I first met ExP while I was working for Fylde Coast Windows, a double glazing firm based in Blackpool, UK. 

I was the boss.  Everyone looked up to me, mainly because I stood over them while they sat filling in spreadsheets and called clients.  I was tough on them, but the bills, the kids the wife, the car, the smart TV and the three holidays a year to the Tenerife time share weren’t paying for themselves.  I admit, I took it out on my staff. 

The truth was, it was a life that had chosen me rather than the other way round. I was moving through a vacuum, I wasn’t making decisions, only living out choices made long ago. There were perks, of course.  I was respected and feared in equal measure, I was loved, my kids were in a good school, I had a small tire of fat around my middle that spoke of good meals in various mid-range gastro pubs. 

I had ways of dealing with my feelings of estrangement. Sometimes, I’d take my car out at night and drive too fast down country lanes, fantasising about losing control and barrel-rolling through a hedge into a freshly ploughed field, my unlived life flashing before my eyes, saved by a seat belt, air bag and crumple zones, my only injuries the lacerations on my face from the high-speed diamonds of smashed safety glass whipping past me.  I always arrived back home safely, my frustrations sated, and slipped into bed next to my wife who would sleepily give me a handjob to soothe me to sleep.

All this changed with the temp.  After his act of self-sacrifice, the staff drifted away one-by-one, and so did I, following my dreams.  He was our saviour. 

It was November, 2015, and the gales during Storm Abigail had smashed record numbers of windows all along the coast, from Fleetwood to Lytham.  We were rushed off our feet and needed an extra pair of hands to help us fill orders. 

The temp was a lank wastrel who cared nothing for the work we were doing.  On his third day of slacking I stalked over to his desk and gave it to him full blast, tearing him down, making a show of it for the other staff.  When I finished, he smiled at me. 

Either fire me or fuck off, he said. 

Outside, now, I said in a quiet, menacing tone. 

He followed me nonchalantly, hands in his pockets, whistling some tune I didn’t recognise. 

Everyone’s eyes were on us.  They were expecting the worst.  When we were out of sight and earshot of the staff, tucked away on the fire escape landing, I started crying. 

I hate this shit, I said. I hate it so much it makes my teeth ache.  I’m trapped young… What’s your name? 

ExP, he said. 

Really?  I said, sniffing back teary snot. 

What’s your point? He asked. 

Everyday I come in here and I shout and I moan and I berate and I menace and I push and I push, but these people just take it.  They take it like it’s what they expect, like they have no self-respect. 

You could try being nice, said ExP. 

You don’t get it, I said. I don’t do it to make them work.  I do it because I want them to quit, to walk out of here and follow some inkling of dream they may or may not have.  I want them to shout back, to show some backbone, to be less like me, and more like you. 

This is weird, he said. 

It’s my life, I said. I have nothing else.

You must have something, he said. 

I have one dream, I said. 

What is it? He asked, out of politeness rather than interest. 

I always wanted to have my own pig farm, I said, and sell artisanal bacon at a farmer’s market. 

He looked at me with a tone of voice that was unimpressed. 

What’s your dream? I asked. 

Rapping, he said. 

Wrapping?  I was stunned. Like, Christmas presents? 

No, rapping, he said, like this.  In the stairwell he performed Work is Shit from the album RemarkableUnremarkable(2017). 

That’s not bad, I said. 

What do you want from me? He asked flippantly, checking his phone, chewing some gum. 

I want you to quit, I said, and I want you to do it in front of everyone.  I need you to inspire these people.  Swear at me, do what you will, I can take it, just make it a big show.  Be a leader to these people. 

Whatever, he said, blowing a sweet-smelling pink bubble. 

Is that Hawaiian Punch Hubba Bubba? I asked. 

Yeah, he said. 

That’s my favourite flavour, I said. Can I have a piece? 

None left, he said. 

Do it in the meeting, I said, in front of everyone. 

I said I haven’t any left, he said. 

I meant the quitting thing, I said. 

Sure, he said. Which is what he did, and we’ve been friends ever since.

If you want to hear the story of how I met a particular music maker, comment with their name below and I will make it a priority to tell that story.

Also, Feedspot.com put this blog in their Top 50 Alternative Music Blogs.  Big number 46!