Simon’s the wrong man in the wrong place; trying to teach English to kids who couldn’t care less, he’d really rather be a writer – but it’s only when his best friend bullies him into it that he takes the plunge and joins his local creative writing group. Even then things don’t quite work out the way he planned; blundering into the wrong room at the Village Hall he encounters a group of recovering cocaine addicts and he wants to know more … which is the start, for Simon, of a double life and a whole new secret identity, not to mention an intriguing relationship …
62000 words/228 pages
Publication 1 August 2015
“I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Liam Livings!”
Review by Jenn at The Geekery Book Review 28 October 2016
“The whole book is so well described […] you can smell the stews and plum crumble … “
Review by Sue at Books Laid Bare Boys 27 October 2016
” …the reading experience was enjoyable.”
Review by Jenna at Love Bytes 19 August 2015
“Darren’s character was unique and I enjoyed learning more about him …”
Review by Devan Huff at Nautical Star Books 6 August 2015
‘We start by telling the group what brought us here, and how we’re finding life, without using. You alright to talk about that, err, what’s your name? I’m Jay, I’m the group’s leader. One of the perks of being sober for three years, never would’ve thought it when I first came, but here I am now.’ He shook my hand. A firm, manly shake.
Shit, I hadn’t thought about this. Should I use my real name, or make one up? Could I be Daniel, in homage to the autobiography, or would that get really complicated, along with remembering all the other stuff. Nope, best stick with Simon. Keep it simple. ‘Simon.’ I smiled and walked to get myself a coffee.
Jay clapped his hands, and everyone sat around the circle, cupping their hands around their mugs. I felt cold and wished I’d kept my hoodie on. Looking around the room, most of the other men had done as I’d done: their heavily tattooed arms bulged as they folded them across their chests. One of them was leaning back in the chair, his arms above his head, revealing both a belly button and what looked like a nice pair of abs, and some armpit hair too. I felt myself begin to stir in my underpants. This was exactly the sort of guys I used to go for back in the Vauxhall clubbing days. I’d discovered a whole sportswear scene back then: clubs which had strict dress codes of trainers, tracksuits and sportswear. If you turned up in jeans and a nice shirt, they didn’t let you in. I knew this from experience, trudging all the way back from Vauxhall to the end of the Central Line in Essex, over an hour on the Tube just because I had the wrong clothes on and refused to parade around in my underpants all night instead.
As expected, we went around the room, each man telling the others a bit about themselves, what had brought them to the group, some shared their worst time, their rock bottom moment, as it was described. Others just shared their names and that they wanted to learn to live without cocaine, to get back to a normal family life.
I was surprised by how friendly and open they all were, but when I thought about it, I realised that was exactly the point of groups like this. The language was all about recovery from the addiction, which was described as a ‘persisting, chronic illness’ rather than something people could just stop doing at will.
It was a space where you could tell people your worst moment, and they wouldn’t judge you, they’d support you not to repeat it again. Over half the men had lost access to their children, or been thrown out or split up from their girlfriends or wives. One man told us how his wife had asked him to pick their daughters from school as she was working, but he’d spent the afternoon at home, sniffing coke, watching daytime TV. She got a phone call from the school asking her who was picking her daughters up. When she rang the husband, he was so high he couldn’t have a conversation with her, never mind drive to the school, so she had to pick the girls up herself. ‘Then she threw me out, see.’ He said, wiping his eye and sniffing.
‘Bit harsh, I reckon.’ Another man said, leaning across to pat his back.
‘It weren’t the first time though. She’d done it before a couple of times before, see. Said this was me last chance. And I knew I could do it, I knew I’d be there at the school gates, sober and good, until I got that call.’ He looked up and the others nodded together. ‘This mate called, said he’d just got some really good stuff, did I want to have a go, his treat.’ He looked up, his eyes filling with tears again. ‘What could I say? Can’t say no to that can you?’
Jay stood and started clapping. ‘Thank you for sharing. Anyone else who wants to share.’ The others clapped along with Jay as he walked over to the man and patted his shoulders. ‘Simon?’
During the man’s speech, I had drifted off slightly – and I’m ashamed to admit this given what his story had been about – and I’d noticed a man on the other side of the circle of chairs. He had a black Adidas tracksuit with red stripes, white trainers, a black hoodie and a grey scarf pulled up around his face. The tracksuit looked new, but not modern. It wasn’t like the others in the room, it had a certain, retroness about it. It was vintage. He sat with his legs apart and the trousers had ridden up slightly revealing dark hairy legs. I strained to see if I could see the outline of anything interesting in his tracksuit bottoms, but between my distance from him, and the position of his legs , there was sadly nothing, no little lumps or bumps or clues to what was underneath the man-made fibres. There was something about his look, which was more than just sportswear, it had a retro, curated, deliberate feel about it. Then I noticed his lips. He had blowjob lips. Unmistakeably they were blowjob lips. I’d seen lips like that before on the guys I’d picked up – or been picked up by, depending on your views – down in Vauxhall. He caught my eye as he looked up from my feet, lingered on my groin then to my eyes. Bingo!