A reformed street brawler fresh out of hospital following a heart attack stands in a pub trying to stop himself smashing his fist into the face of the man who beat up his daughter. Four homeless people sit eating a cheerless Christmas dinner, each alone with their wandering thoughts. A young man with a knack for saying the wrong thing blows the job interview he'd been counting on so he could ask his girlfriend to marry him.

Three scenarios that all sound pretty grim. Yet somehow, in his new book of short stories Somewhere Up North, York freelance journalist Brian Page manages to find the heart and the humour in all of them.

If you read the Press regularly you'll know Brian: he's the man who, week in, week out, digs out interesting houses to write about for our Property Press supplement.

What you may not know is that he's been a journalist for more than 30 years - many of them spent on The Press's sister paper The Northern Echo as a reporter, award-winning feature writer and ultimately deputy editor.

During those three decades he met, interviewed and wrote about some amazing characters - many of them ordinary people with extraordinary stories to tell.

Gazette & Herald:

Brian Page

One of those stories cropped up in Still Lives, the novel he self-published in 2008.

It was a story about a man who'd spent all day on the beer. "Then (he) went home to find another feller coming down his front stairs, pulling up his trousers while he ran," Brian says. "Thinking the bloke had been in bed with his wife he kicked in the front door and gave the guy a good pasting - only to find he was at the wrong house."

It's that kind of sad yet funny story that Brian says never ceases to amaze him about life in the north.

After Still Lives, he still had plenty more of them to tell - hence 'Somewhere Up North'.

The 17 stories in the book are fiction, not fact. But they have the ring of authenticity.

In 'Lost for Words' James, a young man who's completely unable to express what he really feels, goes for a job. He needs it if he's to persuade his girlfriend Sue to marry him. "If you wanna be with me, you need a J.O.B" she'd sung at him.

All goes well until, as he's leaving, James is asked if he could work with a woman on the interview panel.

Brian has great fun contrasting what James really feels with what actually comes out of his mouth.

Working with her would be great, James thinks to himself. She's a lovely woman, friendly and easy to talk to. Unfortunately, what he says is: "Well, her face isn't that much to talk about but she's got great t**s."

Remarkably, it all somehow manages to work out well for James. Less so for Tommo in Bar Room Warrior. The former hard man has just come out of hospital, where's he's had a major heart operation. Criss-cross stitches 'run like a road map' across his chest.

In the pub he bumps into the man who has just put his daughter into hospital with a broken jaw. The man's drunk, protesting about how much he loves Tommo's daughter and would never hurt her. But Tommo detects a hint of a smirk in his flushed face.

Let it go, let it go, he says to himself. Let it go, let it go, thinking of his wife's worried look when he left the house.

He almost manages it until, as he's about to leave, the man tries to shake his hand. "And then I think of this pig-faced, thick-lipped would-be hoodlum who is spilling lager down his unshaven chin as he drinks...

"I think about being sensible... I think of my wife. I think of my broken heart.

"And then I think of my daughter. I send the left uppercut whistling upwards."

You know it's the last thing Tommo should have done. But even so, you almost want to cheer.

  • Somewhere Up North by Brian Page is available from Amazon priced £5.99 paperback or £2.99 ebook