on the London train, but my heart filled with disappointment each time I looked at my phone screen – which was frequently – and saw it blank – which was all the time. Not even a message from Jeff. He must have been on his 6am shift at work... the lazy sod!

I went and sat in Subway when I got to Euston, not knowing what to do. After fifteen minutes, a waiter in a silly hat came over and told me that people usually tended to buy food in order to reserve a spot in the cafe, so I chose a sandwich at random and cried inwardly when I realised I'd picked the most expensive thing on the kids' menu. Then the phone started blinking, and, for a moment, I thought everything was going to be okay, but it was just a message from Dom. It read 'I AM Destructron!' He must have been having another ego attack. What a tool! No sooner had I put it down, however, than it started ringing. I snatched it up immediately, nearly dropping it into my Monster Truck Cola in the panic.
“Simone...” It came out as one huge sigh of relief. “Where are you? I was beginning to think you weren't coming?”
“Oh my god! I can't believe you'd think that! You're so nasty to me sometimes. Anyway, that thirty quid you left me for a taxi went missing...” I heard her take a long drag on a cigarette, and suddenly got the feeling I knew exactly what had happened to the money... but I couldn't bring myself to voice that suspicion somehow. Jeff said it was like she had this weird hold over me, but that was just rubbish. “Anyway, I definitely am coming to Paris, but I'll just need you to transfer a little bit more money to me.” It wasn't a question. It was an instruction. From here on in, what I actually thought and what came out of my mouth were polar opposites.
“Of course.” No way, you penny pinching bitch. “How much would you like?” Bleed me dry, why don't you?
“Erm, not too much. Perhaps just like sixty? Seventy pounds? Just enough to get me to London. I mean, it's not like it's as far as... Sheffield, is it?” She laughed in an oddly humourless way, and I reciprocated in kind.
“Well, that is quite a lot of money...” And I'd already booked our tickets, you stupid cow, so now I'm going to have to pay twice. “But, this is your big week, so I guess I can get over to the nearest bank, and I'll wait for you here?”
“Oh, I wouldn't want you standing around. You get going, and I'll meet you there. Just, you know, send me the money, will you?”
“You're going to meet me? In Paris?” So, it's come to this. You obviously can't bear the thought of spending any time with me. We're fucked. “But you've never even left Lancashire?”
“Well, I've been reading this really good magazine recently, and it said that expanding your mental horizons is a lot like expanding your physical horizons.”
“Oh, erm, that's profound.” But the only physical horizon you've been expanding has been your waistline.
“Yeah, well I'm a very deep and spiritual person, Pete, and it's about time you... Oh, I've got to go. 'Loose Women's just starting.”
“Right... But you are coming, aren't you?” Please don't make me check into the hotel alone. Only a complete looser would book a double room for one on Valentine's Day.
“Oh yeah, for sure. Just you concentrate on wiring me that money.”
“Okay. And I'll meet you outside Gare Du Nord at 9?” No reply. “I love you.” A mirthless laugh, and the sound of a phone hanging up. Even though I had a really bad feeling about the whole thing, I found a Post Office outside King's Cross and sent her one hundred pounds, to be on the safe side.

It was at shortly before 11pm that night, stood outside the station, when I came to regret that decision. I'd been there for well over an hour-and-a-half, freezing my balls off; everyone that passed seemed to be pointing at me; and I'd just fended off yet another wave of Romanian beggars in Nike trainers when I decided to give up and go back alone to my hotel room. The arrivals board had been blank since about 10pm. I knew, deep down, that I'd been deluding myself, and about a LOT more than just the train timetables. The only thing that could possibly save the situation was an expensive French pint, but when I reached my hand in my back-pocket, I found it empty. I'd been mugged!


Pete: Thursday 15th February 2007

Even though the sheets were brown and cigarette burned, I didn't want to get up. The world outside sounded noisy and chaotic, and I wasn't sure I could cope with it all. But the Moroccan hotel manager kept banging on the door, and shouting at me to “clear out”, so I was forced to drag myself up and, without showering, left the room in the clothes I was already wearing – the clothes I'd been wearing since yesterday.
“Many wonderful things to see in beautiful city of Paris, my friend.” The hotel manager pitched his voice somewhere between politely affable and threateningly hostile, his hand on my back, all but steering me towards the exit. The city didn't look all that beautiful from the porch. Cars screeched through the streets at frightening speeds, their horns wailing angrily; pedestrians walked shoulder to shoulder, pushing past one another; litter covered the already filthy ground; and pushy street-sellers spoke at a million-miles-an-hour, jostling for attention, and peddling their cheaply made crap upon unsuspecting tourists. Well, I certainly wasn't falling for that!
“Electro-pens. Just five Euro!” A surly looking guy in a dirty vest grabbed me by the wrist and reeled me in. What the fuck were electro pens? I wanted to ask. “Top-of-range high-quality gifts, to give to your family? Your girlfriend, no?” He'd hit my weak spot and rendered powerless. He'd located my kryptonite. Somewhat against my will, I found myself buying one of his 'electro pens' (a tacky, light-up thing with a glowing Eiffel Tower perched on top) and the sort of journal that no right-minded writer would be seen dead with... Except that I didn't have anything else to do, other than keep a diary of the things I wasn't doing, and the fun I wasn't having, so it wasn't all bad news.

I found the nearest bar, bought an eighteen Euro half of lager and began writing. Maybe this would be a turning point in my life: the legendary holiday where the legendary Pete Ross begun his legendary Doctor Who script. Inspired, I set my stupid-looking pen to work, but fifteen minutes later, all I'd done was draw an anthropomorphic clove of garlic, dancing with angry baguette in a striped jumper. I was relieved when a squat man in a tailcoat pulled up a bar stool next to mine and began talking to me in a language I didn't understand, presumably French. If only I remembered anything from lessons at high school. No, wait. I did remember something: reciting 'My Daily Routine' over and over again – constantly, pointlessly, incessantly – for FIVE years!! I understood now. All that 'talk to strangers abroad' and 'cycle round youth hostels with Pierre and Stefanie' stuff was bollocks! The whole course was geared towards us learning one minute of mindless drivel by rote, and reciting it to grade C standard. And the worst thing of all was that it obviously worked, because, whilst I couldn't say anything useful, I could remember the whole fucking routine! So why didn't I just keep my mouth shut, finish my drink and leave apologetically? WHY did I think it would help my situation to recite it all? None of it was even true anymore. I told him I was 15 years old; that I lived with my parents, in a house with eleven bedrooms, and that I had a gerbil. That had been a lie even back then. Dad always said pets were for girls and told me I wouldn't end up a company director if I was too busy poncing around with a sodding rodent. The French man put his hand on my shoulder, and shook his head, a defiant look about him. What did this mean? By the time I got to telling him about traveling to school on a yellow bus, he was shrugging wildly, a hint of frustration to his muttering. I continued, moving on to my uniform and the contents of my pencil case – had this stuff always been so mundane? – but he kept repeating a single word over and over again.
“Porquoi? Porquoi?” What could it possibly have meant? He looked agitated and I was about to back away when he saw my drawing and seemed to take offense. I was on my feet when he gave me a shove, and it was only when I stumbled backwards that I noticed he wasn't on a bar stool at all. He was in a wheelchair! Oh, god no. How could I fight back if he was disabled? I could just see the headlines: 'Brutish Brit Thug Vents Vicious Race Hate on Innocent Foreigner'. If I could just get my bag back, I could leg it. I lunged for my belongings, but he seemed to think I was making an assault, threw a leg out and kicked me.
“Please... Just leave me alone!” I whimpered, holding out the remainder of my drink to him as a peace offering. He pushed my arm away, and the contents of the glass spilled down my shirt. It was clear that I stood no chance of getting my bag back. I was just going to abandon my dignity and leave. I dashed towards the door, trying to block out the torrent of abuse and cruel laughter, and didn't stop until I was down a deserted alleyway. I'd lost my mobile phone, my lunch and yet more cash. They'd all been in the bag. On the plus side, I'd managed to salvage the notebook and pen, which I hadn't actually wanted in the first place. On the minus side, however, I was hopelessly lost.

It was late when I found my way back to the hotel. I checked every pocket of my suitcase, but it was no use. All my cash was gone. I was down to the remaining balance of my credit card, but I'd already used most of that to bail Simone out and pay off the double room where I slept alone. I felt panicked, like the dirty walls were closing in all about me. I needed some air. I hadn't managed to get the window open last night. It had been painted with emulsion so thickly that it was jammed completely shut. I wasn't going to bother trying again now. I didn't have the energy.
I left the room in a daze, not even bothering to lock up. Everything of value to me was gone anyway. What did it matter if my ultraviolet security pen and Speedstroke swimming trunks got taken? Outside, tense looking waiters stalked the pavements, trying to beckon even the poorest looking passers by into their overpriced, unpleasant looking restaurants. One woman leapt out, waving a menu intrusively into my face and I slipped over the kerbside, onto the road, where a camp looking police man shot past on a bicycle, blowing his crime whistle. What the hell was going on? I hadn't signed up for this! I ended up running down into a metro station for safety. Seeing that it wasn't staffed, I jumped over the ticket barrier and onto the first train. Tonight I'd been planning to take Simone to see the tower. I had no great desire to go on my own, but descending into the claustrophobic tunnels at fearsome speeds brought a knot to my stomach, and, seeing that Trocadero was the next stop, I ended up there anyway.
Emerging back into the icy winter air, I was a little baffled that the tower was nowhere to be seen. As soon as I rounded the corner, however, I reeled back. It was HUGE! I'd watched 'City of Death' countless times, but it looked a lot bigger than on the telly. Perhaps it was because we only had a thirty-six inch screen. Fairy lights twinkled along the side, drifting down like snowflakes, and long beams cast an eerie, sonic-screwdriver-blue glow onto the steel frame. Leading up to it, a long paved area descended down some steps, to fountains, statues and a park, where the frost on bare tree branches glittered under the moonlight. Cold and lonely as I felt, there was no denying that it was beautiful. But everywhere I looked, happy couples seemed to be strolling hand in hand, wrought with emotions and feelings I couldn't even begin to imagine, throwing their heads back and laughing at jokes I couldn't hear – jokes that were probably at my expense. I wrapped my coat tighter about my chest, my lip trembling. At first I thought it was just the cold, but then I began to sob, and it wasn't just like the sobbing me and Jeff had descended into when The Doctor said goodbye to Rose at the end of 'Doomsday'. It came from deep within. I couldn't remember ever feeling as sad as I did now. I looked at the tower, and then at myself, wondering who would miss me if I jumped. There didn't even seem much point in trying to reason with myself. I was going to do it. When I saw the lines and admission prices, however, I realised I couldn't actually afford to commit suicide. So I went for a Thai Green Curry instead, which was marginally cheaper and, even though everyone seemed to be looking over their shoulder and snickering at me, decidedly less uncomfortable. I mean, I could've KILLED myself!


Pete: Friday 16th February 2007

I miss Britain! I miss Marmite, and Doctor Who, and tea that tastes of tea, and Monty Python, and, most of all, I miss Jeff! There was another lone Englishman at the communal breakfast this morning, and I breathed a sigh of relief when he came to sit with me. Finally- intelligent conversation! He told me his name was Anthony Carmichael, and that he'd been a rap music pioneer, but it hadn't really worked out for him, so he'd gone on to work in sales.
“I was a rap music pioneer,” he said, “but it didn't really work out for me, so I went on to work in sales.” On reflection, it seems he said little else. Every time he repeated the sentence, the words came out in a slightly different order, and it always seemed to end with a little chuckle, but I couldn't work out which bit was the joke. Nevertheless, I laughed along with him heartily, in the hope that the other diners would mistake us for good friends. I'd had this horrible feeling everyone had been staring at me ever since I got here, like they knew I'd been stood up: like they could actually see the depth of my shame and embarrassment. I kept hoping me and Anthony'd have the opportunity to start reminiscing about good old Blighty together, but I never got chance to communicate my homesickness.

When I went back to my hotel room to pack my stuff up, I realised it had been broken into. They'd taken just two things: my ultraviolet security pen, and my Speedstroke swimming trunks. I was far too puzzled to even give it a second thought. One of the biggest advantages of being serially robbed is that it makes your bags considerably lighter. Plus, if I hadn't lost all my money, I only would have spent it on useful, interesting and entertaining things... And then I would have had to carry them around. I had to check out of the hotel at 10am, but my return train wasn't until 6, so I had to cart all my stuff around with me for the day. Thankfully, the entire contents of my belongings now entailed a moth-eaten scarf, a packet of Digestive biscuits and a lifetime supply of unused condoms that would probably never see the light of day. I think I knew who was winning...

Unfortunately, my good mood didn't last. It wasn't long before I found myself stood in the middle of a dual-carriageway, too scared, or at least too numb, to move. Every time I thought I'd got my head round the left-hand drive thing, the polarity of the neutron flow seemed to reverse, and a fresh onslaught of cars would hit warp speed in my direction, as soon as my toe touched the tarmac. It was an inauspicious start to a nefarious day, in which – for a brief period - I descended into the ranks of Jack-the-Ripper-esque villainy. Loneliness can do strange things to a man, and I wasn't proud of that day's crime spree, but I hold Simone entirely responsible. It all started when a woman with a pram pulled up next to me at the crossing. On top of her pushchair was a yellow cassette Walkman. I didn't mean to steal it. It's just that I hadn't seen one since 1993, and I wanted to take a look. The next thing I knew, I'd jumped a bus and was sat at the back, humming along to Paul McCartney's 'Live and Let Die' and kicking the seats as percussion. I was thrown off somewhere round the Arc de Triumph, stumbled directly into the nearest supermarket and stole two bottles of red wine by concealing them under my jumper and pretending they were just ordinary breasts: the kind you'd see on any ordinary woman. Classic.

I don't know why, but the more I drank, the more lonely I felt, the more angry I became and the more I wanted to drown Simone in a vat of warm peanut butter (she hated the stuff – it was what had brought us together in the first place, and now the cruel irony would be all mine!) I spied a record and DVD shop in the distance, and knew that it was the only place that could give me any solace, so I dashed towards it, all the blood rushing to my head, in the same way it had done when Colin Baker had unexpectedly regenerated, causing me to have a miniature fit. Out of nowhere, a Polish woman sprang at me, immediately trying to extort money out of me by waving around a photograph of a black child dressed in Pirate gear.
“The poor child.” She said, in her weird accent. “He embarrassed, because he have to dress in Pirate gear. Gimme some cash, and I buy him real clothes... I make him a man, like his mother. No?” She followed me, reeling off this sort of crap, for some time, but I was preoccupied. I'd just remembered pinching a handful of complimentary sweets from the hotel reception as revenge against the pushy Moroccan owner, and the sugar rush had hit. I escaped from the Polish woman and into the record shop, going into such a frenzy that I blacked out.

When I came round, I was slumped by the river, a CD named 'The Best of the Spice Girls – sung in French!' tucked just inside my coat, and a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the singer from Tears For Fears standing over me, his mad hair stood accusingly on end. Where'd he come from? I didn't even like Tears For Fears or the Spice Girls! I felt terrible, but any negative thoughts were swept away by the elated feeling of knowing I'd soon be going home, to tea and toast, and to the end this horrifying ordeal. That was, until I checked my watch.
“Oh god, no.” It was twenty-past-six. My train home was due to leave at any moment, and I was nowhere near the station. The floodgates opened and I broke down there and then. If I couldn't get home, back to our lovely flat, back to daytime television, back to junk food, back to Blackpool and back to Jeff then I really did have nothing left worth living for. Simone was gone, all my most treasured possessions were gone, and I was stranded in fucking France! I stood up and walked to the water's edge, staring down into the dirty, slimy depths, teetering precariously on the brink. The water was so black, you couldn't even see the reflection of the city. The pollution alone could swallow me whole. I took off my jacket and unbuttoned my shirt, the cold hitting me instantly and making me feel sick. Then I picked up my chemist carrier bag from the bottom corners and let its contents tip into the Seine. Before long, condoms of every different shape and size were bobbing up and down along the water. What with this being France, people would probably be diving in to retrieve them before long, but the only way they'd ever be any use to me was if I decided to make an army of 'Green Death' maggots. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a police man running towards me, shouting at the top of his voice, but I knew he wouldn't make it in time. I put one foot out. Was I really going to do it? Could I? Really? I shifted my weight, but then a thought prevented me from going all the way, and, before I knew it, the policeman had seized me, pulling me back onto the hard stone floor.
“Sir. What were you doing?” How did he know to speak to me in English. Perhaps it was my overwhelming air of erudite sophistication, or perhaps it was the fact that I was overweight, carrying an ungainly amount of luggage and wearing a silly hat and Tom Baker scarf over a stretched Blackpool FC shirt. Either way, I didn't care. God – or Patrick Stewart – had intervened, and I wasn't going to die today. This policeman had saved me, and that meant somebody did give a fuck about me... even if it was just his job to give a fuck when people were about top themselves. But then he said “Ze River Seine iz a public heritage spot. How could you litter it with your zex aids and fat English body?”
“I was planning to commit suicide by drowning myself,” I said frankly, “but then I remembered that I didn't have any swimming trunks.” The policeman shook his head and put me in handcuffs. All things considered, it wasn't the worst thing that could have happened.

I was racked with terror as he drove me to the station. I'd seen what they did to criminals on The Bill. But then I remembered that this was France, and that the police force solved crime at a leisurely pace, stopping for a morale boosting sing-song if need be. When we arrived, the sergeant was playing cards with one of the criminals in a cell. They were laughing heartily, drinking from a tankard of wine between each move, and the room was filled with acrid smoke.
“What did he do?” I asked.
“He stole a cake from the patisserie... a LARGE cake.” He said threateningly. I was thrown into a cell with a man who'd 'nearly made things difficult' for another busker by playing his accordion too loudly, and a man who'd got a bit tipsy and ridden his bicycle down the central aisle of a church. We spent the evening singing woozily, even though none of us seemed to speak the same language, until someone came for me.
“Where are we going?” I asked warily.
“To the airport.” They were the worst possible words I wanted to hear. I'd been terrified of flying since the age of seven. I couldn't fly. I was aeroplaneaphobic. I felt sick and panicky, like I wanted to jump out of my own skin. Something in me tried to do just that, but it only made my head hurt more, like a pressure building up so badly I thought I might explode, or scream. But, in actual fact, I found I couldn't say anything. “We searched your bags, and saw that you'd missed your train. Think of this as us being merciful, if you like, after all the trouble you've caused for us.”
“I didn't mean to... honest! My girlfriend left me, and I went a bit mad, and I may have stolen some stuff, and I may have beaten up a cripple... but I didn't mean to. Really I didn't. Please don't make me get on the plane. Please.” I wailed.
“If you refuse to cooperate, we will have to sedate you.”
“Plllleeeeaaasssseeeee!” I was in tears. The policeman took out a syringe, which appeared to be full of red wine, and plunged it into my arm. I started to feel tipsy instantly.
“I'm afraid you leave me no choice. You are being deported, and if you ever return to our country I must inform you that we've taken serious measures to prevent your embassy bailing you out again. I hope you realise the severity of your crimes.” My head was swimming, until he said. “Is that clear, Mr. Carmichael?”
“You can't make me get... WHAT?” I stopped dead. “But my name's not...” And then I blacked out.


Pete: Saturday 17th February 2007

I didn't know what time it was when I found myself in the passenger lounge at Manchester Airport. I felt so weary and nauseous. What had been in that lethal French concoction? I lurched to my feet and had to steady myself on the headrest to stop a sudden fall. A group of teenagers with big hair and fluorescent, cartoon-strip hoodies, who sat opposite, seemed to find this hilarious. They were drinking a similar looking concoction to the stuff Simone always had lying around. I could see from the bottle label that it was called 'Nuclear Waste', the graffiti style caption underneath reading 'survive the fall-out from this holocaust, dude!' When had the world become so horrible? Why weren't people nice to each other anymore? Why had everyone stopped treating each other with courtesy and respect? And WHY THE FUCK was everyone pointing at me??!

Obviously, I couldn't afford the train fare back from Manchester, so I spent the entire journey hiding in the onboard lavatory. Despite the overflowing, tissue-clogged sink and faint musty odor, I found the privacy of an enclosed, windowless space strangely comforting and was reluctant to leave. Of course, when I did, I had to walk the rest of the way, through the windy streets; past the pub advertising 'one-weekend-only classy and professional Las Vegas weddings'; left at the 'Sunny Horizons Dating Service' (with a missing apostrophe); and straight on past the karaoke bar, where a colossal woman wailed her way through 'Stand By Your Man'.

When I got home, it took a good degree of fumbling to get the key to turn. Just as I was about to walk in, a thuggish looking kid on a tiny bike drew to a halt outside our gate, pointed at me and let out a single hollow laugh. It was all I could do not to hurl a rock at the little bastard. Up in the flat, I drew all the curtains, and, as soon as I knew no one was looking, burst into floods of unstoppable tears. Simone had broken me.


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