[Album Review] “Cast in Steel” – a-ha

Cast in Steel

Band: a-ha

Album title: Cast in Steel

Year: 2015

Track Listing: 1. Cast in Steel; 2. Under the Makeup; 3. The Wake; 4. Forest Fire; 5. Objects in the Mirror; 6. Door Ajar; 7. Living at the End of the World; 8. Mythomania; 9. She’s Humming a Tune; 10. Shadow Endeavors; 11. Giving Up the Ghost; 12. Goodbye Thompson

Running Time: 42m 54s

Perhaps when Magne Furuholmen dropped his now-risible comment that “a reunion of ABBA is more likely than us getting back together” in 2009 he was merely setting up the hook for a-ha’s post-comeback interviews. At the end of their last run, they seemed to be a melting pot of barely-suppressed conflict and the 2010 farewell tour was the perfect vehicle for them to close the chapter and move on. In fact, I wrote as much here.

But an offer to reunite at Rock in Rio 2015 (they headlined the show in 1991 and set a world record for the largest paying audience of 198,000), kick-started a series of conversations and contract signings that led to a new album and a two year commitment to touring.

Guitarist, and primary songwriter, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy justified the return: “If there is more to say, why wouldn’t we say it”. And maybe a-ha are subconsciously searching for that perfect footnote, a review without mention of “Take On Me” or reference to cheekbones and posters on bedroom walls.

Well, you can’t change the past, but “Cast in Steel” is another mature, contemporary recording from the veterans.

The lush title track (think “Stay on These Roads” meets “Nothing is Keeping You Here”) portrays the power of love and friendship through simple lyrics: (“I’ll never get over what we said/It lingers in my head…To be right, to be real/Set in stone and cast in steel”).  It’s affective and sincere and would probably be a hit single for any of a-ha’s younger peers.

Lead single “Under the Makeup” is even better.  Dramatic strings, a sweeping melody, soaring vocals and evocative lyrics (“Meanwhile our hearts turn to stone/Shaped by wind/Boulders slowly molded over time/Here within”).

But don’t be fooled in to thinking that this album is going to be all about earnest acoustics and moving balladry.

Mid-tempo pop-rock number “The Wake” sees Harket stretch the register while Waaktaar-Savoy’s economic chords add colour to the melodic string and synth arrangement: (“Baby, this is a wake/You and I will not escape as time goes by/The world’s never been older/Your head on my shoulder/So close your eyes”).

Magne’s brooding “Mythomania” might be the most interesting track, a standout with its Depeche Mode-like synth, beat and dark lyrics – “Cold crescent moon on a red cross/It’s happening soon, it’s coming for us” – bridged by a memorable military-style percussion, piano and synth hook.

Furuholmen is also responsible for “Giving Up the Ghost“, another atmospheric number in the same vein with stark strings, beats, guitar chords, troubling lyrics and interesting musical bridges: (“Frozen lake, soon will flow/Frozen ground, soon to follow/But hey, everything is in your head/What you killed was never dead”). A real triumph.

The oddly hypnotic “Door Ajar” injects some mystique with its muted guitar riffs and unusual structure, and the brilliant “She’s Humming a Tune” with its hazy, layered synth lines and eerie lone guitar intro and outro, sounds like a “Scoundrel Days” companion piece.

Objects in the Mirror” is a decent re-work of 2009’s “What There Is” and the Morten Harket-penned “Living at the End of the World” is an endearing and polished ballad that Diane Warren would be proud of.

The relentless 80’s throwback “Forest Fire” is deceptively catchy, while the curious “Shadow Endeavors” (which seems to be two songs fused together) has strong elements, but is ultimately let down by the chorus.

Slow-burning album closer “Goodbye Thompson” has a soothing, almost psychedelic groove -something that could have fit right in on 2005’s “Analogue” – and it’s another winner.

“Cast in Steel” is something of an oddity in their recent career. Typically an a-ha album is for a-ha fans but this sounds like a recording that could convert a casual observer who gives it a chance.  The songwriting is consistently strong (each of the band members contributed quality songs), the production is excellent (and frequently interesting) and, for an album that plucks influence from all over the map, it’s all remarkably coherent.

In fact this is arguably their best album in over 20 years.



The greatest celebrities I’ve ever met

Celebrity has been with us for about 30 years now and it’s gone from strength to strength. From the very first famous person, helicopter pilot Jan-Michael Vincent, to bleached female cyborg Yazz, through the glory days of diminutive real-life wizard Harold Potter, celebrity has brought us many minutes of enjoyment.

There’s nothing more exciting than meeting a celebrity. I mean it’s way better than getting married, or becoming a parent, or running a marathon, or successfully pulling off a bank heist. It’s simply great.

And in my four decades plus, I have met my fair share of celebrities.

Now I’m not talking about planned engagements like my sit-down interviews with Irish laugh manufacturer Ed Byrne or the sadly-deceased former Minister Seamus Brennan. And I’m not talking about my incidental brush on a staircase with INXS or a casual “hello” on Dame Street with satirical comedian Hugh Dennis.

I’m talking about unexpected meetings with celebrity, rendezvous that were not foreseen and therefore left me little time to plan my palaver in advance.

So what is a “famous” person?

Famous people are defined as “someone what’s been on the TV or the radio or in the newspaper but not for reasons of murder or stealing or advertising of the Subway Diet”.

So without further ado, here are my top five unexpected brushes with celebrity.


When? 1986Maurice Pratt

Who was it!? Maurice Pratt

Who? The most famous marketing director of 1980s supermarket chain, Quinnsworth.

How’d you meet him? They wheeled him in to our school to do presentations on sports day. He presented me with tennis medals I’d won earlier on in my career (1984 and 1985).

What do you remember? I still remember his marketing director-like professionalism as he shook my hand. I was, of course, blown away by meeting a celebrity like him at such a young age. He offered me a sweet deal on those fat pens with four different coloured inks too.


When? 1993Justin Edinburgh

Who was it!? Justin Edinburgh

Who? Tottenham’s floppy-haired full back from yesteryear.

How’d you meet him? I was sitting in the crowd at a Tottenham pre-season friendly in Drogheda and he was in the row ahead of me.

What do you remember? I reached over and in my most polite voice asked him to sign my program. He did so while chewing gum in a manner than only cocky Grange Hill characters used to be able to. So Justin can write and chew gum at the same time. I lost the program but I remember his signature being quite dramatic and among the most impressive I’d witnessed at that time.

Here’s Justin getting sent off in a cup final for bitch-slapping a girl.


When? 2002Richie Moran

Who was it!? Richie Moran

Who? Former footballer who played fleetingly for third division Birmingham City in 1990.

How’d you meet him? Through mutual friends in an English bar in Christchurch, New Zealand.

What do you remember? Having a great booze up with him. Well, until he shoved a short Scottish guy off a tall stool for addressing him as “boy”. Given Richie’s documented recounting of the racism he encountered as a player, perhaps it’s understandable why he took this Scottish colloquialism the wrong way. Richie regaled us with tales about Lou Macari and John Barnes and it was a lot of fun.  He subsequently wrote a book about his travels but I did not read it so I don’t know if he mentioned me. Probably not.


When? 2008John Morrison

Who was it!? The Miz and John Morrison

Who? Only one of the hottest acts of the day in WWE sports entertainment.

How’d you meet them? Well I had to hang out drinking with the WWE head of security for six hours in a Stuttgart hotel bar.

What do you remember? Morrison and The Miz strutted in to the hotel lobby at about 4am, excitedly rambling on and on to their security guy, before Morrison stops mid sentence, points at me and says “Wait. Who the fuck are you?”. He then proceeded to offer me a signed photo before the pair made their way to the elevators to pack for their 6am flight.


When? 2008Whitford Kramer

Who was it!? Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer

Who? Two thirds of the under-appreciated part of Aerosmith.

How’d you meet them? A friend in the know brought us to the London hotel where the band were staying ahead of their 2008 Hyde Park gig.

What do you remember? We met the rock veterans at the top of a staircase. Brad was very nice, chatting to our friends young daughter and making her day/year/decade. I tried to engage Joey in a cute story about how they were playing a few miles from my Dublin home next week but even though I could hear them from my bedroom I still bought a ticket. He looked at me stony faced and refused to shake my outstretched hand.

Since all celebrities are brilliant, my assumption is that this was not actually the real Joey.

JaredBut I’m only 41.  So I probably have another 10, 20, 30, 7 years left. Who knows?

I have plenty of time to meet more celebrities. If you are famous and would like to go for a pint, let me know. Not you, Jared.

This is Charlie: The Rescue

This is Charlie

Charlie has had something of a vagabond lifestyle. I don’t knowCharlie in Car how it started for him but, about a year ago, someone rescued him from an Orlando pound and put him on Craigslist in a bid to find a home for him. A friend of mine adopted him but when he moved to a dog-free dormitory in August, Charlie was once again in need of somewhere to live.

I met the dog – a Pitador – about six months earlier when visiting Orlando and fell in love with him. Sure, most dogs are friendly (ok, not this one) but there was a charming effervescence about Charlie. When I heard he was once again in need, I felt compelled to help him find a home.

Operation Charlie

Since my friend had already moved, I arranged to put the dog in boarding in a clinic in Casselberry, Florida, while I investigated possible rescues.

It was difficult working remotely from Illinois, but I reached out to three places in the Orlando area. The first one was Orlando Bully Rescue, who say they will respond to an email within 72 hours. But they didn’t – no reply at all. The second one was Sniffing Snouts who provided a number that went to voicemail. My voicemail went unanswered. The third place I approached was Ruff World Animal Rescue. I sent an email and a photo and underlined how critical the situation had become for this dog. But, once again, my email was not responded to.Charlie floor

Charlie was running out of time. As a pitbull mix, and a black one at that, the numbers weren’t in his favour. If he went to a pound then eternal rest was more likely than him finding a home. Read this for some insight. Here’s a quote about what really happens in shelters:

“If your dog is big, black or any of the “bully” breeds (pit bull, rottweiler, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.”

Sadly, that was Charlie’s future.

The boarding kennel – Animal Clinic of Casselberry – were supportive and allowed Charlie to stay for two weeks but said there was a limit on how long they could keep him.  They were all very fond of him, describing him as sweet and friendly. This made things all the more difficult for me. Nice Charlie

So given the lack of response from rescues, I agonized over what to do.

At the eleventh hour, I made my decision – I booked one-way flights and a rental car and headed down to Orlando on Friday 29th August to extract the target (Charlie) from enemy territory (euthanasia).

When we arrived at the clinic in Casselberry, Charlie was happy to see us, blissfully unaware that we were his guardian angels, or whatever you’d like to call it.  Having got reacquainted, we headed off to our hotel before embarking on our 1200 mile journey home the next day.

Why did we have to drive? Airlines have strict rules about having what many term as “bully” dogs in cargo.  A dog like Charlie requires a specially-reinforced $500-600 crate in order to get him on the plane. So we had no choice but to drive cross-country with him. Luckily he was a great passenger, comfortable in most positions in the car including, oddly, straddling the console between the front seats with his paws and head while standing in the back and resting his ass against the back seat. For hours.

One more thingCharlie Three

So after almost 24 hours in the car, we arrived back in Illinois. I felt kind of zoned out, not just because of the tiredness but also in a “what just happened?” kind of way.

And you’d think that would be enough activity for one day but, having not thought far enough ahead, we discovered that there was nowhere really appropriate for Charlie to sleep on his first night in Illinois. So we put him in the bathroom, determined to put up with his whining for 10 or 15 minutes until such time that he got tired and fell asleep.

Within a few minutes I heard a sloshing sound, followed by what sounded like the toilet seat slamming down. It seems Charlie was both curious and thirsty.

First thought was “did I flush?” Second thought was, “this can’t continue”.

To keep the peace, I spent what was left of that night (admittedly, not long) sleeping on the bathroom floor with him. When I lay down on his blanket, the toilet drinking and the whining stopped. Charlie just seemed so content to be where he was. I’d not slept on a bathroom floor since I was about 24 and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t mine.

Help! Rescue me! And other songs…

I didn’t particularly want a dog. I just didn’t want Charlie to be put to sleep. I didn’t think it was fair.

It was disappointing that the rescues Charlie hatdidn’t even respond with a PFO when I reached out to them.  I understand they are busy, perhaps inundated. But they are the ones with the knowledge and experience. If they can’t help directly, perhaps they can share information that would have given Charlie a second chance that he, at that point, did not have.

If I add up the cost of flights, rental car, petrol, hotel, kennel boarding and services and, since then, the cost of a cage, food, neutering, skin treatment, flea tablet, well, it’s a lot of money. And it’s money that I would have donated a large portion of, had a rescue communicated with me and offered help.

Maybe I’m just a foster home for Charlie right now, but it has bought him time that he didn’t have in Orlando. The Humane Society estimate that about 2.7 million animals are put down every year in the US. Now pets aren’t for everyone but it’s kind of tragic that these creatures who will generally give you unconditional love are put through this. Woof.

Charlie pose

[Movie Review] 13 Sins

13 Sins

Starring: Mark Webber, Rutina Wesley, Tom Bower, Devon Graye, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Ron Perlman, Richard Burgi

Director: Daniel Stamm

Genre: Horror

Cert: 15

Released: 2014


Opening with a scene where a respected elderly professor seems to lose his marbles by reciting crude limericks in front of a well-to-do audience before chopping a woman’s finger off when she tries to assist him, “13 Sins” is about seeing unlikely people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Enter Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber – “Snow Day”, “Weapons”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). He is a nice guy. Real nice. And he’s got a lot going on.

Elliot’s all like “What the hell?”

Creditors are filling up his voicemail, his bigoted old man (Tom Bower) is getting evicted and he’s just about to get married to his pregnant girlfriend, Shelby (Rutina Wesley – TV’s “True Blood”).

So it’s a bad time for him to lose his job – and the health insurance that ensures his mentally disabled brother Michael (Devon Graye – TV’s “Dexter”) is looked after – after his acerbic boss (Richard Burgi) runs him down as too pure and honest to be a good salesman.

Later that night he receives a call while at a stop light where a man tells him (in one of those over-egged 1980s gameshow voices) that he’s been selected to be part of a new game that can win him mucho wealth. He tells Elliot that swatting the fly buzzing around his car will net him $1000. Elliot complies and then complies with a second challenge of swallowing the fly which earns him even more. He checks his bank account and finds the money has been deposited.

So far, so good.

Even though Elliot is, presumably, uncomfortable with the fact that this person seems to have the ability to see him at all times, he still agrees to partake in the rest of the game. There are eleven more challenges with increasing rewards and all must be completed or he will lose everything he has won up to that point.

Of course the challenges become more difficult and nice guy Elliot soon finds himself the focus of Detective Chilcoat (Joy! Ron Perlman!! – TV’s “Beauty and the Beast”, “Hellboy”) as his actions become crimes and accumulate in number and severity.

Great moments derived from seeing Ron Perlman and Pruitt Taylor Vince together

A remake of Thai horror “13 Beloved”, writer and director Daniel Stamm doesn’t hang around. The story is swift and hard-hitting with enough gore to keep genre fans happy. It’s not “Saw”-level, but that’s to its credit I have to say. The connection to “Saw” is appropriate as “13 Sins” is also a film where a person is ultimately cajoled in to doing unthinkable things just to survive.

Elliot’s conversion from gutless nobody to a guy who gets a thrill from outwitting the cops and driving through red lights is a little ham-fisted. But “13 Sins” avoids collapsing on itself with enough twists and turns to stay interesting and genuinely surprising.

Webber is the main character and does a good job in portraying an everyday man who becomes capable and paranoid enough to do what he sees as necessary.

A little uneven in parts but a strong final act makes “13 Sins” a genre hit.

John Legere: He’s uncarrier but is he uncaring?

In just seventeen months as T-Mobile CEO, John Legere has seen his “Uncarrier” strategy add 4.4 million subscribers.

Uncarrier is an awkward name for a carrier who does not behave like one.  So if you’re on T-Mobile, you won’t have a contract, you’ll have cheaper bills because there are no more built-in phone subsidies, upgrades are less restrictive and more affordable, they’ll unlock your phone with less hassle, and you’ll even get (quite slow) unlimited global roaming.  And if you’re not on T-Mo, then John will pay you to switch from another carrier.

It all sounds wonderful and I suppose it is. Before Legere, we were politely treated like schmucks by everybody.  Once T-Mo started giving customers more freedom, the other carriers reluctantly joined in.

But that’s well documented. And it’s not hard to document it because Mr Legere is an extremely active tweeter, frequently calling out his peer at AT&T Randall Stephenson and pulling off a PR masterstroke by getting thrown out of an AT&T party, gaining national headlines in the process. Legere loves to re-tweet T-Mobile love-ins from customers and admirers, as well as re-tweet his own employees who have been encouraged to take in-store photographs with happy customers who have dropped their wireless carrier to join the Magenta Revolution.

But like any good marketeer, Legere will deflect the not-so-good things.  For example, he was noticeably quiet last week about announced changes to the early-upgrade program, Jump!. He’s usually all over Twitter, kicking metaphorical sand in the faces of his lame competitors. But John knows it’s not as good a deal as it was so he knows when to keep schtum. You also won’t see him go head-to-head with the elephant in the room.

John hasn’t made friends with everybody though. T-Mobile have been doing their best to rid themselves of Blackberry for a while. It’s probably no surprise since interest in their phones have been waning for years now. But while other carriers still give their customers the choice of trying out and buying a Blackberry phone in-store if they wish, T-Mobile have taken deliberate steps to sideline the company’s product.

Speaking as someone who flips phones twice a year, I tend to jump (pun probably intended) between Android and Blackberry every year.  Over the last two and a half years I’ve gone from the first Galaxy Note to the Blackberry Bold 9900 to the Galaxy S3 to the Blackberry Z10 and to the Galaxy Note 3. I’ve even used Apple and Windows Phone. I’m fairly agnostic.

Since I’m on the Jump program – perfect for someone like me – I was all set to pick up the Blackberry Z30 T-Mo Upgradeas my next phone in April.  The problem?  T-Mobile don’t carry it. And they won’t carry it. The demand for the phone has led to a petition and a campaign directly addressed to John Legere.

But T-Mo even went further than sidelining and ignoring their Blackberry users – they started trolling them.

Now you can call Blackberry users sensitive if you like. But the bottom line is that these are Legere’s customers, they pay money for their phones and their service and they are all still waiting for T-Mo to issue a software update that even Verizon began rolling out. 

Legere’s response?  Well, promising actually.

But what did it amount to? Nothing. A wishy-washy, say-nothing cop-out that patronized Blackberry users by telling them they did not have to give up their devices. Bless them.

Legere is absolutely entitled to say we won’t sell any more Blackberry phones. But the problem is, he won’t say it. He won’t explain where the 10.2.1 update is, why he can’t find shelf space for Blackberry and he won’t clearly state “we will not carry the Z30 – please go to Verizon if you want it”.

People like Legere are a breath of fresh air but it doesn’t take much for someone who is so “out there” to fall out of favour.  The changes to Jump, this ridiculous press release and his alienating of a small but enthusiastic paying user base, may suggest that the honeymoon period is coming to a close.  For Legere perhaps he feels he is near the end anyway if Sprint end up buying T-Mo. I think that would be job done.

The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one): Part 7

Part 1 – I’ve Been Losing You / Part 2 – The Blood That Moves the Body / Part 3 – The Sun Never Shone That Day / Part 4 – Sycamore Leaves / Part 5 – Shapes That Go Together / Part 6 – Lie Down in Darkness


“Can I have four pints plea…” Morten Harket started to ask the barman.
“A pint of what?”

Morten surveyed the change in the palm of his hand. “Actually make that two pints and two glasses of beer please.”Image

Morten returned to the table where his wife and two friends, Vicki and Larry Nail, were seated. He handed the pints to Vicki and Larry.
“I haven’t been to a karaoke night in about 10 years,” Vicki giggled. “Do you remember the last time we were at karaoke, Lar? Remember?” She nudged her husband in the ribs.
“No! What happened?” he asked, rubbing his torso.
“Remember after…?” She winked knowingly at him and rolled her tongue appealingly.
“I’ve never been to karaoke with you,” he said, looking blankly.
“Oh. Um, well, that might have been someone else…”

“Eh, so,” Mrs Harket interrupted right on cue, “what do you think you’re going to do tonight?”
“I fancy doing a bit of Whitesnake,” Vicki laughed. “If you know what I mean.” She winked and clucked at Mrs Harket.
“You like Whitesnake?” Morten asked, looking slightly bemused.
“I think she’s being suggestive,” Larry said, diverting his eyes downwards.


“Oh, right!” Morten exclaimed. “Right! Snake! Yes…ummm…What about you Larry?”
“I fancy doing the Spice Girls.”
“I bet you do,” Vicki giggled, nudging him in the sensitive rib area again. “One at a time!”
“No, I mean I’d like to do ‘Viva Forever’. It’s a timeless ballad about love and hope.”

“Now you haven’t put my name forward, right?” Morten asked.
“Uh, no!” Vicki said, nudging her husband in the ribs again.
“Will you stop!?”

“Ok, ladies and gentlemen,” the MC announced from the stage, “it’s time to get our first performer up!”

The 40 or so people in the pub gave a half-hearted reception preferring in the early hours of the night to drink as fast as they could.

“Our first name is … Martin Hairnet!”

Morten sat unmoved.

“Martin Hairnet!”

He turned slowly to the MC. “God, no.”
“Is that you Martin?”
“Uh, not quite…”
“Get up here! Come on folks! Big cheer for Martin Hairnet!”

A handful of the gathered drinkers put their hands together slowly as Martin, um, Morten made his way on to the stage.

“It’s Morten,” he muttered to the MC.
“Sorry, Morten Hairnet!”
“No, Morten Harket.”
“Sorry, Morten Hark…” He looked curiously at Morten.
“Morten Harket?” You’re not Morten Harket!”
“Well I get what you’re saying and you’re right. But at the same time you’re wrong because I am. I’m just not that one.”

The MC nodded slowly before swinging around to face the expanding crowd.
“Do you want to hear Morten Harket sing one of his own songs?”
“No!” Morten shouted, seemingly at the wall.
“Would you like to hear Morten Harket’s beautiful Greek dulcet tones!?”
“They’re Norwegian! Although I’m not Norwegian! They are! Although I’m not him!”
Mrs Harket put her head in her hands as Vicki nudged Larry in the ribs.

“Alright, here’s one for you guys.” The MC whispered to the DJ and a few seconds later “Analogue” by a-ha blasted out over the speakers.

“Come back my darling one,” Morten sung awkwardly, “I’m calling on you.”

“He hasn’t got a note in his head,” Vicki observed.
“At least he has a brain,” muttered Mrs Harket under her breath, thinking that she’d love to throw her glass of beer over Vicki if she weren’t so broke.

“All that I need is the time to show you how I feeeeeeel,” Morten screeched, sending several revellers to the bathroom.

“Ok, ok, stop,” the MC cut across as the music faded out.
“What?” Morten asked.
“You’re awful!”
“It’s karaoke! I’m not Elton John.”
“No, you’re Morten Harket.”
“I’m not, well, I am. But I’m not him.”

“Look,” the MC said, “‘Analogue’ was a terrific modern chart single. I mean a-ha came from nowhere to record their first top 10 hit in 18 years and you’ve just murdered it.”
“It’s still alive.”
“Just about. I mean I’d happily give that song 9/10, that’s how good it is. While the chorus may not be as strong as the verse and bridge, the middle instrumental or powerful closing bars, the song still gets inside your head. The only thing about that performance that gets inside my head is a noise!”
“What is this?” Morten asked. “An audition?”

“You probably don’t even know the original version of the song, ‘Minor Key Sonata’. That was due to be a single before Max Martin was brought in to co-write the new version you’ve just butchered. That song had it’s moments but was just not as catchy. The mid-section was furiously cute but overall it comes up a few notches short at 7/10.”

“I’ll get my coat,” Morten said as he did the walk of shame off to stage to virtual silence.
“Yeah, and don’t come back you butchering monster! Morten Harket, my arse!”

Vicki nudged Larry in the ribs again.

Morten turned the key in his front door where he wasn’t met by his expectant wife as she was already with him. He closed it behind them.

“I guess that’s the a-ha curse in action,” she said with a grimace.

“Yes,” he replied, tightening the hinge on the battered front door to ensure it at least stayed up another night.

“Never mind, darling,” she said, embracing him. “Maybe we’ll be able to get singing lessons for you so you won’t stink out the place next time.”

He looked at her. “All I want you to know is that I love you,” he said, smiling.

She smiled back, winked, walked halfway up the stairs before turning back to Morten in the hall.

“Come on! It’s ‘adult time’!”
“Oh, sorry!” he said, scurrying up the stairs behind her.

The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one): Part 6

Part 1 – I’ve Been Losing You / Part 2 – The Blood That Moves the Body / Part 3 – The Sun Never Shone That Day / Part 4 – Sycamore Leaves / Part 5 – Shapes That Go Together

Lie Down In DarknessImage

“I’m tired,” grumbled Morten Harket as his wife shook him gently.
“Come on, dear,” she said lovingly. “It’s not like adult time lasted that long last night?”
“I know. But I had two Babychams. Maybe three.”

He sat up in the bed and rubbed his eyes, his chest fur curling in the nippy early morning air. “Why am I getting up?”
“You can’t lie down in darkness all morning,” she said sternly. “And you said you’d wash my car this morning. We can’t afford to go down to the garage to get it done.”

Morten muttered a brief rebuke before rolling out of bed in his tight Y-fronts. He reached out for his crumpled jeans, loose change tumbling out of his pockets as he pushed his left leg in to them. “Bugger.”

He pulled on a light blue shirt not realising it was inside out and stumbled downstairs, banging his knee against the bannister as he swung in to the hallway. His medium-length hair was sticking up everywhere, making him look somewhat like a thick-haired version of the guy from Hellraiser. The one with the pins.

He coughed up some Babycham as he poured boiling water from the kettle in to a cracked cup, missing the cup slightly and scalding his hand. “Bugger!”

Morten went out to the garden. The early-winter air grasped his throat tightly, causing him to catch his breath. As he checked that the doors and windows on the Fiat Punto were all shut tight he heard a voice from behind.

“Hello neighbour!”
Morten spun around, backward shirt wide open, unbuckled belt hanging from his hips, sticky-up hair unsure about what direction it should point.
“I’m Neil, your new neighbour. You look a tad rough, soldier.”
Morten looked puzzled and looked behind him expecting to see Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf covered in sand and sweat.
“Oh, right. Me?” Morten extended his hand. “I’m Morten.”
“What an unusual name?” Neil laughed. “Is it Belgian?”
“Belgian?” Morten said incredulously. “No. No. Norwegian.” He shook his head.

“Sorry,” Neil said smiling. “I just remember a Belgian band from the 80s who had a lead singer called Morten Hairnet.”
“It was a-ha. And his surname was ‘Harket’,” Morten corrected him. “And as it happens that is also my surname.”
“Really??” Neil laughed. “You don’t even look Belgian!”
“You are?”
“I recall their mid-90s struggle,” Neil said, curiously eyeing the curling fur on Morten’s chest. “They released a US-only promo single, ‘Lie Down in Darkness’.”

Morten turned to the car again before turning back to Neil. “I don’t recall it.”

“Yeah, it was a pseudo-rock track. Started off with a whistly-bit and was quite a tight little number.”
“Any chance of rating the track for me, Neil? People seem to like doing that when they discuss a-ha with me.”
“Probably 7/10. Give or take. Roughly.”

Morten turned to his wife’s car and then looked back at Neil. “You know,” he said, laughing, “I don’t even have a hose. Bugger.”

He turned away and walked back to the house, closing the door behind him.

Neil laughed heartily. “What a nice man. I’ve always liked Belgians.”

Morten stood in the hallway – grimacing at the bannister that he hit his knee off – and was met by his expectant wife.


“No joy,” he said, before performing an impromptu karaoke version of “Sailing” by Rod Stewart. “It was the a-ha curse again,” he said. “And we don’t even own a hose.”

“Never mind, darling,” she said, embracing him. “Next week we’ll buy a hose. Perhaps after we finally get those groceries.”

She took him by the hand. “Come on, I want you next to me…”

And for the second time in 24 hours, adult time commenced.